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The Social Side of Big Data

The Social Side of Big Data

"When people go online in a social realm, they don't think about their intent. They just express themselves. So the challenge is letting people communicate the way they choose to communicate and then try to figure out and infer what is their intent and their sentiment," said Attensity CEO Howard Lau. "Trying to determine that is what we do, using natural language processing."

By Dana Gardner CRM Buyer ECT News Network
07/31/14 5:16 PM PT

The power of Big Data technology Visit the VMware Tech Center is being successfully applied to understanding such complex unknowns as consumer sentiment and even intent. That understanding then vastly improves how retailers and myriad service providers manage their users' experiences -- increasingly in real time.


Listen to the podcast (27:27 minutes).

Fortunately, today's consumers are quite willing to share their intents and sentiments via social media, if you can gather and process the information. Hence the rapidly developing field of social customer relationship management, or Social CRM.

Part of the equation for making Social CRM effective comes from properly capturing the natural language knowledge delivered through the many social channels available to users. Even that is but a first step to being able to gain ever-deeper analysis, however, and rapidly and securely making those insights available where they pay off best.

This podcast brings together customer analytics services provider Attensity, with its natural-language processing technology, and HP Vertica, with Big Data analytics capabilities, to explain how to effectively listen to the social Web and rapidly gain valuable insights and actionable intelligence.

Discussion participants are Howard Lau, chairman and CEO of Attensity, and Chris Selland, vice president of marketing and business development at HP Vertica. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Following are some excerpts:

Dana Gardner:  Sellers and marketers worldwide have always wanted to know what their customers are anticipating or what they want next. I guess we could go back hundreds of years with these questions.

But as someone said recently, it seems that the ability to know what customers want and how to respond to them rapidly has changed more in the last five years than in the past 500. Do you agree with that? And why is that the case? What's so new and different?

Howard Lau: What has happened and emerged in the past 10 years or so, especially in the world of Twitter -- Twitter has been around since 2006 -- is that consumers are finding a voice to express their opinions about companies, products and brands. They can express their voice immediately through social channels.

That's one of the new emerging things where not only are they finding their voice online, but they're also realizing that they're able to amplify that voice by connecting with their friends and their followers.

Gardner: Why is that making such a big difference in how we know what customers want? I understand that the social part is new and innovative, but how is this changing marketing?

Lau: The way things have happened before is that companies, as they engage with consumers, controlled the conversation. Whether you fill in an online form or you call an 800 number for customer service or purchase, you're greeted initially with an automated prompt, and the whole prompt system navigates your engagement.

What makes Social CRM so unique and empowering for consumers is that, for the first time, it's transferring the control and ownership of the conversation to the consumer -- the customer. What that means is that the customer now controls what they want to talk about, where they want to talk about it, and what channel they want to use to communicate their needs or issues.

They don't want to do it in a predefined form, where you check off boxes or answer specific prompts. They want to express their interests more organically and use the company's branded channels on Facebook and Twitter and nonbranded channels on industry forums and communities. That's what's key about social CRM, and that's what's so unique about this new generation of products to analyze the social Web.

Gardner: Chris, HP Vertica is dealing with a lot of organizations that are trying to do new and innovative things with marketing. Do you also agree that marketing and what we can do have shifted just dramatically in the last five years? Has it really changed the game?

Chris Selland: There's been a very dramatic shift in the last five years in marketing. That's driven -- not exclusively, but certainly heavily -- by what's been going on in the social media world -- Twitter and other channels, Facebook, LinkedIn and so forth.

It has had two impacts. First, it has amplified the voice of the customer. I always remember that commercial about I will tell two friends and she will tell two friends, and so on. Customer voice has always had an impact, but the impact of customer voice these days is dramatically amplified by social media.

The other thing that's really changed the game entirely is that now organizations that are seeking to understand their customers can no longer exclusively rely on internal data -- and by internal data, I mean things like customer relationship management.


Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which tracks trends, delivers forecasts and interprets the competitive landscape of enterprise applications and software infrastructure markets for clients. He also produces BriefingsDirect sponsored podcasts. Follow Dana Gardner on Twitter. You can also connect with him on Google+.


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