Business IQ

Consultants say big data is key to success, on any budget

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Data science is big news, with many consultants promising big data holds all the answers to business success. Read on to find out how you can keep up, even if your budget is low.

For busy small business owners, the biggest challenge is knowing where to start. You could spend all day collecting customer data or digital engagement data – but if it doesn't lead to tangible, useful, profitable insights, there’s not much point.

So what should you be measuring and monitoring? And what tools do business owners like you depend on to save them time (and money) in a data minefield?

“I think you need to understand what drives your business success, and then measure that,” says Loralle Slater, chief operating officer at RedZed Lending Solutions, a Melbourne-based financing firm. 

She says their customers include both brokers and borrowers, and they keep historical customer data on their three operating systems. They use QlikView to link the systems and report on all data, and have a dashboard with key metrics including volume of applications, settlements and collection performance – all key factors for RedZed’s business success. 

Because RedZed competes on service, it also tracks cycle time and conversion rates by customer and employee, and reports back to brokers via individual dashboards.

oil and gold on scale

Power up your customer database

Every business needs a single source of truth for core customer data – it could be an industry platform, a Cloud-based portal or your own software. Salesforce is one of the most popular customer relations management (CRM) systems in Australia, but there are many others available. Make sure it integrates easily with other software you use – marketing automation tools, email and social channels for example. And does it sync to your mobile devices, so you always have contacts at your fingertips?Your CRM is also only as good as the accuracy and amount of the data on it – can you use it to personalise online campaigns, send birthday notes or automate emails?

5 Ways to track big data for small prices
  1. Use Google Analytics to track traffic and conversion of key performance indicators on your website.
  2. Use Mailchimp to track email campaign open rates.
  3. Use Yesware, which works with Gmail, to tell you if your e-mail has been opened.
  4. Use Tableau to visually present this data to your business partners.
  5. Use Jaspersoft to embed analytics into your own applications.

What data do you already hold?

You may already be sitting on the most valuable customer information – all you need is a way to capture it. Focus on the things that will help you provide better service, increase sales or improve retention. This could include: 

  • Customer purchase history (trigger follow-up communications, service reminders, recommendations for complementary products, requests for reviews).
  • Favourite purchase (from colour preferences to how they take their coffee).
  • When they typically purchase (create reminders or seasonal offers and support more accurate sales forecasting).

For example, customer data fuels Lime & Tonic’s bespoke experience offer – members start with questions to build a profile of special interests, and then personalised offers are sent through the website, app and email. They also use a private Facebook group for top members to get valuable feedback.

Gelato Messina has also told us social media metrics help them test different flavours before they start churning – they post a flavour on Facebook and can gauge within an hour how it will sell.

It’s direct feedback like this that can make more impact on your business decisions than worrying about the number of likes a post receives. Just make sure you put that information to work – turn your data into insights and your insights into action.

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