Unstructured data is vastly underutilised by businesses, and structured data is unable to provide the nuance and subtlety offered by unstructured data. Here’s how marketing strategies can benefit from AI-based unstructured data analysis.
A tale of two princes
A viral joke has recently been circulating on social media, which, while amusing, can also teach us something about the limits of structured data. It asks us to imagine two individuals, who are identical according to the results of a survey. They are both 72-year-old men, living in the UK, who have a recognised title, and income brackets that place them in the High-Net-Worth category. For the purposes of any salesperson or marketeer, these two gentlemen can presumably be sold the same products and services in a similar manner.
There is just one minor issue. Though they share the title of ‘Prince’, their personality and background could not be more dissimilar. One is Charles, Prince of Wales and the other is Ozzy, Prince of Darkness. Though this unlikely pair may share a handful of common interests, it is not unreasonable to assume that these would represent a very small intersection on a Venn diagram charting their likes and dislikes.
The lesson here is a simple one. Structured data (SD), as represented by numbers in tables or closed-ended survey questions, cannot provide the marketing departments of companies with the nuances and subtlety offered by unstructured data (UD). This subtlety is made possible by both the sheer quantity of UD and the variety of forms it can take, ranging from terabytes of text and images on social media platforms, to audio and video information. This quantity of UD is continuing to grow. In fact, IDG predicts that 93% of digital data will be unstructured by 2022, so understanding how to exploit it will be a competitive differentiator for any business.
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A distant voice in the darkness
It is important to make clear that UD is information that lacks a way to be analysed and understood quickly. It is everywhere and comprises the vast majority of all data. Firms and companies have access to it in great quantities – but it is often underutilised. In the world of business data, UD is sometimes referred to as “dark” information due to its raw, hidden, and undigested qualities. But such data can be of great use to marketers and performing what has been called “dark analytics” upon UD might just reveal that Ozzy the Prince of Darkness is a better sales target than his royal counterpart.
How can we work this out? Advances in artificial intelligence mean that sales and marketing professionals now have the means to sharpen their strategies by listening directly to the voice of their customer (VoC) and leads.
By employing AI tools and machine learning techniques, huge quantities of unstructured data can be transformed into fodder for improved marketing.
Listen and (machine) learn
VoC can take on a variety of different forms, including reviews, feedback on products, calls made to customer services, and their expressions of positive, negative, and neutral feelings towards competitor brands. Ever-increasing advances in the field mean that artificial intelligence is capable of using UD to produce an increasingly sophisticated degree of sentiment analysis.
Not only can unstructured data differentiate between a Charles and an Ozzy, but it can also tell marketers how each one feels about a number of topics. This kind of analysis, achieved through social listening tools and fuelled by the rise of unstructured data, ultimately provides a far more sophisticated understanding of a given market, than the traditional and outdated demographic segmentation practices upon which marketers were once reliant.
It is absolutely possible to market to the distinct demographics of both a Charles and an Ozzy, provided that an organisation is ready to leap into the “dark analytics” of UD. With AI lighting up the darkness and social listening tools ready to detect the gold nuggets of customer feedback, marketers might just find – glinting in the unexplored trove of UD – that there’s treasure shining in the shadows, waiting to be claimed.
See also: Extracting value from unstructured data with intelligent data management – Kumar Goswami, CEO of Komprise, explains how they are solving the value problem for data-heavy organisations