Data is the engine of business

Have you checked yours lately?

One of the enormous benefits of the digital age is that businesses have access to unprecedented amounts of data. But although we’re better informed than ever before, many businesses just do not know what to do with all this information. So it often sits in a secret folder on the shared drive or a filing cabinet the boss’s office, gathering dust… How important is data really? The truth is if you’re not examining your numbers closely, you’re just guessing. It’s a bit like driving a car with your eyes closed; sometimes you might get lucky and other times you’ll end up in a car wreck and because you’re not looking at your data, you’ll have no idea why.

Here are three ways you can use data to drive your business harder:

  1. Understanding customer behaviour: What are your customers up to? Why do they stop buying in December and then go crazy in the Boxing Day sales – isn’t Christmas the big sales period? If you’re seeing unusual customer behaviour it’s time to get curious. You could throw extra effort at marketing in December. But without looking at your data, you’d never know that nearly everyone in the database of your online shoe boutique is female, over 50 and married – so they’re not spoiling themselves in December, they’re Christmas shopping. Instead of running pre-Christmas promotions – which would be money down the drain – a beefed Boxing Day promotion will deliver a stronger return on investment.
  2. Improving your product targeting: Are you selling to the right people? It doesn’t matter how great your products are, if they’re not being seen by the right people, you’re not going to sell them. An Australian homewares company was startled when it suddenly sold out nationwide of a particular line of bed linen that had been languishing in store for weeks. How did it happen? One suburban store featured the product in its front window display. A passing cat enthusiast snapped the cat print set and posted it in an online group of over 100,000 cat fans triggering a rush of orders from as far away as New Zealand. The rest is history. Sometimes you need to switch your targeting from your usual “bed sheets” to more creative terms – like “cat print” to find the right customer. Analysing customer comments can provide valuable insights into what drove their purchase.
  3. Right time and place: You might be promoting the right products but in the wrong combination, at the wrong time of year or using the wrong mechanic. For example, a charity was acquiring new donors with a fun digital campaign but only a tiny proportion were giving a follow-up donation. A review of data showed that donors were being followed up six months later with a print mail-out. However, many of the acquired donors were young and mobile so not only were they less likely to open print mail in the first place but they were also more likely to move house at the end of an academic year, meaning they may never have received the January follow-up. The solution? Shift the campaign a few weeks earlier and go digital.
    Your data is your business’s personalised answer book and it is a literal goldmine of ways to optimise your revenue. If you want to get an edge, get analysing.

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