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Big Data and consumer behavior: imminent opportunities

Charles F. Hofacker (Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA)
Edward Carl Malthouse (Department of Integrated Marketing Communications, Northwestern University, Evanston. Illinois, USA)
Fareena Sultan (Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 21 March 2016




The purpose of this paper is to assess how the study of consumer behavior can benefit from the presence of Big Data.


This paper offers a conceptual overview of potential opportunities and changes to the study of consumer behavior that Big Data will likely bring.


Big Data have the potential to further our understanding of each stage in the consumer decision-making process. While the field has traditionally moved forward using a priori theory followed by experimentation, it now seems that the nature of the feedback loop between theory and results may shift under the weight of Big Data.

Research limitations/implications

A new data culture is now represented in marketing practice. The new group advocates inductive data mining and A/B testing rather than human intuition harnessed for deduction. The group brings with it interest in numerous secondary data sources. However, Big Data may be limited by poor quality, unrepresentativeness and volatility, among other problems.

Practical implications

Managers who need to understand consumer behavior will need a workforce with different skill sets than in the past, such as Big Data consumer analytics.


To the authors ' knowledge, this is one of the first articles to assess how the study of consumer behavior can evolve in the context of the Big Data revolution.



Hofacker, C.F., Malthouse, E.C. and Sultan, F. (2016), "Big Data and consumer behavior: imminent opportunities", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 33 No. 2, pp. 89-97.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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