The lessons Netflix is giving us in Big Data…

Data isn’t sexy. Last time I opened Excel I didn’t get a thrill.

In fact I felt fairly uninspired about Big Data until I read how it had actually affected me. I couldn’t quite believe it, but in that moment data became a little bit exciting…

Like most people I spend a fair few evenings watching Netflix. Flicking between Mad Men and Homeland, it wasn’t until I watched House of Cards that I became truly addicted. There was something about the tension, the plot and the cast which just kept me watching way past my bedtime. But what was it that had me so hooked?

Well it turns out, it’s because it was made for me. Not just for me, obviously, but using my data. Netflix receives around 30 million plays a day meaning they can not only see what we watch, who we’re watching and what we like – but know what we’ll watch in future. And I don’t mean the suggested programs they think we might like based on what we’ve watched – oh no, they’ve gone far beyond that…

By looking at the data of what people viewed on their platform, Netflix could predict the future. They saw that films by the Director David Fincher were popular, that people loved anything with Kevin Spacey in and realised that the original British House of Cards was receiving a lot of attention. They simply took what they knew and combined it. Before they’d even shot their first scene, Netflix knew it had commissioned a hit.

And what does that tell us? Well the lesson is that it’s not about the data but how you’re using it. Netflix own a streaming service – they’re one player in a crowded market, where everyone is handling large amounts of their customers’ information. It’s how they use their data to commission their own original series that sets them apart. No wonder they can produce hit after hit like Breaking Bad, Orange is the New Black and Narcos.

As marketers we’re drowning in data but we don’t use half of it. Even when we do it rarely produces anything other than a slow CRM system, a headache and a clever-looking graph.

The problem is that we often use data to just look back at the past – we don’t connect the dots or see the clues it’s giving us. The way we’re using it simply lacks imagination. We use it to painstakingly review past purchases, behaviour and actions but rarely do we make the leap into using it to predict the future and create new products.

If you really want to know how Big Data can help you then don’t just analyse the data. Use it to inspire you. The data won’t tell you everything but it will point you in the right direction. Once you add a bit of creative thinking you could just come up with the next big thing…

If want to get insight into what your customers are telling you then take a look at our PureIntelligence solution.

Download the Pure360 & The Drum Market Insight Report: Big Data Edition

Becky Hesilrige
Becky Hesilrige
Becky is the Content Marketing Manager at Pure360. She studied Sociology and conducted her dissertation on online communication and relationships. Follow Becky on Twitter @beckyhesilrige
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