Jobs and the Future of Work

How to gain a competitive advantage with Big Data

Jonathan Buckley
Interim Chief Marketing Officer, Qubole
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Finding ways to outperform the competition is key to business success. That’s why innovation and creative strategies are always on the minds of organizations. However, finding ways to constantly perform isn’t easy, which is why more companies are turning to big data for the answers.

Big data really isn’t anything new. For years companies have collected information on their audiences. What has changed is the amount of information being collected. New platforms like social media and new technologies like smartphones have increased the amount of information that can be tracked, opening the doors to deeper customer insights. Just think how much consumer sentiment understanding has increased thanks to Twitter.

The Competitive Advantage

Despite the well-recognized benefits of data, only about 29 percent of businesses are using it for predictive analysis or to improve operations, according to a report prepared by Accenture and General Electric. That being said, with emerging technologies like the Internet of Things, big data is on the verge of going mainstream. Soon, competitors will all be using the same information, making it harder to find undiscovered insights that could lead to advantages.

It’s precisely this reason that companies need to proactively adopt big data strategies. Those who continue to operate on a level playing field will never get ahead of the competition. They’ll need to do what their competitors aren’t. Find what they haven’t yet discovered. For example, consider the following big data use cases, and how maximizing their potential would help organizations reach customers and drive sales.

Multi-Channel Marketing

E-commerce accounts for less than 20 percent of total retail revenue, but digital programs influence 50 percent of in-store sales. This means that although the final sale may result in physical stores, thejourney to that sale may have started elsewhere. Consumers may visit websites, social accounts and catalogues before buying. Data analytics hold the key to better understanding how customers are buying, and what can influence conversions.

Consumer Sentiment

How do customers feel about your advertising campaign? Access to real-time data could mean the difference between a major success and a devastating flop. Analytics once again hold the answers to understanding how customers view your tactics, as well as those of your competitors. For example, your company might normally assume 15 percent negative sentiment is acceptable. However, if your direct competitor’s negative sentiment is only 10 percent, 15 doesn’t look so great. Knowing the sentiments associated with competitors helps companies evaluate their own performance and look for ways to improve. It also helps predict consumer trends, allowing companies to anticipate behavior and introduce the right solutions.

How to Gain an Advantage in a Saturated Market

While those who adopt big data initiatives might have an initial advantage over companies that drag their feet, that’ll change as more organizations catch on. After all, most will be using the same technology and drawing from the same sources. When that happens, how can companies find an advantage?

The Right Data

The first step is to make sure your organization is collecting the right data. The term “big data” suggests the need to collect the most information. Not true. Most information out there is just noise. Collecting too much is the equivalent of trying to find a needle in a much bigger haystack. The key is to only collect what you’ll need. Always keep business objectives in mind; then go after data that will help you meet those objectives. Companies that know what they’re looking for will get results faster and beat their competitors to market.

The Right Tools

It’s important to find a tool that not only offers the capabilities for what you need but is capable of being managed by the talent you have. There are platforms designed specifically for gaming industries, healthcare professionals and businesses. Each perform offers different analytical processes. Take the time to research tools that meet your organizational needs.

The Right Talent

Big data is like a race track, and analytical tools the latest race car. This car has the potential to beat any vehicle on the track, but without a driver, it’ll just sit at the starting line. One of the best ways to outperform the competition is to have the best talent.  Analysts are key because they’re the ones who know which processes to run in order to get the right information. They know what information is useful, and what’s just noise. When a manager is looking for specific insights, like who to target for a specific promotion, experienced analysts will know how to get those answers. The better the analyst, the better the results.

This article is published in collaboration with The Smart Data Collective. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Jonathan Buckley is the Interim Chief Marketing Officer at Qubole.

Image: Internet LAN cables are pictured in this photo illustration. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne.

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