In recent years data has become increasingly important to every business, regardless of size or industry. To a large extent, this is due to the way that technology has evolved to allow us to better work with data sets. Where once data analysis was only the domain of highly qualified data scientists and analysts, now software allows even those with little technological knowledge to access, analyse and understand data, as well as to act on it.
Software now allows us to pull in data from numerous sources (depending on the software itself, packages vary) and to analyse information in real time in order to make better, faster and more informed business decisions. In marketing, data-driven marketing is invaluable, as it allows you to act on customer behaviour whilst they are still in the buying cycle.
Where Does Data Come From?
Modern businesses generate a massive amount of data that’s sometimes described as big data. This can come from various transactions, such as purchases, from social media communications, email, phone and more. This data usually lives in data silos (databases) in unstructured form and this means that it can be very difficult and time consuming to manually sort into good and bad (or not useful) data.
The software that allows you to more easily sort and work with this data is known as business intelligence (BI) software collectively. You may also hear it referred to as data analytics, data analysis tools and data dashboards (or self-service dashboards). The latter can be used by anyone within an organisation, from the factory floor worker to the CEO, to spot trends and patterns in business processes. The data analysed can be historical or real-time and analytical models vary as they depend heavily on the business goals of the organisation and the person working with the data.
BI Market Growth
The BI software marketing is currently experiencing high growth and yet it’s thought that just 4% of those organisations using it believe themselves to be good at using analytics. However, those businesses that did use analytics were twice as likely to be performing at the top of their industry financially, three times more likely to “execute decisions as intended” and five times more likely to make quicker business decisions.
According to Mark Flaharty, executive vice president of advertising at SundaySky,
"Arguably, the most important evolution in the history of marketing is the ability to understand what data you have, what data you can get, how to organize and, ultimately, how to activate the data."
For marketers, data allows you to get to know what drives customers to engage with the brand by studying data from omni-channel engagement. Studying analytics can help you to better understand which marketing efforts are creating the most engagement, which in turn allows you to tweak your campaigns to further target customers for improved sales.
Analytics can also help you to:
- Build better long-term relationships with customers and suppliers
- Reach a wider audience
- Segment lists in order to market to groups more effectively
- Remarket to previous or reluctant customers
- Create more qualified leads
Like any business process though, choosing the right analytics software or platform should be informed by planning and strategy if it’s to be successful.
“Analytics will define the difference between the losers and winners going forward.” - Tim McGuire, director at McKinsey.
There are currently more than 3000 vendors of marketing-related technologies so there will be a certain amount of planning involved in initial implementation in order to find the right one for your business.
This will include:
- Specifying a business objective (such as making more sales, improving customer engagement and relationships).
- Data inventory – discovering what kind of data the business generates, where it’s stored and how it can be used.
- Data assessment – to determine if it’s suitable for analysis.
- Data preparation – is the data currently stored in fragmented databases/data warehouses.
Planning will also include mapping the analytics plan through strategy in order to determine what current assets the business has in terms of data, technology, data tools and sets. You will also have to think about how implementing analytics will change organisational behaviour and whether further training will have to be provisioned.
Data for Change
Data can be thought of as the lifeblood of every organisation and it can be used to the good in every business. Its power can enable us to gain a better understanding of our customers as well as better productivity and revenues. Those businesses that don’t use the vast amounts of data that they generate are the ones that will essentially lose out to the competition that does in years to come.