Because of this work, those organisations investigating the use of external data are doing so in isolation of their internal systems. Blending the two is expected to be a future stage of development.
"We have not reached that stage," Sengar says. "That is a two-year journey further out, where we start seeing the internal data and external data coming together in a customer context.
"The reason for that is most of the implementations in Big Data today are generally experimentation or happening in silos. Many are still struggling with managing the internal data, and for this to happen business and IT have to come very closely together to define the use cases."
Forging a new customer experience
Some industries, such as banking and insurance, are more advanced in plotting their strategies than others, and as Sengar indicates it is usually the marketing department driving initiatives. Director of marketing and digital at Budget Direct, Jonathan Kerr, says his group and the IT department work together on pretty much everything now.
"We create solutions together and we are all driven by a passion to make things better for our customers by leveraging the best technology out there," he says. "Get that right and the rest takes care of itself."
Budget Direct makes a strong distinction between the customer management applications used to administer the customer's policy, and applications that collate data to help improve the prospect and customer experience. Technology from Adobe is used to ensure marketing campaigns remain efficient, with constant monitoring employed to give an indication of what prospects and customers are looking for.
"We get a huge amount of insight from the combination of our website feedback system and site analytics, which drives our usability and multivariate testing program," Kerr says. "That effort helps us deliver very intuitive customer journeys. When you get that right, cross-sell and up-sell takes care of itself, because the other product lines and offers are presented at the right time for the customer."
The insurer also combines its web and campaign analytics with feedback from customers via its call centre.
"For instance, we quickly learned [customers] wanted smarter, faster solutions via mobile, so we built Australia's only 60-Second car insurance estimate for mobile," Kerr says. "We got rid of six estimate questions by returning specific car make/model-type information when you type in your car rego."
But while Budget Direct is highly advanced in the use of its own data, that is still a long way from being able to poll the vast amount of unstructured data floating around in social media. The organisation is not alone.
Executive manager of group digital strategy and innovation at Suncorp, Murray Howe, says integrating external data to better understand individual customers is something his company would like to try but is hesitant to leap into.
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