Collecting customer data can be far simpler than you think, and it can make a genuine impact on your bottom line.
Everybody is talking about the power of big data and how it could revolutionise the way we run our businesses, but isn’t it just for major corporations?
Actually, those in the know say that big data is making those larger businesses operate more like smaller ones, with individualised offerings, more personal interactions with customers and more detailed segmentation of markets.
Data can give you a better understanding of your customers, which can be used to target them more effectively with marketing and offers, and even develop and add new products and services down the track.
Data from day 1
“Data often reveals behaviour, not only around how your customers are thinking but also how your business works,” says Glenn Downey, Commercial Director of NICTA, Australia’s Information Communications Technology Research Centre of Excellence. “Once you have collected data, you can then use it with the right analysis to increase your productivity and improve your targeting for revenue generation.”
According to Downey, the data you have access to and the reasons you’d want to explore that data vary from business to business, but everybody has opportunities to collect customer data and it’s something you can do from the day you launch your business. “A tradie might have an online accounting system where he logs customers and records invoices,” he says. “Even within that minimal amount of digital application, there is data that you can begin to analyse.”
For example, Downey says this basic accounting data can tell you how long specific clients are taking to pay invoices and how much each client is worth to your business on an annual basis, or it can show where your clients are based geographically, for more targeted marketing opportunities.
“Whether you’re a tradesperson or you run a small fashion franchise, you’re probably going to have some sort of website,” says Downey. “Through the website, there will be a lot of really interesting data around visitors and how they found your website, how long they spend on your site and where they go to next.”
“You can tap into the data analytics tool called Google AdWords, which will give you insight into who is coming to your site, whether it’s worth your while spending a bit of money advertising online, where to advertise and perhaps how to promote your position on Google Search.”
Doing online data analysis doesn’t have to cost a lot in terms of time, money or resources. It’s just a matter of starting to use available data, developing an appreciation of its usefulness and then moving forwards from there, says Downey.
Most cloud accounting software systems come with built-in analytical tools. Certain smartphone and tablet apps, such as TrackMySpend, Expensify and VehicleLog, also allow you to gather and analyse specific types of data.
Data opportunities everywhere
When customers approach your business, whether online or in person, contact data and address data even just postcodes can be very useful and can draw a picture over time of where your client base sits geographically. Of course, it also helps you to populate a database to contact during future marketing campaigns.
Loyalty programs, including the details that customers provide in order to join up and information about their ongoing purchasing patterns, can also be enormously valuable in terms of data.
Many advanced tools are available online (see Datameer as an example) or are currently being developed, that will help you collect and / or analyse various types of business and customer data. Often analytic software also comes pre-loaded on infrastructural hardware such as cash registers.
But the real idea of “big data”, says Downey, is that it links the cash register data with your loyalty program data, your accounting data, your payroll data and so on, so you can begin to explore links and patterns across your business. This data-driven view of your customer base and service or product offerings exposes endless opportunities for marketing, pricing and even new product innovation.