SFTA – Big Data means Big Money

On Thursday, 9/26/13, the South Florida Technology Alliance (SFTA) hosted an event at the headquarter of Citrix Systems, Inc. titled “Big Data means Big Money“. The event was hosted by Chris Fleck, VP Technology at Citrix, well organized by the SFTA and very well attended. The generous facility at Citrix was 90% full with estimated attendance of about 250 people, far more than any previous SFTA event I had attended over the last two years. This alone sent a message of growth to every attendee. The event was a nice mix of networking over some food and drinks, followed by a moderated panel discussion with four invited panelists, all leaders involved in data-driven businesses. Below are the personal notes I took during the event, mostly the questions and most answers by the panelists. (This is not an official document, any omissions or misrepresentations are my fault.) Enjoy!


  • Panel
    Introduction by Lenni Chesal and moderated by Chris FleckRemembered several prior speakers and SFTA contributors, including:
    Ed Iacobucci
    Brad Feld (author “Startup Communities”)
    Scott Moody
    Dan Cane (Modernizing Medicine)
    John Sculley

    • Zee Aganovic (CEO HiConversion)
    • John Duffy (CEO 3CInteractive)
      “Mobile is the next wave of innovation and growth.”
    • John Ferber (Co-Founder Advertising.com)
      “Although we may not like it, advertising works, particularly retargeting (user has expressed interest before).”
    • Brian Wood (Director Business Intelligence, Office Depot)
      Web analytics, HR analytics, eCommerce analytics (how do we do recommendations?)
      Journey towards personalization capabilities
      Digital marketing helps understanding affiliate traffic, online vs. physical stores, omnichannel
  • Questions
    Suggestion to SFTA: Set up question board at Southfloridatech.org and post answers of the panel speakers for all to see.

    • What was your web epiphany?
      Duffy: working for MCI. Trying to understand what makes people buy. New technology of BBS helped business take off.
      Now mobility can do the same.Ferber: internet would help resolve the problem: “I know half of my ad dollars are wasted, I just don’t know which half.”Zee: don’t have epiphany, more of stepwise evolution. In 1993 felt something coming. Meeting with Ed and seeing application servers helped me start my own business.

      Brian: playing games on BBS when I was 20, that was awesome!
      Now focusing on OmniChannel (integrating all customer channels)

    • How are you using Big Data now?
      Duffy: passbook app on Apple iPhone. We want to manage data of customers in connection with Passbook. We have 130 million unique users.Ferber: Internet marketing is a typical user of big data. Because of never-ending quest to serve the perfect ad. We may not like ads, but it touches almost all of our lives!Zee: Not just how can we collect the data, but also include the time dimensions.
      Wayne Gretzky “Skate to where the puck is going to be”
      Customer behavior is changing all the time; need to predict how they will behave; todays analytics is like driving with looking in the rearview mirror.

      Wood: Can we justify the large spend on ads? How can we improve it further by determining the efficacy of marketing.
      Correlate online and offline behavior of customers!

    • When you need a new printer…
      Duffy: you need business process automation.
      Do you remember your business before the Internet?
      The business was about the same things, but it runs more efficiently with automated processes. Mobile can lead to the next wave of innovationFerber: short and mnemonic URLs help. Printer -> officesupplies.comZee: Buyer needs the right experience (“ambience”) to buy. Every nuance of the site can make a major difference. Human eye catches peripheral elements on the site and processes it subconsciously. If you systematically optimize that you can increase conversion rates drastically.

      Wood: A|B testing constantly; not yet dynamically changing the site. But measuring what works and what doesn’t.

    • When is next sophistication coming?
      When will you see ads for toner (instead of other printers)?Ferber: Retargeting has been shown to be 50x as effective as normal marketing. (Target customers again who have previously expressed interest.)Duffy: Remember the story about Target sending baby item ads to a pregnant high schooler and dad complained, later apologized (Target knew about the pregnancy based on her purchasing behavior before the dad did).
    • How much can be expected from Social Media towards more agility?
      Wood: <complicated longwinded question from audience> “Huh?” We know stock volumes to the minute, so driving towards real-time. Its an ongoing evolution.
    • What item of data is most important for conversions?
      Ferber: What the user has already expressed interest in.Zee: With big data the curtain is down. What works for one business may not work for others. Every customer solution is unique.Duff: Mobile phone number remains the same and may well become the single most important piece of data about a particular customer.
    • What areas can Big Data impact?
      Ferber: Healthcare is big; predicting forest fires, etc. Every industry is going to be impacted.Zee: What’s the new economy? Information about new products is more important than the product itself.
    • How can social circles be reengaged to increase business?
      Duffy: It’s a balancing act between relevancy and annoyance.
      Email was destroyed as a marketing mechanism due to spam.
      Other channels are very careful to avoid that same mistake.
    • What technology platforms do you use?
      Ferber: Redshift from Amazon; everything in the cloud. Much easier to get started.Wood: We have dabbled with a lot of technologies (Redshift, Netezza, Cloudera); we want to increase leverage of the cloud.Zee: Akamai on frontend, backend various technologies
    • Will there be a consolidation of big data providers?
      Ferber: Yes, its a crowded space and like all those spaces when they mature it will shake out.Zee: 2/10 rule of USPS, if people think its going to be great in 2 years, its probably going to get there in 10 years.

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