In recent years, we’ve all been hearing more and more about big data, but what does it really mean in business terms? Can data analytics really make a difference to how effective your business is, day to day? The answer is yes – and most likely in more ways than you realize. Exploring the secrets revealed in big data makes it possible to refine the way we work like never before. It’s the missing piece from the Industrial Revolution, finally enabling us to understand consumers on the same scale that we create products. It can also enable us to understand the internal workings of our organizations. What could it do for yours?
Data analytics is helping us to understand a great deal about what consumers want. Every time a new product hits the market, reactions to it provide useful information, but in the past this information was difficult to read. Now, advances in computing power mean that it’s possible to identify trends that were impossible to observe before, going beyond the colors and prices that consumers prefer to explore subtler details such as their ethical concerns and how often they’re willing to purchase upgrades. Information like this can be factored into the design process so that products more precisely match customer demand. Of course, trends don’t account for everything, and the most successful companies tend to lead rather than follow, attracting customers through innovation, but it’s easier to innovate successfully if you’re basing some aspects of your product on what you already know consumers want as Chern Lee notes on Twitter, something as simple as an appealing color scheme can give a new product built-in appeal – and Chern Lee, who manages Iconic Industry, knows his stuff.
No matter how well you design a product, bringing it to market successfully takes something else. You need to be able to identify the type of marketing that most appeals to your target customers, and the more tightly you can define that target group, the more effectively you can pitch your product. You’ll be able to adjust everything from the social media platforms you use to the length of text or video and the phraseology you use to optimize your approach. Data analytics also matter in assessing how successful your marketing is. By interrelating different parts of your marketing strategy, such as the timing of ads, with visits to your website or stores and with sales, it can give you detailed information about how effective each action is. It’s particularly useful in assessing subtle factors such as how advertising that doesn’t lead directly to a big increase in sales can still increase brand recognition and therefore have potential long-term value.
The application of data analytics to personnel recruitment and management is one of the least well understood parts of it, but it can be very significant. That’s because it’s much easier to detect subtle problems in your processes when you look at big data than when you’re dealing with individual instances, which always involve confounding factors that make a clear appraisal difficult. Big data can, for instance, tell you if you’re paying your female employees less or failing to promote them as consistently as you promote men, which could explain problems in retaining talent or lead to a decrease in productivity as those affected become frustrated. It can also highlight imbalances in how you handle applications from potential new employees, letting you know if you might be missing out on talent or experience because other factors are taking precedence. This approach can even identify issues of which no one in the organization is consciously aware.
Another great way that you can make use of data analytics internally is to apply it to your sales process. This isn’t limited to online sales but can also factor in information from retail outlets, and many companies work in partnership with their distributors to obtain useful data sets. This process provides a much more detailed picture of which approaches to sales are successful and which are falling short. As with all aspects of data analytics, its usefulness will depend on your ability to work out which questions to ask, but if you bring in specialists to help with the process, then they will be able to guide you through this.
As you get used to the potential of data analytics, you’ll come to understand that what it does is create a new business environment where the success of your organization depends less on luck and more on insight and imagination. Data analytics is a very valuable tool, but a tool nonetheless – what will ultimately drive your business forward is the way you use it.