To What Extent Are UK Companies Using Big Data to Inform Their Marketing Strategy?

Brewis, Claire Catherine Read (2016). To What Extent Are UK Companies Using Big Data to Inform Their Marketing Strategy? MRes thesis The Open University.



With the development of computing hardware and software and the emergence of the internet there has been an explosion in the amount of information available to businesses. This information has been described as 'Big Data' reflecting its large variety, volume and velocity. Companies can use selected elements of this data to improve their knowledge of their customers and develop appropriate marketing strategies to respond to them.

The study uses a social constructionist approach to develop a theory of how firms are applying Big Data to inform marketing strategy. It uses a qualitative approach to develop the theory. Semi structured interviews are used to gather insights from senior managers, with experience of their firms use of Big Data to inform marketing strategy.

The participants emphasised using data to inform operational marketing strategy, such as, product development and promotion rather than higher level marketing strategy. They described using more and different data to inform their strategy. However firms were not responding to the velocity of data nor concerned with its veracity. Only one participant firm used data that complied with the definition of 'Big Data'.

The challenges to firms in using Big Data were predominantly people-related. In particular firms benefited from engaged Executives to enable data-driven strategy. Progress in using data to inform marketing strategy was impeded by limited analytical capability. The skills and experience required to advance analytical capability were thought to be in short supply.

The study responds to a gap in academic literature on the role of Big Data in marketing strategy, using primary data from seven UK companies across a range of industry sectors. It identifies a limited uptake of Big Data to inform marketing strategy however it highlights that the participating companies recognise Big Data as relevant to developing marketing insights, creating segmentation approaches and informing the marketing mix. The research proposes that a future study could examine the ways in which Big Data influences the development of marketing strategy with a more extensive participant group. The research could identify the degree to which participants' application of Big Data varies according to their sophistication of understanding of it. This could enable firms to identify the potential for higher levels of understanding and application of Big Data in developing their marketing strategy.

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