Category: Business Growth
A central theme that resonates for many businesses today relates to the term "big data." What does it really mean and how can it help your company seize the advantage in the marketplace?
Big data is a concept which represents huge volumes of data, both past and present that exist in the world of today. Another key is figuring out how to create the right opportunity and extract meaning from it. The IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) has made the following observation: 90 percent of the data that exists today has been generated and captured in the last two years!
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Jim Corgel of IBM says analytics (big data) "is much bigger than the internet boom of the last decade." Corgel goes on to say that analytics will be the biggest business opportunity IBM has ever tackled. IBM has established a competition entitled Smart Camp, where they partner with fast growth technology companies who are providing analytics based applications.
Companies like StreetLine Networks. They provide "intelligent parking solutions." StreetLine uses sensor-enabled web and mobile services that make parking in bigger cities an easier task. Simply put, they allow drivers to quickly find available parking spots. Some environmental experts indicate as much as 30 percent of city traffic is from people trying to find a place to park their car. StreetLine crunches huge amounts of data in order to locate available parking spaces.
With the advent of the "cloud" for storing massive amounts of data, unbelievable volumes of data have been generated. Your very own desktop computer connection to the internet has, no doubt, sent and received huge amounts of information about what you have done and what you are doing, in just one day. Credit card transactions, banking transactions, medical information, transportation data (automobile, train, plane, or boat), are all being captured and kept.
Acquiring the data is only part of the opportunity. What to do with it represents the other part.
Walmart.com used their abilities with big data to capitalize on "cake pops" that were trending on some social media sites. According to the Wall Street Journal, Walmart.com was able to spot the trend and move quickly to increase the stock in their stores.
Having the capability to analyze the trends and do something about them is the brass ring every business owner wants to perfect. As a business, you have several databases of information. You, no doubt, have a customer database. It might contain business information and some personal information about the key people for your customer. You have invoicing data along with payment data. Those three databases could be analyzed to the point of knowing that if you send out an invoice for payment, there is a 95 percent chance that particular customer will pay the invoice in ten days. Using analytics for your customers could help you in determining your future cash flows.
You might consider identifying several areas of data that are readily available to you. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are excellent sources of information. You should also consider website analytics as another source for information.
For retail businesses, let's say you have captured specific customer information. Their name, from the credit card they use. The date and time they purchased an item, from the cash register receipt. Let's also say you happen to have their e-mail from a customer loyalty program offering. You could tie all of this information together and know that this particular customer normally buys something from you every Wednesday between three and five in the afternoon. Armed with this data, you could send them a timely e-mail or text with special offers, encouraging them to buy different products, thus increasing your revenue.
In other examples, analytics acquires all kinds of data from the internet; what sites are visited, what type of goods and services are bought, various forms of entertainment being sought, etc. From all of this, general patterns of purchasing behavior are determined. In addition, more specific habits are determined. And finally, individual, personal models of behavior can be derived.
Some would describe the above observations as futuristic. Others would call it Orwellian, after the author George Orwell, who wrote the book 1984. Still others, would consider it to be the ultimate way of doing business and making informed decisions, as opposed to making business decisions based on little data. Regardless of which camp you are in, the future is here right now.
Dan Arens is an Indiana-based Business Growth Advisor
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