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Big Data thinks small

Updated: 2013-05-12 08:43
By Deng Zhangyu (China Daily)

Big Data thinks small

As more Chinese companies track and analyze people's online activities for honed marketing and trend predictions, they're becoming more sophisticated in their approach. Deng Zhangyu reports.

What Chinese region hosts women with the largest breasts? The country's netizens might guess, but its biggest e-shopping website,, knows. It's the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, according to an infographic the company produced. Taobao Marketplace created the visual representation from online shoppers' data it collected and analyzed to enable bra companies to tailor advertisements to individual women. It's a reminder that data crunchers are mining our every online activity for marketing gold. And this rising industry is becoming more sophisticated. Box office forecaster Entdigital sifted through social networks to correctly predict China's top-grossing director Feng Xiaogang's 1942 would earn 370-400 million yuan ($60-65 million) - far less than the producers' and public's expectations - a month before it hit screens.

"Big Data analytics can target customers, and predict trends and consumer behavior," data analytics investor and Frost and Sullivan principal consultant Wang Yuquan says.

Advertisers agree it's invaluable to honing their marketing to specific consumers.

"We can analyze every consumer based on his online activity to know what he likes," says Yang Jiongwei, CEO of MediaV advertising company in Shanghai.

MediaV's data department employs about 100 workers - a fifth of its total staff. The company uses 400 terminal servers to track Web users' behavior 24 hours a day.

"I don't know who you are, but I know what you do online," Yang says.

Big Data thinks small


The moment you touch the mouse, joystick or mobile device button, someone is likely tracking you. Provided to China Daily

"I know your sex, interests, locations, devices used to access the Internet and many other things," he says.

The automated tracking process takes a thousandth of a second, according to Yang.

A user opens a website containing MediaV's code, which downloads cookies to users' browsers and pairs them with a code number assigned by MediaV's terminals.

It then uses algorithms to determine which clients' ads it should display for that particular Web user. The company creates about 1 billion stamps a day, it says.

"I don't need users' names," Yang says. "What I need to know is what they do. I need to know the person on the other side of the browser."

Targeted marketing has been advancing for a long time but Big Data's predictive capabilities, most of which are drawn from trawling social networks, are rapidly emerging.

Entdigital's founder Liu Han worked at Sina Weibo - a micro blog service akin to China's take on Twitter - for four and a half years before founding the box-office forecaster a year ago.

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