Analytics: The real-world use of big data in consumer products

How innovative consumer products organizations extract value from uncertain data

“Big data” – which admittedly means many things to many people – is no longer confined to the realm of technology. Today, it is a business imperative and is providing solutions to long-standing business challenges for consumer products companies around the world.

Big data presents many promising and differentiating opportunities for consumer products companies. With extensive supply chains, often hundreds of unique brands and brand variations to manage, and millions of customers to serve, these companies rely on data to keep products moving from supply to store.

Consumer products companies must ultimately appeal to fundamental customer wants and needs. While new sources of data like social media offer opportunities to uncover insights into consumer purchasing decisions and preferences, they also present new challenges associated with ingesting, managing and analyzing new types of data, such as free-form text, videos and geo-location coordinates. Moreover, consumers are expressing their opinions – both good and bad – in very public ways that often involve hundreds of personal contacts.

So while the consumer products industry’s structured data is significant in size and scope, it is the world of unstructured data that is emerging as an even larger source of insight. Consumer products companies need to harvest and leverage this information to gain a competitive advantage.

Our latest big data study revealed that 58 percent of consumer products companies are using information (including big data) and analytics to create a competitive advantage for their organizations. Compared to 39 percent of consumer products organizations that reported an advantage in IBM’s 2010 study, this represents a 49 percent increase in two years.

To compete in a consumer-empowered economy, it is increasingly clear that consumer products companies must leverage their information assets to gain a comprehensive understanding of markets, customers, products, distribution channels, competitors, employees and more. Consumer products companies will realize value by effectively managing and analyzing the rapidly increasing volume, velocity and variety of new and existing data, and putting the right skills and tools in place to better understand their operations, customers, distributors and the marketplace as a whole.

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