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It's official: Big Data really does work. Among organisations that have used big data in more than half of their marketing initiatives, 60% exceeded their goals, compared to only 33% of those using big data in fewer than half of their marketing efforts, according to research from Forbes Insights and big data intelligence firm Rocket Fuel. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

The study, entitled 'The Big Potential of Big Data', was based on a mid-2013 survey of 211 senior marketers based in the US, including corporate and advertising agency executives. Forbes Insights also conducted one-on-one interviews to provide additional context for the study's findings.

The report found that heavy users of big data were much more likely to produce useful insights about consumers than light users or non-users. But more importantly, according to Bruce Rogers, chief insights officer for Forbes Media, heavy users of big data are also more likely to report gains in sales.

Among the study's key findings:

  • The more frequently companies felt they were making sufficient use of data, the more likely they exceeded their goals. Some 92% of companies that had always or frequently made sufficient use of data said they had met or exceeded their goals, while only 5% that were making sufficient use of data said they were falling short of their goals.
  • Many executives believe they are using big data enough when in fact they aren't. The majority of both ad agencies and non-agencies said that they were frequently or always making sufficient use of data in marketing decisions. However, only about one in ten non-agencies managed more than half their advertising and marketing with big data, and one third of agencies used big data in more than half their initiatives.
  • Executives are often struggling to define big data and identify its potential benefits. Just over half of senior executives (both at agencies and other companies) said they agreed or strongly agreed that they had a good understanding of big data and its benefits.
  • Systems that generate data quickly and that can account for changing consumer behaviour (for example, those that utilise machine learning) are likely to become increasingly important to marketers. Approximately one quarter of respondents called them "ritical to the success of their marketing", while more than 43% said they would be increasingly important for most marketing initiatives.