Big data refers to the massive stores of data generated by companies from their operations, and the difficulty of organising it and “mining” it for insights. Big data is well beyond the capabilities of standard database software to handle, so specialised services to capture, sift and analyse it, using smart algorithms and high-speed technology, are coming to the market. These services handle both the amount of data (volume) and the speed with which it arrives (velocity), which most businesses generating the data cannot.
Any company that collects data from its customers will benefit from big data applications – that means any company with a database, from utilities to banks to retailers to airlines.
For example, last year, Woolworths spent $20 million buying a 50% non-controlling stake in data analytics company Quantium, to get access to its data, analytical, media and software services to boost its existing customer analytics capabilities. The strategy is that Woollies will drive growth at the retailer by using customer insights to tailor its product range and come up with more effective promotions and marketing programs; and automate and fine-tune its inventory levels based on current demand. The retail giant is particularly interested in using big data to improve its online sales and at some stage may use it to enter other markets.