How to use big
data for marketing


Big Data is a term that is getting knocked around a lot in the marketing world right now. But the question is – ‘what is it and how can we use big data for marketing?’

Big Data can be defined as “extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions”. That’s a bit of a mouthful. Basically, it’s vast amounts of data that is then run through computer systems to decipher the meaning. Each advertising campaign that we run generates huge amounts of data. Sometimes, this data is far too large and complex to just use something like Excel to process it.



Marketers have always tried to use data in their strategic decisions. Data comes from all sorts of origins:

  • Financial details
  • Personal details
  • Forms you fill in online
  • Advertising data
  • Organic marketing data

The list is endless. Data sources, before the internet became mainstream, provided useful insights into how well marketing campaigns were doing. However, there has always been a great deal of guesswork and faith taken when interpreting these results. The full customer journey from when a user sees an advert to when they decide to convert has been shrouded in mystery.

This is where we need to learn how to use big data for marketing to help solve this mystery. Today, it usually refers to the increasingly massive amount of data that can be tracked online as every aspect of activity that a user takes is monitored. The types of data, the volume that’s produced, and the ease of gaining access to it has been increasing exponentially over the last decade as more people go digital.



Data is crucial for successful marketing and advertising campaigns. Especially where we need to create patterns based on people’s behaviour and develop strategies to improve success. This data can also alert you when something is suspiciously out of the average user pattern. We can optimise campaigns to account for unexpected user behaviour.

It’s not too difficult to think of reasons why having more information about your customers is useful for marketing. There are many ways of using it.



We can collect mass information about what our users are doing online before they convert. We can see what these people are searching for before they click on our website, getting more details on how they behave before, during and after converting.

We can also tell when people are most likely to convert with you. This can be useful when setting up adverts if you discover 90% of your users look for you and convert after 9:00 PM.  Or you can look at weekly/monthly/yearly cycles.

Data is great at outlining information like which sites your users frequent. By building these online personas, we can make sure that your advertising spend is working hard for you and driving conversions.



Finding what trends are popular across your target market can give us valuable insight on where campaign spend should be focused. Running data through our systems automatically finds this information for us, so we can react quickly and attach our marketing to these events if necessary. Messages and timing may need to be changed depending on popular worldly, or local, events. Being bold and aiming for the start of trends as they arise may put you ahead of the competition.














The rise of big data means that far more marketing information is available from third party sources. The more data, in theory, means the more accurate it will be.

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Advertising has always been tricky to establish an exact cause-and-effect relationship with sales as there are so many other variables that effect what people do online. Typically, marketers would decide on a pre-made target segments to hit with adverts and then hope for the best that they reach the correct people.

Now, though using modern methods, adverts can be monitored from the moment they are released online. Google Ad Manager, Facebook Ad Manager and Google Analytics can show you how adverts are performing against your chosen performance metrics in real time.

Every metric from how many people see your adverts, how long they watch the video for, how many people click the link, and how long they then spend on your website. You can track consumers all the way to your advertising goals whether it’s spreading awareness or creating hard sales.

Information will be fed back in real-time so you can see what is being successful to boost (and to pull what isn’t quickly before money is wasted) and see who is responding to your advert with trackers to re-target at a later stage (proven to bring more sales) and what your best customers look like in terms of demographics to further improve your customer persona model.

Big Data when used with the right software makes it much easier to see the overall picture of how well the business is doing E.g. Google Analytics and Funnel, so that everyday marketers can understand it.

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The in-depth feedback from big data via the internet is on another level to any previous generation. The information can be analysed, so you can create relevant/better targeted efficient advertising. This will lower your firms advertising costs and avoid annoying consumers with products they don’t want. In short – you can optimise your campaigns, so money isn’t wasted.

Features from the feedback, such as getting better recommendations based on how likely a user will enjoy your product based on previous purchases becomes more accurate, making it easier to bring in new loyal customers. Big data can even be used to find new customers that act similarly to our own, such as with Facebook’s “Lookalike” Custom Audiences to grow your customer base.

The average customer journey can be mapped out from the first click to the final action. You can then adapt your sales funnel to reflect this.

There is an ever-growing list of software and features that can find the relevant data and summarise the important information for you, so you don’t have to be a data expert to guide your marketing decisions.

This information can then be presented to the rest of the organisation as you discover more about who your customers really are. You gain evidence that you are hitting your targets and justify where money is spent, without having to rely on only your feelings on what’s working.



Whilst the potential to improve marketing decisions is enhanced by the rise of big data, it is by no means a guaranteed solution. Most businesses are using some form of big data, but that doesn’t mean all are using it right.

The huge amount of data and complexity of it all means that you need a competent marketing team to find what’s relevant. It has to be structured properly and put in a way that can be understood by both the marketing team and whoever has to confirm the decision to spend the money. You should get all of your marketing staff to gain a data analysing qualification such as “Google Analytics” and give professional training to those who work more closely with it. Then keep up to date with the best practices because, remember, all of your competitors are likely doing the same.

Despite the ability to get lots of numerical quantitative information, computers can currently only get little qualitative information about what’s driving users’ actions. As the figures don’t tell you everything, the big data’s usefulness is dependent on how well the marketer can interpret them which is down to their own knowledge and skill.



  • Big Data gives us access to deeper insights than marketers have ever had before
  • If used right, this leads to a huge advantage for marketers
  • Be wary of getting lost in the mountain of available information and not understanding what’s relevant
  • Big Data usually only gives us the plain numbers involved. You still need the qualitative knowledge and creative side to understand what the numbers don’t tell you
  • If you can’t use it yourself, take a training course or find someone who can!

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