Big Data – Perhaps you’ve heard the term before, perhaps not. However, you’ve almost certainly contributed to big data. In fact the majority of have, every time we sign up for a new shoppers rewards card or browse websites online. Data has always been important for marketing and advertising to consumers but fairly recently with more and more people using the internet, our culture has shifted as consumers are voluntarily offering up more and more information about themselves (data) – whether they know it or not.

The increase in sheer volume of data has led to the use of the term, “Big Data” and has created a whole industry of software tools specifically for analyzing, processing, storing and visualizing it. To give you an idea of just how much data has been created, take a look at the image, (courtesy of Chris Baker) below. Right now, we are in the zettabyte phase of big data and we are expected move into the yottabyte by the end of this decade. How did we get here? Well with people creating 6,000 new tweet, 40,000 new Google searches, 2 million emails, 5 new Facebook profiles, and uploading 2,267 new photos every second – data adds up quick.

zettabyte of big data


But how can different industries use big data? There are many ways that companies in different industries are already using and could potentially use big data. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Education Industry

The education industry can use big data in a number of ways to enhance the educational process and improve learning.┬áIf students take exams or quizzes through a digital app, they’ll provide a ton of data which can be used to determine how familiar they are with the subject matter. For example how long they take to answer specific questions versus classmates or previous students. The teacher can also use the final results to adjust they’re lesson plans to address student needs, instead of following a single set syllabus.

Student surveys can also be used to track student patterns based on their answers. Examples:

  • How well do students who say they eat breakfast everyday perform versus those who do not?
  • How well do students who sleep 8 hrs or more perform versus those who sleep less?
  • Do students who normally do their homework immediately following class outperform those who wait a few hrs or days?

Even the teachers themselves under much debate are being evaluated on data that is produced from their classes, students and peers. This however is under scrutiny because many teachers argue that it’s not a clear cut solution. Students that come from different backgrounds perform differently because they may not have the proper support at home or drive, in which case, it would be unfair to base how well a teacher is doing.

Banking and Financial Services

The banking and financial services have been and will continue to use big data in a number of ways. If you think in terms of credit cards and reward programs alone, banks can use big data to make all sorts of rewards and program offers based on customer spending, traveling, and shopping habits. Here’s some examples:

  • Based on where you work or how often you’re buying gas, creditors could potentially offer special gas rewards programs
  • If people are spending lots of time looking at homes online or on real estate apps like Zillow, Trulia and others, banks can deliver special ads to them about loans and rate
  • Banks and financial service companies can also use this wealth of data to make financial models and reports to analyze for trends. Which they can then use to create new products that meet those trends.

These banks are also able to use information from your personal bank accounts, which is also something many people are upset about. However, in my opinion it doesn’t matter because they can already almost guess how much money you have based on what you’re buying and how often. Some would argue that it could be discriminatory if banks are making special offers for those with more or less money in their accounts. However, there are some potential positives to a bank accessing this personal information, like educating their customers. If banks see that spending habits are out of control or a customer is not saving, they might be able to offer budgeting tips or saving techniques which, the customer may not have been familiar with. If a bank sees that upon retirement a customer might be in trouble financially, to me it seems like a good idea for them to educate that customer and make financial services available.

Retail / Sports

The retail industry probably has the most to gain from big data and is likely the most experienced in using it. Right now, retailers are already making daily offers to consumers through web ads, emails, traditional mailers and more based on information they are collecting from hundreds of resources. I’ve mentioned a few of these resources like shoppers rewards programs, or sites and stores consumers visit online. However, there are a multitude of other ways you might not think of. For example, if you suddenly change an online status from single to engaged, you may start to see a slew of wedding band ads online or have them delivered in your mail.

Another way retailers are using data is to track trends. An example would be a customer who always buys a product every month around the same time. Retailer will now start sending reminders to this customer to make that purchase along with recommendations of other products the customer might like. Retailers can also analyze preorders or data from last year to determine how much of a certain product they should have in stock throughout the year. Based on purchases from the previous Black Friday, they may need to increase or decrease this stock.

In sports data is also having a significant impact. Think of football with concussions. Helmets are now being produced that can analyze impact and determine whether concussion protocol might be necessary. Golf balls are being used in a similar way to analyze swing, contact and force.

What’s your thought on big data? Where do you stand on the access companies have to this data? Is it too much or too little? I’d love to hear from you, please comment below or email me at