This year you've probably heard plenty about big data. It's useful; it's not useful; it's essential, and so on. But a Forrester report due later this week indicates that for the average business owner, big data is, well, confusing and difficult to use.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the research company surveyed 259 marketing executives at small and medium-sized retailers, financial services, and consumer-products companies. And for all the headlines and fuss over big data, only 9 percent actually plan to use big data technology in the next year. About one-third said they found the term big data "very confusing."

Despite these head-scratching findings, Forrester's researchers outlined the importance of big data and revealed how some large companies use it. “The data explosion has changed how we do business,” says Forrester. “Every interaction, every communication, every touchpoint creates a digital breadcrumb--a piece of data that can be analyzed and manipulated.”

As an example, Netflix used data to launch successful television series such as House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, while Uber uses smartphone data to continually irk city taxi commissions around the country. 

The Journal reports that even Clorox--not a brand you'd typically equate with tech savvy--told Forrester that it cites mining social media data as a reason for a sales increase in early 2013. The Journal offers another example: 

Farm-equipment maker John Deere and biotechnology company Monsanto are analyzing data from seeds, satellites, and tractors to help farmers them decide what and when to plant, and how to distribute seeds.

Of course, with all the praise, comes warnings. Forrester's survey cautioned that amassing large amounts of consumer data opens a company up to potential privacy and security vulnerabilities

Do you use big data? Tell us in the comments.

Published on: May 28, 2014