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Can big data predict buying decisions?

Big data is one of the transformational forces in business today. But size is not the only thing that matters when it comes to data. Beyond sheer volume, organization, analysis, and translation are crucial in order to reach the ultimate goal - predicting "transactional behavior." That is, what exactly is going to transform a consumer into a customer? What is it precisely that compels someone to buy your product or service?

Is it really possible to parse, study, and extrapolate historical behavior so that future behavior can be accurately predicted? Is it possible that someday companies will be able to make and move markets with absolute assurance and complete confidence? Just how predictive can big data be?

Big data continues to get exponentially bigger, due in large part to the ever-increasing essential nature of mobile devices, which not only satisfy our demand for instant access, but also deposit more of our personal data into the cloud. And the cloud can contain it all.

Although data can be analyzed to develop consumer profiles and thereby craft marketing messages and product offerings based on personal preferences and unique interests, I am not sure that the ROI of any marketing or advertising campaign can be guaranteed, no matter how granular the analytics or gargantuan the data.

Regardless of past behavior, decision-making is unpredictable. Perhaps it's an oversimplification, but history is one thing, and the future is another. No matter what has already happened, future choices can be random, chaotic, and even contradictory. It is that fundamental constant of unpredictability that makes the future unlike the past.

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