Four types of data for your corporate strategy

As you evaluate your strategy, perhaps considering a strategic pivot, gather and utilize as much data as possible to build a deep understanding in four areas:

  1. Your customers,
  2. Your competitors,
  3. The external factors that impact you, and
  4. Your own product.

You may be surprised at what the data will show you.

Your customers
Customer data is one of your most important assets, and more of it is available today than ever before. We have moved from a 2D to a 3D customer view, including motivations, preferences, and habits. The more data you collect, the more complete the picture.

Getting the data
Identify all customer interaction points, including

  • Hit-level data from digital platforms: web sites, apps and kiosks
  • Interaction with customer support: phone, email, and online chat
  • Social media, including direct messaging, tweets, and posts on accounts you own or they own
  • Location, including store videos and movement logs. There are several technologies for monitoring movement, including embedded sensors, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, beacon, and even light frequencies in combination with smart phone apps.
  • Data from sensors, RFID tags, personal fitness trackers, bio-medical readings, accelerometer data, external temperature, etc.

For each interaction point, make an inventory of

  • Available data,
  • Potential uses of that data, and
  • Privacy and governance considerations

Link the data to get a 360 view. If a customer phones your call center after looking online on your cancellation policy webpage, connect those two events.

Use the ‘big data’ in particular for an understanding of the intents, preferences and habits of your customers. Use this customer behavior when constructing personas.

Your competitors
It’s especially challenging to get good information about your competitors. Nielsen, Comscore, and SimilarWeb will sell estimations of traffic to competitors’ sites and apps, possibly including referrer information. Google Trends gives branded search.

Scraping will show competitor inventory, services and physical locations. If you are competing on price, adjust pricing based on your competition’s proximity to your customers. For physical locations, use address and transportation routes. For online sales, consider the referrers. Customers arriving from price comparison sites should be considered price-conscious and in ‘driving range’ of your competitors.

Increase your share of wallet, the percentage of a customer’s spend that goes to your business rather than competitors’. Use the detailed customer data you have collected and see what categories and what specific products are typically purchased by the same customer segments. You’ll be able to see which customers are already making those cross-purchases, which are browsing but not purchasing, and which are active in only one category.

By using the customer segments you’ve created, you’ll be able to see if your competition is appealing more to quality-conscious customers, marketing-reactive customers, high-spenders, etc.

External factors
You may be impacted by external factors ranging from government regulation to local weather. If you are in the travel and tourism industry, regional holidays will impact long-term bookings and weather will influence short-term bookings. Commodities prices will influence production and transport costs, and exchange rates or political turmoil will influence cross-border activity.

Much of the impact of external factors will be from traditional (small) data, but newer (big) data sources will provide additional, valuable signals. Monitor changes in online activity, particularly around product segments. This will flag unexpected changes requiring your attention. As an example, Google Maps and Waze can detect construction or road closures simply by studying driver movements, without the need for dedicated data feeds from departments of transportation.

Construct regular forecasts of key metrics, including number of visits and sales projections, segmented down to the levels at which you can steer your operations (such as product and region). Monitor these at a daily or weekly level and take note whenever they move above or below expected levels, as this may signal an unexpected external factor impacting your business.

Your own product
You may not understand your own service or product as well as you think, and your customers may perceive them in completely different ways than you’d expect. What is working and what is not working? How are customers responding to your products? Where are you losing money through inefficiencies?

If your web offering is a significant part of your business, create and track micro-conversion events to see how your items are performing even before a purchase is made. Tag your sessions with A/B versions so you can deep-dive into results using your big data tools.

As you start collecting and studying these four types of data, you’ll uncover new insights and you’ll be led to ask new questions your data may not (yet) answer. Getting answers to these additional questions and regularly revisiting your initial questions will help you excel in constantly evolving business environments.