Anyone who was around in the early dotcom years will be familiar with what’s going on in the world of data right now. Once again geeks and non-geeks must work together to create something smart and futureproof. Data is no longer just something to keep the fusty ferrets in the IT department busy - the rest of the business also needs to get up to speed and fast.
The term “big data” might have been coined by a scientist, economist or even a computer genius, but my research finds that no one really knows. It’s not really relevant anyway as the word “big” makes it unnecessarily intimidating. Like if you haven’t already got a full grasp of data you’ll never get the hang of BIG data. But that just isn’t true.
To have access to the right data, and to be able to understand and act on it, is rapidly becoming an important business discipline. It isn’t one that should sit on the shoulders of the IT director or CIO alone. Over the years, I’ve seen IT departments blamed for poor quality data or the fact that the data is a complete mess, but there’s usually more to the picture. These failures can often be tracked back to some poor decisions made over the years by people throughout the company.
Whatever the case, any company that has customer data can use it better, and that applies whether its technology is legacy or state of the art; whether its data hierarchies are rubbish or brilliant; and whether its budget is big or small. Few companies would deny that they’re customer focused. If you care about customers (or pretend to), you have to care about data.
If you understand your customers and communicate with them in a way that works for them, then you can increase loyalty and ultimately profit. Think of it as you would buying Christmas presents; it’s the people you know the best who are the easiest to buy for.
CEOs need to take the leap from saying they are using their data and start actually using the data – data is the enabler that helps them know millions of customers better without having to actually speak to them all individually. With the right information, CEOs can understand:
- Which customers drive the most revenue
- Where there may be opportunities to drive new revenue streams or enhance existing ones
- What other products or services may be appealing to the most loyal customers i.e. a NPD pipeline
- What marketing initiatives have driven the best returns
- Whether a change in revenue is due to fewer customers spending more or more customers spending less
As customer knowledge and relationships increasingly set companies apart from their competitors, it is within customer data that enterprises will find their answers to the questions above. Some important ways that data around customers creates value for enterprises include:
- Allowing them to segment customers and thus target them more precisely with the right messages, offerings and customer experiences.
- Giving them the ability to react in real-time to emerging trends and opportunities – for example, a swell of negative customer sentiment about a new product or advertising umbrellas to customers who are in areas where it is currently raining.
- Providing them with more accurate and detailed performance information – for example, is the company successfully retaining and growing high-value customers?
Companies who can integrate and interrogate data successfully to better understand customer needs, purchase intentions, satisfaction, and loyalty will be able to drive higher revenues and profits.
Real-time personalisation and a single view of the customer may be a few years away for many organisations. However, this journey can start today by making commitment to take data seriously and respect what it can do to drive better business outcomes. Succeeding is about building a smart data strategy aligned with a clear business objective – a topic I’ll return to in a future post.
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