Fourth in a series of posts exploring corporate connectivity: N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – The Pilot, N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 1: Networks, N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 2: Communication and Collaboration.
“Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.”
The same could be said for data. “Data, data everywhere, but no information to use.” In 2012, approximately 2.5 quintillion (2.5 x 1018) bytes of data were created every day! The industry has tagged this with the name “Big Data.” Making sense of all that big data and turning it into actionable information has given rise to a new type of position in many companies, that of “data scientist.”
For decades, companies have been trying to turn data into information through technologies such as data warehouses and business intelligence applications. Most of this effort was focused on their own internal data. However, with the growth of internet technologies, mobile technologies and the computerization of just about everything, more of the focus is shifting to data that is not only created outside the corporation, it’s stored outside the company, too.
Transforming this data and managing this information is vital to effectively running a business today. These changes are having a significant impact on traditional marketing. In an interview with Bruce Rogers of Forbes magazine, Rory Findlay of Egon Zehnder’s Global Consumer Products Practice stated, “…the game has been transformed. Consumers used to be anonymous. Businesses marketed to large demographic groups, differentiated by lifestyle attributes. But increasingly, marketing now targets individual consumers whose behaviors and preferences can be known and predicted with remarkably nuanced precision. At the same time, Digital Marketing is vastly increasing the number of consumer touch points.” 
Facebook is one of the top dogs of harvesting online data to customize the user experience. Ads are tailored to you from the pages you visit, the posts you “Like” and other online habits. As an example, a Facebook user I know remarked, “When I log on, the ads that appear on the side bar are for Chicago Bulls, IU and Michigan Wolverines products. I get ads for Jay-Z and Eminem concerts.” (Thanks, B!)
The data at Goodwill Indy is approaching 15 terabytes. It’s not a lot in comparison to some companies, but it’s equivalent to about 3,750,000 song downloads, to put it in consumer terms.
In 2012, we processed more than 5,000,000 sales transactions and another 1,900,000 donation transactions. Until the launch of our loyalty card program, Goodwill Rewards, we knew little about our shoppers and donors except in aggregate or anecdotally. Today, with almost 300,000 members, we know much more about who is shopping and donating, where are they shopping and donating, and what are they are buying and donating. We can use this information to more effectively manage our retail operations. More importantly, however, we can combine this information with social media and other digital marketing to connect with and engage with our shoppers and donors. In short, we can improve the customer experience.