Data is pervasive across almost every organization. And yet, many small and midsize companies still have not adopted a formal data strategy for business intelligence (BI) purposes.
Companies that don't have a formal BI strategy still make daily business decisions based on the information they have access to. Perhaps they just don't formally acknowledge that they make data-driven decisions. Or perhaps they don't have a formal process for reviewing and analyzing data. Even "gut instinct" is a form of data processing and pattern matching, when you think about it.
First, what is business intelligence?
Gartner defines business intelligence (BI) as an umbrella term that includes the applications, infrastructure and tools, and best practices that enable access to and analysis of information to improve and optimize decisions and performance. Quite a mouthful. Perhaps a better description is that BI provides actionable insights for your company based on available data. A rudimentary example of BI would be a weekly sales report. A more sophisticated example would be a customer propensity model that predicts the type of customer you should target based on past sales success.
But we don't have enough data …
A lack of data is a common misconception preventing many organizations from formally adopting a BI strategy. The rationale behind this argument is that data must come in the form of IoT sensors or databases. Baloney! Think about every piece of information that your employees use to help make decisions: accounting systems, ERPs, POS systems, spreadsheets, even handwritten receipts. Each one of these items is a data source. And we're not even taking into consideration data available from outside sources, such as weather and commodity futures prices.
You likely already have a diverse range of data sources in use to support decision-making. But if you're not formally tracking the thought process or analysis, you most certainly are not optimizing the decisions that get made with this data.
OK, we'll create a dashboard.
Building formal reporting tools is a great start. There are many self-serve visualization tools available that can help companies build easy-to-understand dashboards.
The issue for many companies is when they stop at basic dashboarding or, worse yet, limit themselves to ad hoc analysis. Business intelligence should drive a continuous process of self-improvement for an organization, which means making a formal effort to regularly review insights coming from trustworthy data sources. Non-data scientists often make rookie errors when analyzing data by ...
Stopping an investigation as soon as the data confirms their initial hypothesis.
Allowing confirmation bias to cloud their judgment.
Broadly sharing initial results too early.
In fact, one risk with self-serve visualization tools is that they look great! A well-formatted report with an incorrect conclusion can be dangerous when shared with a broad audience that mistakes good formatting for thoroughness of analysis.
But the data is difficult to access.
If something is worth doing, it's worth doing well … sort of. Yes, it might take effort to get access to all your data. In fact, it is almost guaranteed that your organization will have data trapped in many difficult-to-access places, including legacy systems and old spreadsheets.
The thing is, BI becomes interesting when you start extracting novel insights that you weren't expecting to find. And this only happens when you can connect different systems that normally don't communicate with one another.
Don't worry too much if you can't connect everything at one. Start with what you have and build a plan to incorporate as many different data sources as possible over time.
I'm convinced – what next?
Well, the first step is to take a quick assessment of what sort of analytics is already being done at your company. Chances are, there are small groups already formally performing BI and analytics.
However, if your in-house team isn't sufficient, you'll want to consider working with a respected BI firm. Ideally, such a partner should be able to do the following:
Work with you to build out a BI strategy
Build simple dashboards that incorporate disparate data sources
Ensure that stakeholders and technical experts can communicate and work with each other
Recommend data infrastructure upgrades for today and the future
The good news is that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of firms out there that can help. Just do a quick search for "business intelligence consultants" or "BI consultants" and you'll find a long list of professionals in your area.
Before engaging, make sure that you've identified some specific goals. Don't dashboard for the sake of dashboarding. Ideally, you have a specific business problem in mind with an expectation of some data to review.
BI isn't rocket science – you just need to take the first step.
Online sales continue to increase steadily as a percentage of total retail sales year after year. In fact, Statista projections show that nearly 14 percent of all worldwide retail sales will be made online in 2019.
Unfortunately, many e-commerce stores are guilty of making sales-killing mistakes again and again, often times without realizing it. These simple selling blunders could cost your business big time, diminishing your returns and hurting growth opportunities.
Is your sales and marketing team playing baseball with a hockey stick? Let’s take a look at some easily-rectifiable errors that frequently slip through the cracks.
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1. Paying Insufficient Attention to SEO
SEO is no doubt one of the most powerful sales tools a marketing team can utilize, but only if they know how to use it correctly. Boosting your website’s ranking in search engines is one of the best ways to capture more customers; however, doing so requires lots of planning and strategy if you are going to show up on the list of results.
Google has repeatedly emphasized that they look at content as a key signal when deciding rankings. On sites that sell online, this translates highly optimized product pages and contextual SEO aimed at conversions.
This means that web, product and marketing teams must work together to strategically optimize their website’s content according to searcher intent. This includes product descriptions and blog posts, as well as meta data and schema markup that search engines recommend (which play an important role in getting more clickthroughs to your site from the search results).
Sadly, one of the most common ecommerce mistakes that many websites make is simply not including enough text content that cater to long tail keywords. Failing to include the right terms in your content kills sales because it limits the number of customers who get their queries right when searching for your product or service. Tools like SEMrush Keyword Magic or Ahrefs Keywords Explorer can help you find primary and secondary sets of keywords to target. They also help you determine real customer intent that existing content on your top ranking pages can match.
2. Ignoring Personalization Opportunities
Data from Accenture’s 2018 Personalization Pulse Check revealed that 75 percent of consumers would be more likely to buy from a company that supplies offers and recommendations specifically for them or recognizes their purchase history. Customers want and expect personalization from online companies these days, and yet many businesses fail to deliver. There is a dire need for brands to move from “communication” to “conversation” while trying to get their message across to consumers.
Keeping track of customer data or sending out personalized recommendations is not as complicated as you may think. Recording customer information after each transaction – both online and offline – can be extremely valuable to include in your web copy, landing pages, or email campaigns for better conversion rates, but many businesses fail to use this goldmine of data.
Be sure that your customer purchase history is not going to waste. Your marketing team should use this plethora of information to send out product recommendations that are specific to each customer to encourage repeat buys.
3. Projecting a Hazy Value Proposition
What sets your business apart from the others? Why does a customer need your product or service?
Your unique value proposition (UVP) is the promise that you make to your customers. It explains the benefits of your product as well as brand. It tells your customer why they should buy from you and not from any other company.
And the USP of your business should not just be spelt out on the home page of your website. Every product, service, category or supporting page should scream it out at your customers.
In order to sweeten the deal, you could add a lower price guarantee, free shipping, or no questions asked return policy to your USP. Online customers are bargain hunters, and data from Statista shows that about 40 percent of consumers research multiple websites to find the best deal before they make a purchase. If there is no obvious reason why they should purchase from your website, they will very likely look elsewhere.
There are lots of motivating factors that will lead to a completed sale. Narrow down what your business’s exact value proposition is and make it clear to your audience.
Selling is an art form that no one has truly perfected. There are so many ins and outs, little details, and psychological factors that play into it, making it a deeply complex practice. Online sales add another layer of complication by removing that up close and personal factor.
It is quite easy to miss these sales killing errors when designing an ecommerce webpage, but identifying the problem is the first step. Once you have nailed down the mistakes that are eating into your sales numbers, the problems are usually simple to fix and they can bring in some excellent results.