Big Data, or the information megahighway
The term is cropping up more and more often and it’s not always easy to grasp what it means. But there’s a wealth of information behind the two small words. Big Data refers to an enormous amount of data – literally megadata – from the point of view of its volume, variety and velocity, as well as value, veracity and variability. Using high-tech tools, Big Data can be used to analyze behaviors, businesses, markets; anything in the world around us.
The term was coined in the late 1990s, but it wasn’t until the 2000s and the rise of the GAFAM giants (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft) that Big Data began revealing its full potential.
Think about it: 29,000 gigabytes of data are generated every second! In 2020 alone, an incredible 64 zettabytes of data were produced. One zettabyte is equivalent to one billion terabyte, or one trillion gigabytes of emails sent and received, videos watched, applications downloaded, searches run, tweets posted, music played, etc.
These are dizzying figures and human ability alone cannot process them. That’s where Big Data, including storage and analytical technologies developed in parallel to collect, process, analyze that data, comes into its own.
Here’s an example. When you go onto the website of the e-commerce giant Amazon, data on all your product views and purchases are recorded and used to draw up your consumer profile, ensuring that you see future product offers matching your needs. They might even spark cravings for things you never even knew existed! Netflix uses Big Data to analyze the habits of its 204 million viewers and predict the shows they might like, with a view to retaining their interest – and subscription fees.
Data: a world of opportunities
Big Data provides information with such power that it can improve industrial processes, anticipate user behavior, reduce energy costs, optimize recruitment, transform businesses, and much more besides. Data creates value! And the information it generates has enormous potential.
At Saint-Gobain, we have implemented a data-based strategy and used predictive marketing and artificial intelligence to improve how we understand and attract customers, anticipate their behavior and build their loyalty. This is especially applicable to the French retail chain La Plateforme du Bâtiment and the Canadian acoustic solutions brand Decoustics. We have been able to present them with offers in line with their expectations to create new growth opportunities. During the lockdown period, for instance, customer behavior changed abruptly. We could no longer be in contact with our customers face to face. How could we reach them? Using data and creating a specific algorithm to understand their needs at that precise moment, we were able to seek out the most sensitive customers, those looking for contacts – without actually requesting them – and send them the right communication messages. This algorithm helped us to multiply the message conversion rate by 10.
Within companies, Big Data also facilitates strategic decision making. It is even transforming certain professions by automating the processing of important data. This can allow employees such as management controllers to focus their efforts on tasks with high added value requiring analysis that only humans can perform.
At Saint-Gobain, a group which is always generating an infinite amount of data, one of its Big Data projects is called “Nazaré”. Through this project, we are able to collect all the Group’s data into one accessible data storage area known as a Data Lake. Each country, business or central function can – while adhering to personal data protection regulations – now use all of the company’s data This pooling of information has improved market insight, anticipated fluctuations, and better identified and mitigated risk.