Catering to the king: leveraging advanced analytics in a customer-centric economy

Saken Kulkarni

Saken Kulkarni

Fifteen years ago, sellers ruled the retail landscape, freely proposing the price for goods and services dictated by market or, very often, themselves. This “take it or leave it” attitude prevailed because customers had few resources to counter prices and shop around.

Today, the environment has changed. A customer looking to buy golf clubs for a weekend getaway can comparison shop on eBay or Amazon, and then post a comment on Facebook asking for opinions. The customer can then browse reviews of local driving ranges on Yelp to try out his or her new purchase. The proliferation of social media, ecommerce platforms, and mobile usage has created an ultra-educated class of consumers and has allowed the customer to have ultimate control of his or her purchasing decisions. The retail landscape has dramatically changed—the customer is now king.

Harris Interactive_catering to the king

Successful organizations realize that this trend is here to stay and have adapted, shifting from being product oriented to customer oriented. Think about the way that Amazon has transformed the shopping experience. It uses analytics to suggest products to customers based on their shopping preferences, provides a platform for customers to easily look back at their previous purchases, and even provides a free delivery service for its most loyal customers. Amazon executives realized that they could not simply create an ecommerce platform and allow the customer to “take it or leave it.” Designing experiences that cater to the customer have proven to be key differentiators for organizations who succeed and those who fall behind.

One of the most effective ways that an organization can begin this shift is through customer analytics. We are in an age of Big Data, where every online purchase, tweet, or credit card swipe generates a piece of data that is a gold nugget of information. Putting these pieces together creates a rich mosaic that can help organizations gain insight into their customer:

Customer Mosaic_catering to the king

Unfortunately, many organizations feel overwhelmed by this data deluge. In my conversations with executives, program managers, and marketing professionals, the common belief is that sifting through and making sense of mountains of data requires someone with some sort of special power. They often do not believe that this type of analysis can get done within their organizations.

Luckily, no special power is needed. Organizations simply need a holistic plan to gather, clean, analyze, and visualize data in a way that drives every business insight. The ultimate goal is to have advanced analytics available at one’s fingertips. The business user should have the ability to drill down, filter, and interact with the data to obtain that “ah ha!” discovery moment.

Here is a five-step roadmap to leverage the data you already have to drive business decisions and start gaining a 360-degree view of your customer.

Step 1: Analyze the status quo

Look at your current analytics landscape. Have you created a “culture of analytics” within your organization or business area? Do you have select employees trained on statistical packages and excited to uncover deeper customer insights? Is your organization using the channels, tools, and processes required for analytics?

Step 2: Evaluate your infrastructure

Advanced analytics requires horsepower that must be firing on all cylinders. If data is incorrect, or IT infrastructure lacks governance or management, analytics will not be very helpful. Build your databases to ensure that data is valid and robust. Don’t be afraid to explore cloud-based solutions for your data needs. There is only so much you can do to dress up bad data.

Step 3: Design your analysis

Organizations seeking to gain market share in a competitive environment could benefit from dreaming big. Rather than using traditional, backward-looking reporting (think Excel spreadsheets), companies can design and implement predictive analytics. Attrition analysis, market basket analysis, and customer lifetime value calculations can all help organizations start to create that rich customer mosaic in a way that their competitors have not.

Step 4: Visualize your data

The business intelligence landscape has exploded with vendors helping users visualize and discover data in user-friendly dashboards. Disruptive companies like Tableau and Qlikview have changed the way that we view and interact with data. These visualizations will help your business owners uncover the insights gleaned from your data. Integrate your IT teams to help develop these tools to scale insights.

Step 5: Train and drive adoption

A culture of analytics cannot be implemented across your organization without adoption. Engage a few “power users” as analytics evangelists to spread the word. Conduct training sessions using social media and YouTube videos to ensure that the tools that you spent so much time creating are used.

At Slalom, we have a wealth of experience helping both emerging organizations and Fortune 500 companies design analytical solutions to become more customer-centric. Our local model, experienced consultants, and breadth of capabilities allow us to help organizations weave analytics into their consumer insights to create a seamless customer experience. The customer may be king, but that does not mean you should fear the throne.

About sakenkul
Saken is a Business Analytics consultant at Slalom Consulting. He focuses on the intersection of customer engagement, analytics, and data visualization

One Response to Catering to the king: leveraging advanced analytics in a customer-centric economy

  1. Pingback: The road to customer-centric advanced analytics: analyze the status quo | The Slalom Blog

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