Marketers and web analysts are struggling to translate the hype of Big Data into something meaningful for their businesses, according to research published by Econsultancy and Lynchpin. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

Now in its sixth year, the 'Online Measurement and Strategy Report' found that not quite half of companies (49%) feel that big data can help them tie together disparate sources of information across their organisations. The survey also found that only 26% of companies have increased their technology budgets as a result of big data, compared to 41% who haven't done so.

When asked if they thought big data would help them join up disparate data sources, 16% said 'yes, definitely' and a further 33% said 'yes, maybe'. For the remainder, 10% thought big data would not help and a further 8% said 'big data is a pointless marketing term'. Another third (33%) didn't know if big data would help or not, indicating a lack of knowledge about what the term means.

In addition, qualitative responses to a question about the impact of big data on the role of web analysts found that little if nothing had changed within the vast majority of companies, indicating that the hype surrounding the term is likely to be without merit.

Companies have appeared to be suffering from 'strategic inertia' in web analytics, and many areas of budget, tools and strategy remain unchanged since last year, with little or no progress being made. Only a fifth of responding companies have a company-wide strategy tying their data collection and analysis to business objectives. This year, the proportion of respondents having such a strategy in place has in fact decreased, from 22% to 20%.

"The findings suggest that progress in extracting real business value from data is stalling," warned Lynchpin's managing director, Andrew Hood. "An optimistic view of that might be that the pace of technical change and volume of data available is simply outpacing an underlying real growth in the valuable application of analysis. But a less optimistic view would be that a lot of fundamentals surrounding the alignment of data and resources with organisational objectives are still absent. Worse still, the expansion and diversification of the analytics technology sector risks adding fuel to the fire - which is a scary interpretation of the 'data is the new oil' cliche."

The research also explored current trends in the use of business performance tools, company strategy for measurement, attribution modelling, and the barriers to success in developing an effective online measurement strategy. Among the study's other key findings:

  • The majority of companies (56%) now use Google Analytics exclusively as their web analytics tool, up from just 21% in 2008. Meanwhile, the proportion of companies who use Google Analytics paying to use the premium version has more than doubled since last year, from 5% to 11%.
  • Both companies and agencies see the benefit in tag management solutions, with 78% of companies and 68% of agencies stating that they help to improve data quality.
  • Only 49% of companies' web analytics expenditure is spent on internal staff, which is a slight decrease on last year.
  • The proportion of companies having no dedicated employees has decreased from 30% to 36%, and the proportion of those dedicating four or more employees to data analysis has increased by 17% to 20%.

"With many companies still having a long way to go in using their current analytics tools to their fullest potential, the prospect of investing significant sums in further analytical technology - particularly those that process unstructured data of a variety of types and forms - is likely to be some time away. Many marketers have no idea why big data may be relevant to their organisation, or even whether it is a useful term," concluded Econsultancy senior research analyst, Andrew Warren-Payne.