Using business data to make informed decision is a fairly recent phenomenon. For many years, decision makers relied on gut feelings or defaulted to “the way things have always been done.”
However, business technology has rapidly evolved over the past couple decades. Salespeople no longer store their contacts in a rolodex. They use a CRM. And retail businesses have replaced their traditional cash registers with digital point-of-sale systems (POS systems). Almost any business process can now be managed by software, mobile apps or other technology.
Technology has many benefits, including the capability to capture business data. This information can be analyzed to uncover illuminating details companies can use to validate decisions and improve operations.
Modern businesses have access to so much data that basing a decision on a hunch no longer works. Like a science experience, an idea needs to be tested and proved with the right metrics before it’s implemented.
In this guide, you’ll learn how data can be used to improve different departments across your business.
What does “big data” mean?
You’ve likely heard the term “big data” once or twice over the past few years. It’s a commonly-used buzzword in business but one that many people struggle to define.
Big data means a lot of business data. So much the organization needs a significant amount of storage to hold it all and advanced teams to make sense of it. For example, Amazon processes about 35 transactions every second so they have a vast amount of information to manage and analyze.
Despite the popularity of the term, most businesses don’t truly have “big data.” But you likely have a lot of great numbers, statistics and other information at your disposal that can be used to make improvements throughout your company.
How salespeople use data
Regardless of your business’s sales process, data is available that can help the you understand how your salespeople are performing. Earlier we mentioned that modern retail businesses have transitioned to digital POS systems for processing sales. These systems keep track of every transaction, allowing you to access high-level information like total sales and profit margins for a given time period. You can also use filters to understand more specific details like what inventory items sell best and what times of day are busiest.
Businesses with a longer sales cycle can also take advantage of informative data. Using a CRM system and other sales software, you can learn what tactics are effective at moving prospects through the funnel. You can then make adjustments that lead to even more sales.
How marketers use data
Marketers used to use billboards and commercials to get their message out to as many people as possible. These campaigns are still common but modern marketers also use data and the internet to reach people who are likely to become customers.
Email marketers are able to generate reports that show the percentage of emails that were opened, the subject lines that work best and how many people clicked through to their website.
Digital marketers can learn what online ads grab people’s attention, which demographics to serve ads to and what websites are best to advertise on.
And search marketers can analyze data to discover where their website shows up in Google and other search engines for keywords related to their business.
You can use business data from a variety of sources to learn what channels and campaigns convince people to become customers. Using this information, your marketing budget can be spent on the highest performing tactics.
How webmasters use data
A business website is never finished. New pages are constantly going live and small tweaks can be made to existing ones to provide visitors with a better experience.
You can explore your analytics software to learn what is and isn’t working on your website. You can discover what pages perform best by looking at metrics like conversions and time on page. And alternatively, you can learn what pages need more attention by looking at metrics like bounce and exit rates.
You can even go deeper and discover what parts of a specific page are most effective. You can see what buttons visitors click, the text they stop to read and how far down the page they scroll.
Using all this data, you can work with developers, designers and marketers to make you company’s website more informative and enjoyable for visitors.
How customer service uses data
Properly resolving customer issues is crucial for every business. Happy customers continue to buy from you, while upset customers take their business elsewhere.
If your company uses customer service software to manage email ticket or provide chat support on your website, there is informative data available. It will tell you how many tickets you received for a given time period, how long they took to resolve and how many were re-opened.
And like the previous examples, you can dig into customer service data to identify trends and form conclusions. You can learn what problems customers tend to experience the most and resolve these issues once and for all. You can also learn which customers submit the most tickets and what methods of communication resonate best with people.
How HR uses data
Even the human resources department has access to plenty of interesting business data. You can use employee performance software to set goals for team members and accurately track their progress. When it comes time for annual reviews, you can have constructive conversations by pointing to detailed metrics that highlight how the employee is doing.
If your company offers employee benefits, you can learn who is taking advantage of these perks and who isn’t. When you come across an unhappy team member, you can see when they last took a vacation day or if they participate in your wellness program.
You can also learn how you’re doing at recruiting and hiring new employees by generating reports in your applicant tracking system (ATS). You can discover where your applicants are coming from and what sources result in the most new hires.
The proof is in the business data
Dashboards, spreadsheets, charts and graphs dominate business in this day of age. Having a great idea isn’t enough anymore. You need to have business data to back it up so your company knows it’s a safe bet.