Midsized businesses need to realize one thing: Putting the customer in the driver's seat can actually provide a market advantage over their larger competitors. It's good for the customer, too.
The global conversation taking place on social media platforms, together with the ready access to those platforms afforded by the explosion in use of mobile devices, has transformed the relationship between business and consumer. In the first place, consumers are empowered by the extraordinary amount of product information available. Furthermore, in sharing and responding to this information, consumers are creating data packed with insights.
When companies use business analytics tools to extract nuggets of usable information from this consumer data, it's the consumer who ultimately benefits through an improved commercial experience. Here are two great examples:
Blue Mountain Resorts is a year-round ski resort in northern Ontario. The use of business analytics has enabled the resort to integrate and place the mass of data it already held on weather conditions, customer booking habits, and employee schedules and put it directly into the hands of the managers making operating decisions. The resulting data analysis made possible a flexible redeployment of workers across the resort's multiple operations, which in turn led to a $2.5 million reduction in annual labor costs. The benefit to the consumer came with competitive pricing, as sales agents were better able to make real-time pricing decisions.
In this example and others, we see consumer behavior and feedback, along with other factors, being sifted for information, which in turn is used to guide operational decisions. The good news for midsized businesses is that leveraging business analytics does not necessarily mean placing increased burdens on already over-stretched IT departments. A good business analytics solution should place data directly in the hands of decision-makers.
One way this can be achieved is by integrating data from multiple sources and channeling clear, reliable information to accessible dashboards or reports. Arming employees with the information they need rewards businesses with increased revenues and reduced operating costs. Perhaps more importantly, it benefits customer by offering them the products their input has helped define, delivered in the way they prefer, and with after-sales service to which they best respond.
A midsized business that can get a grip on its data can steal a march on larger enterprises through its ability to make rapid adjustments in marketing and operations, in response to consumer demand. It's also an environment absolutely made for close collaboration between CMOs and CIOs.
But getting a grip on the data is key. I believe business analytics is no longer something nice to have. It's the cornerstone of a strategy that will not only increase the competitiveness of the midsized company, but improve the commerce experience for customers as well.