A few years ago, Red Roof Inn calculated that some 90,000 U.S. passengers get stranded every day because of flight cancellations. Acting on this piece of data, the hotel chain figured out how to track flight delays and then serve ads to passengers stranded in airports. The campaign has resulted in some 10% growth year-over-year for Red Roof Inn.

As the chain’s story illustrates, there are great rewards these days for finding the right piece of data. That one insight can alert a brand to an opening in their market, and show them how to position themselves so that they can capitalize on it.

Other hotel chains had access to the same information as Red Roof Inn, but were unable to see how they could re-purpose that information to help their businesses. In other words, the data that will drive growth for your company is out there — you just have to find a way to sift the gold from the silt.

One company that’s leading the charge with respect to smart data is ActionIQ. The three year old company fills in the gaps left by marketing clouds and other big data tools by bringing together all your data into one fast and easy-to-use database. Not only does it capture data that might otherwise have been lost, but it also allows users to analyze the data and use those insights to execute marketing campaigns.

This is the right approach. When companies are able to connect their institutional knowledge to the correct data, great things will happen. This is only exacerbated by the amount of data in the world, which is continuing to grow at a breakneck pace. By the year 2020, it’s estimated that 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created each second for every person on earth. With all this data coming in, how will businesses keep themselves from being overwhelmed?

“Unless you are a company that grew up on the web or mobile like Google, Facebook or Amazon, digital natives with the best internal systems and engineering talent, your data is trapped in lots of systems,” says Tasso Argyros, CEO and Co Founder of ActionIQ. “The customer journey is broken up and stuck in silos like your email system, or in-store POS. It is orbiting around a data centre that that has yet to built. It is value lost in the abyss.”

In order to excel, businesses need to find a mechanism that will allow them to focus on the right pieces of data to help them advance, and ignore the rest.

Why Smart Data Helps Brands excel.

A company that focuses on smart data, rather than big data, is more likely to be concerned with those specific nuggets of information that will directly impact the business. Amazon is one example that utilizes consumers’ shopping patterns, where they can make educated guesses about what a particular consumer might be interested in, tailor its website accordingly and then hit that consumer with targeted ads. Research on consumer age demographics, also shows that 19% of millennials use Amazon Prime for streaming service compared to the 11% of baby boomers. A helpful percentage that could persuade their attention to a bigger and growing crowd. By honing in on the information that’s useful to them, Amazon avoids spending time and energy on analyzing data that could be interesting but is ultimately useless.

“We’re in such a data-driven world today, and the amount that’s available to both consumers and businesses is overwhelming,” says Karen Kolb, Gilt’s Senior Director of Customer Marketing. Gilt happens to be one of those companies using ActionIQ to address this problem. Kolb says that the solution “puts the power back into the marketer’s hands and enables them to have that one-to-one conversation with your consumer without having to be a technology expert.”

Finding the “smart” data poses the biggest challenge, especially since data scientists are expensive and in short supply. There’s good news: many tools now exist that allow marketers to analyze data efficiently and effectively, minimizing the need for a dedicated data scientist. This is important from a marketing perspective, because it allows marketers to apply their insights directly without having to wait for someone else’s input.

Embracing Smart Data

On the surface, big data seems like it would bring a windfall to any company that utilizes it. However, the reality is quite different. In a study of CMOs, nearly a third of respondents said the “black box” nature of many analytical tools, which makes it difficult for marketers to understand the results they generate, were a primary limitation on their marketing efficacy. Another limitation commonly cited is the fact that data is not easily transferrable, and thus limiting access as well as the insights that can be mined from it.

ActionIQ and customer data platforms, in general are what allow marketers to fully grasp the potential of big data in a way that is accessible and easy to use. It’s not just about the data — it’s also about having the smarts to see how it can be used. Do that, and you’ll have a chance to compete in the marketplace of tomorrow.