Why Technology Won’t Help You Understand Your Customers

Were you surprised to read the title of this post? Do you believe that using technology to understand customers is the only way today? Then let me explain why I believe it’s not quite that simple. 

In today’s data-rich environment I’m not really suggesting that you actually ignore data nor technology! However, in working with clients around the world as well as in numerous industries, I have found that many are lost by the wealth of information that is available to them.

In fact it seems to drown out their reasoning of what to do with all the data and they remain frozen in indecision. Or worse, they invest in the latest platforms and systems in the hope that using technology to understand customers will help them with their knowledge void. Is this your case? If so, then just follow the steps I detail below and you will soon be doubling, quadrupling, if not getting 10x the ROI from your data.

 

The Current Situation with Data

Data is everywhere and most organisations are drowning in it! Technology is being blamed for disrupting businesses, but in most cases these companies have simply not adapted to this new data-rich world.

I admit, a lot has changed. Consumers are adapting their behaviours to the trading of their personal information. Companies are changing business models as their value shifts from products to services, or even to the sale of the information they gather.

Some organisations are reinventing themselves to take advantage of these changes. Others are ignoring them – at their peril – since they are at risk of becoming the next Kodak, Borders or Blockbusters. And of course the latest covid-19 epidemic will hasten many others to unfortunately follow suit in the coming months.

If you’re interested in reading an analysis of the US Retail Apocalypse and the 23 big retailers closing stores then I highly recommend this post on Fox Business from last year. No doubt it will need updating in 2021 when the fallout from the current pandemic becomes clearer.

So what should you do? Well, I believe that you should start by renovating your business model to take advantage of the countless new opportunities all the data and new technologies open up for you. And in my opinion, you had better do it sooner rather than later, because your competition will almost certainly be investigating ways to make use of it all!

 

The Opportunity

Yes you have data and information, but if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you will know that you have to turn these into knowledge to understand your customers. And then develop insights and actions. But this can only be done by asking the right questions of your data and information. The latest technology is not going to make up for your lack of thinking!

If you are struggling to take needed action despite a wealth of information, then this is certainly where you should start making changes – fast!

A 2015 Capgemini and EMC study called “Big & Fast Data: The rise of Insight-Driven Business” showed that:

  • 56% of the 1,000 senior decision makers surveyed claim that their investment in big data over the next three years will exceed past investment in information management.
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You’ve Got Data? Well Don’t Start There!

Did the title about Data make you curious? Great!

Of course, in today’s data-rich environment I’m not really suggesting that you actually ignore it! However, in working with clients around the world and in numerous industries, I have found that many are lost by the wealth of information that is available to them.

In fact it seems to drown out their reasoning of what to do and they remain frozen in indecision. Is this your case? If so, then just follow the steps I detail below and you will soon be doubling, quadrupling, if not 10x the ROI of your data.

 

The Current Situation with Data

Data is everywhere and most organisations are drowning in it! Technology is being blamed for disrupting businesses, but most have simply not adapted to this new data-rich world.

I admit, a lot has changed. Consumers are adapting their behaviours to the trading of their personal information. Companies are changing business models as their value shifts from products to services, or even to the sale of the information they gather.

Some organisations are reinventing themselves to take advantage of these changes. Others are ignoring them – at their peril, since they are risking to become the next Kodak, Borders or Blockbusters. If you’re interested in reading more about the US Retail Apocalypse and the 23 big retailers closing stores then I highly recommend this post on Fox Business.

So what should you do, whether you are in manufacturing or retail? Well, I believe that you should start by renovating your business model to take advantage of the countless new opportunities open to you. And in my opinion, you had better do it sooner rather than later, because your competition almost certainly will!

 

The Opportunity

Yes you have data and information, but if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you will know that you have to turn these into knowledge and understanding, and then into actionable insights. And this can only be done by asking the right questions of your data and information.

If you are struggling to take needed action despite a wealth of information, then this is certainly where you should start making changes – fast!

A 2015 Capgemini and EMC study called “Big & Fast Data: The rise of Insight-Driven Business” showed that:

  • 56% of the 1,000 senior decision makers surveyed claim that their investment in big data over the next three years will exceed past investment in information management.
  • 65% admit they risk becoming irrelevant and uncompetitive if they do not leverage data. This is especially true given that non-traditional providers, like startups thriving on big data processing, are moving into their industries.
  • Although companies realize they desperately need to dig into data analytics to maintain their business position, 45% surveyed think their current internal IT development cycles are not sufficient for new analytics and don’t fulfill their business requirements.
  • Making matters worse, over half (52%) of those surveyed see the speed of their organization’s insight generation from data analytics as constrained by its existing IT infrastructure.
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Market Research, Business Intelligence & Big Data: Have we Forgotten about Human Data?

The annual pilgrimage to the ESOMAR Conference took place last week in Dublin. I heard that there was much discussion, both on and off the stage, about Big Data and the future of market research. Hopefully, the whole profession will get behind one initiative, instead of each individually trying to “solve world peace” on their own!

This week sees the second Swiss BI-Day taking place in Geneva and there will no doubt be similar discussions about Big Data and the future of Business Intelligence.

It appears that Big Data is not just a buzzword or a commodity that has been likened to oil; it has become the centre of a power struggle between different industries. Many professionals seem to be vying for the right to call themselves “THE Big Data experts”.

This got me thinking about the future of data analysis in general and the business usage of Big Data more specifically. There seems to be no stopping the inflow of information into organisations these days, whether gathered through market research, which is proportionally becoming smaller by the day, or from the smartphones, wearables and RFID chips, that get added to every conceivable article, more generally referred to as the IoT (Internet of Things). Who will, and how are we to better manage it all? That is the question that needs answering – soon! (>>Tweet this<<)

Data Science Central published an interesting article earlier this year called “The Awesome Ways Big Data Is Used Today To Change Our World”. Already being a few months old probably makes it a little out-of-date, in this fast changing world we live in, but I think it still makes fascinating reading. It summarises ten ways that data is being used:

  1. Underst anding and Targeting Customers
  2. Underst anding and Optimizing Business Processes
  3. Personal Quantification and Performance Optimization
  4. Improving Healthcare and Public Health
  5. Improving Sports Performance
  6. Improving Science and Research
  7. Optimizing Machine and Device Performance
  8. Improving Security and Law Enforcement
  9. Improving and Optimizing Cities and Countries
  10. Financial Trading

Many of these are not new in terms of data usage nor business analysis. What is new, is that the data analysis is mostly becoming automated and in real-time. In addition, the first and second items, which were largely the domains of market research and business intelligence, are now moving more into the h ands of IT and the data scientists. Is this a good or bad thing?

Another article posted on Data Informed a few months after the above one, talks about The 5 Scariest Ways Big Data is Used Today   and succinctly summarises some of the dynamic uses of data today. The author of both pieces, Bernard Marr, wrote that “This isn’t all the stuff of science fiction or futurism. Because the technology for big data is advancing so rapidly, rules, regulations, and best practices can’t keep up.” He gives five examples of where data analysis raises certain ethical questions:

  1. Predictive policing. In February 2014, the Chicago Police Department sent uniformed officers to make “ custom notification visits to individuals whom they had identified, using a computer generated list, as likely to commit a crime in the future.
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