The VPM Blog

Big Data Success Stories

Posted by Hannah Stooksbury on Nov 18, 2014 9:00:00 AM

We’ve heard about it, read about it, and possibly studied it, but why the hype around big data? In its simplest form, big data involves data sets so large that conventional tools cannot be used to analyze and decipher it. Think billions of web clicks that must be managed with several large systems as opposed to a few Excel spreadsheets.  For example, consider the billions of interactions companies such as Macy’s receive each day via social media, their own website, and other platforms.  But how are companies using big data to their advantage? Here are a few success stories.


  • American Express used big data tools to predict loyalty and gain insight on how many accounts will be closing in the near future.

  • Wal-Mart took advantage of a new search engine platform and used data from users online search habits to increase their rate of online purchases.

  • Morton’s The Steakhouse received a comical Tweet from a loyal customer who wanted a steak waiting for him when his flight arrived at the airport.  The company then used data tools to find out the customer’s order preference and flight information and had his steak dinner waiting at the airport upon his arrival.

While universities clearly won’t be delivering steak dinners to an airport for a potential student, they can still learn from these success stories.  Instead of gaining loyalty insight, a university might use big data tools to,

  • Discover how many students who received acceptance letters in certain demographics chose to attend their school,

  • Understand which areas of study are being searched and why,

  • Listen to current students complaints via social media and address them quickly.

  • Track student success rates and find out when, how, and why they are or are not doing well in school.

  • Increase alumni involvement based on which alumni show interest in their alma mater.

Even if the data set would not necessarily be considered “big,” any amount of data can be used to create awareness for a university, improve student performance, or communicate with alumni better. The possibilities are endless.

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