October 3, 2019

Let us say something provocative. The business owner and marketer who does not get involved with what happens to the data he is already collecting, will soon need to change his profession or close down his business. It is not simply a choice of a fork in the road. If avoided for too long, your competitor will ensure that it does not remain your choice anymore.

And by then, it will be too late.


Without knowing it, you have been collecting a gold mine. It has just become easier to mine it!

Internet is barely a couple of decades old. Digital marketing is about half as old. So hearing all the jargon of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Data Science, it may seem that making use of data is the newest kid on the block.

You may be surprised to know that all the three predate internet by decades and in the case of data science, by centuries!

In fact, the first recorded example of data science for solving a business problem comes from Scotland from 1744 when two Scottish Ministers used data and statistics to set up a fund for war widows. Today Scottish Widows (as the company was called) is one of the largest life insurance and pension companies in the world.

AI was used in World War II to crack Nazi codes and Machine Learning came about a decade later.

But here is the thing – unless you were funded well by the government or had billions of dollars of your own, it would have been impossible to do anything meaningful. So for a long time, AI, ML and Data Science was the preserve of large research institutes or military projects.

Today if you were to solve the data problem that led to the setup of Scottish Widows, it would take you exactly half a minute and a press of a button – a task that took the original founders months of painstaking work!

And the cost to you? Zero! (except the cost of the person who knows which the right button to press is, of course.)


What changed?

One short answer – increase in computing power. As an example, the computing power of the mobile that you hold in your hand is many times powerful than the computer that sent the first man to the moon!

This gives you a sense of the powerful opportunity that you, as a business owner, have at your disposal.

And the fuel to drive this? Well, you have been collecting it already and you have tons of it already – your own humble Data.


The curious case of the humble data

Why do we call it curious? Because it can build your empire or bring it down.

Need-to-know facts about the data you are already collecting:

Much of it is useful and much of it is currently useless Even the clicks you are getting on the website is useful to drive more sales, if used properly. However, even rich customer data, if it ends up remaining on an excel sheet on someone’s laptop, is pretty much useless.

It’s all scattered Your current data is spread across multiple systems and mediums. The key for an effective data strategy is to get them all in one place and structured to make sense.

Data is there if you know how to look for it Many of the rich data sources are often overlooked in daily operational processes, e.g. the data of customers calling your call centre can be used for repeated query analytics but is probably residing in a silo database somewhere; the billing details of the distributor can be used for region wise trend analysis and checking campaign effectiveness but is probably lying in an accountant’s folder somewhere.

Much like diamonds, the useful bits are hidden deep inside the coal and needs the initial effort to start the right mining process.

But once this phase is taken care of, you are well on your way to creating your data-driven empire.

Bottom line – being aware of what you own is half the battle won.


How data will be used in the battle you’ll fight for your business

Consider an example of two hotel businesses’ Retail Chains. Retail Chain A wants to go with the business as usual and Retail Chain B decides to embrace the new data-driven culture.

Chain A – Deals with customers coming to the stores and buying the products they need. It hopes that the appearance of the store and prices will make the customer come back on their own. They might do some digital marketing to drive ads. If a customer doesn’t come back, they just hope that putting more money on ads – both digital and offline – will bring the customer back one day.

Chain B – It encourages capturing rich data about the customer by incentivizing the employee to capture data and the customer to share data. The result? It has data to drive hyper-personalized campaigns to the customer and can deliver relevant content to bring them back. In a few years, when Chain B launches their own e-commerce store, they have a captive and relevant database to immediately turning a profit on the website.

No prizes for guessing which Chain will turn out to be the biggest in the long run. And all it took was a small shift in thinking!


The Good news – it will cost way less than you think

And that’s very good news. It means that this is something that you can start to work on immediately. The other good news? Your current business process needs not get impacted.

There are multiple tools (some will say picking from the sheer choice of tools itself requires a Ph.D.) and multiple ways to make you future-ready.

What do you need?

Two things – The will and the excitement to make a change in the business and the right partner with the right skills (and you don’t need PhDs in maths for this anymore!)

The not so good news? The more you wait, the harder it gets to play catch up – because your competition would already be miles ahead.


Be like Amazon

Before the dawn of the internet age, Amazon used to operate in a one-room garage. But Amazon considered something that many of the then largest retailers of the world refused to take seriously until it was too late – the internet. This helped Amazon to be one of the top three companies in the world.

Today data is exactly the same to you that the internet was back then.

And yes, Amazon took 20 years. The speed of change in technology will ensure what you can do in much less time.


In summary

Some businesses will continue to believe that traditional marketing (including digital) channels should be continued because, well, the world is doing it – a simple sum game where 1+1 always equals 2.

For others, the challenge is the opportunity. The smart businesses today will recognize the most important part of the overall strategy and will work towards creating an unbeatable advantage – A game where 1+1 is always greater than 3 at the very least.

It does not take a mathematical genius to figure out which number wins!

And as we discussed, there are simply no excuses.


Co-written by:

Protik Basu, Sanchit Babbar, and Nazim Farhan Choudhury. All three have partnered up on a data analytics driven advertising and marketing company – Bagher Bachcha Digital. Their Weaddo engine is helping business across India and Bangladesh convert data into actionable marketing tool.

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