Big Data in the US Compared to the UK

Big Data in the US Compared to the UK

The US has been ahead of the UK in many things in recent years. From the rockets they have sent to the moon, to the many multi-billion dollar companies that have been created there. Although the UK is certainly still producing strong companies and several exciting startups, most companies are still not at the same stage as their US counterparts.

Today, many of the biggest business innovations that we see have come from across the pond and have had a profound effect on how we do business. Think about the machines you are reading this on, the chances are they have a basis in either Microsoft or Apple, if you use SAS, Salesforce, Oracle or any other number of business software suites, you will know the impact that the US has had on our working lives.

In Big Data they are also leading the way, but what are they doing differently and how do we compare?

They Do Things Bigger

Everything in the US is supersized.

The datasets that their high tech companies hold are huge. They have Google, Facebook and Amazon all headquartered there, who are three of the largest data holders in the world. They have managed to store more data than their British counterparts, not simply because there is more to store, but because they have built the infrastructure to be able to collect it effectively.

This has allowed them to not only mine and analyse larger sets, but also improve their data gathering techniques through their extensive use of these practices in the past. It means that they are way ahead of us in terms of how they collect data and the variety of data collected.

However, We Do Things More Efficiently

Although we may not be at the same stage in terms of collecting data as companies, we are ahead in certain aspects, mainly in using data for advertising.

This is because we are going to be the first country ever to spend 50% of our overall advertising spend on digital advertising, allowing us to access more data from the people who interact with our adverts.

Although in the US the actual number of digital adverts are higher (simply because there are more places to put them) the proportion of the overall spend is significantly lower, at 31.3%. This shows a more progressive and data focussed approach from UK advertisers, who do not just want to sell their products, but also want to get the best possible information about the people who are buying them.

Their Successful Companies Did It Earlier

When you look at Google and Facebook, the question for both in their formative years was ‘how will they make money?’. In reality, they knew that through their extensive data collection programmes, that they had a strong base from which to sell advertising and target it specifically at the people who would be most likely to react positively to it.

This was not the case with UK companies, and the head start that this gave US companies, also meant that the employees from these innovators went to similar companies, mainly based in the US. The ideas and techniques spread quickly, especially in the Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bay area, where these data innovating companies were based and their employees (who eventually went to work elsewhere) called home.

They Are Governed By Looser Laws

It is no surprise that US companies have been able to accelerate ahead of the UK in terms of using data from their customers. One of the main reasons for this is that the laws under which they operate are less strict and have a greater degree of leniency to allow for innovation.

In fact, Edward Luce claims in the Financial Times that ‘If Europe could innovate like the US, perhaps it would spend less time trying to bring others down’. However, the interesting thing about this is that the companies who are kicking up the most fuss about the dominant position of companies like Google in Brussels and across Europe are other US companies. The reason behind this is simply that the EU has a tougher competition regime.

It could be argued that Google holds too much data and too much power about how people interpret the world or find information, but what cannot be argued is that through their work (precisely because they are so dominant) they have given millions of people opportunities that could not have existed. This has been made possible because they have found the best ways to deal with data and extract it to create value.

Through our work with US companies, we have seen why they are ahead in terms of how they use data, but we are slowly catching up.

You can hear about how some of the biggest companies in the US are utilising data at the Big Data Innovation Summit in Boston on September 9 & 10. Tap here to find out more.