The New Reality – Data or Bust

Tobi Lutke, CEO of Shopify, announced, “We will keep our offices closed until 2021 so that we can rework them for this new reality”, suggesting that office centricity is over. Other tech giants (Twitter, Google, Facebook) have announced similar policies.

Aside from changes in the ways we’re working, we’ve seen pivots in business models. In the restaurant industry, even a four-time “world’s best” restaurant has started selling burgers to go. Consumer behaviors have shifted to deal with uncertainty within the markets, influencing purchase decision making and brand perceptions.

Without a doubt, basically every aspect of normal life has changed.

The Changes in the Business Landscape

There will be a lot of accelerated innovation and brand new business models in the coming months. However, for the majority of businesses, remaining prosperous doesn’t have to mean completely redefining your business, but simply adapting your strategy to align with the needs of your customers before your competitors.

As the economy begins to reopen, new legislation, coupled with changes in consumer behaviour, will create new business opportunities–whether those opportunities are failures or successes will be determined by how they’re handled.

Based on McKinsey’s view of the next “normal,” we can note the following trends in consumer behavior:

  • Consumer sentiment: Optimism is more or less steady across the world as regions begin to reopen
  • Online purchasing: Online shopping has expanded by up to 60 percent in some categories, and up to 20 percent of online consumers in the United States have switched at least some brands recently
  • Decrease in discretionary income: Consumers everywhere have less disposable income
  • Spending intent: Countries with greater optimism tend to have higher spending expectations
  • Overall spending: Global consumers anticipate pulling back on spending across categories

Value is the Best Product Feature

Every company has been forced to adapt to the new economic climate, and parts of your business model offer more to consumers and clients than others. Your organization needs to ask, “How can we provide better value to our customers?”

Fab Dolan, Head of Marketing at Google Canada, stated that Google has seen success in offering products and services that have the greatest perceived value to consumers right now. This strategic decision to allocate more marketing resources to their Chrome product category was based on leveraging customer trends data. Instead of assuming what their consumer is searching for, Google has demonstrated the effectiveness of using alternative data to align business goals with the needs of their customers.

It’s Time to Prioritize Your Customers

As the economy continues to tighten as a result of the pandemic, consumers have the purchasing power and brands must take note of consumer needs. Businesses need to focus on adopting and implementing a customer-centric business approach, which doesn’t just mean providing good customer service. It involves a complete buyer experience tailored to the needs of the customer which starts long before they’re reaching for their wallets.

Although there are a lot of moving pieces in play right now, your business needs to be able to weed out passing fads among long term market trends. To do so, businesses need to leverage data and analytics to better understand their customers. After getting that baseline understanding, they can focus on providing the best value based on consumer needs and behaviors, consumption habits, and demographics.

Data Knows Best

“The customer’s always right” is an age-old motto, popularized by pioneering retailers like Harry Gordon Selfridge, John Wanamaker, and Marshall Field. But as far as understanding what a customer wants and needs, there’s nothing better than data.

Businesses are leveraging data to better understand customers and their needs through demographics, consumption, product usage, and satisfaction data. In fact, some businesses have been able to leverage data so well as to be predictive and know their customer’s needs before they reach out.

The more data you can use, the stronger your strategic decision-making will become. Instead of basing decisions on opinions and hunches, your organization can start leveraging data-backed analysis to create stronger, informed recommendations. To position your business effectively despite economic turmoil, you need to be able to see what’s happening, not just in your world, but the entire business ecosystem.

Your Crystal Ball for Customer Insights

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to leveraging data to uncover insight. As strategic goals shift to accommodate the increasingly data-driven landscape, organizations will find themselves at different levels of preparedness to start ingesting the data that will change their business for the better. What is required is a customizable solution that permits varying degrees of appetite: from testing a single dataset to streaming thousands of datasets and building business-ready applications on top of them.

At my company (ThinkData Works), our goal has always been to work with our partnership network to deliver products that meet market demands. During the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve worked extensively with our partners to build data products that can be immediately applied to better understand the shifting landscape.

For example, our data partner, RIWI, provides access to fast-changing consumer and citizen sentiment in all countries. RIWI breaks through the noise to find what people really think, want, and observe by reaching the most diverse audiences, including people who don’t typically answer surveys or express their views on social media. In collaboration with RIWI, we have put several surveys into the field to track COVID-19 sentiment in over 16 countries. This data goes beyond the traditional data being collected on the pandemic and provides a deep-dive into what people are thinking at ground level.

There’s tremendous value in adding new data sources to your solutions to boost your business outcomes. With the amount of data available, it’s challenging to determine what data is most valuable to your business model. As a starting point, here is a list of data that is valuable to better understand trends, the market, and the state of things beyond your four walls:

Data Type Overview Sources
Mobility Data – Data that is generated by activity, events, or transactions using digitally-enabled mobility devices or services.

– This data is collected at regular intervals by devices such as smartphones, shared micro-mobility vehicles (shared bikes, e-bikes, scooters etc), on-board vehicle computers, or app-based navigation systems (e.g. Waze, GoogleMaps etc).
Apple Mobility Data
Google COVID 19 Community Mobility Reports
Descartes Labs
– Safegraph
Trends and Behavior Data– Data that is generated by, or in response to, a customer’s engagement with a business, search trend, or emotions.Google Trends Search Data
RIWI Survey Data
– Custom Survey Data
– Consumer Sentiment Analysis
– Commercial Traffic Analysis
– Shipping Data
Census Data – Information about the members of a given population collected from a government census.
– A census is a regularly-occurring and official count of a particular population.
Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages by Area
Canada Insolvency Statistics 2019
Commodity Markets
OECD
Bureau of Labour Statistics
Unemployment Insurance Claims
Insolvency Statistics

Lead Through Change with Data

The organizations that will survive and prosper are those that believe in creating the future, not those waiting for it to happen. As the economy shrinks and stiffens, organizations are trying to mitigate economic risks by cutting down on non-essential costs–but data is essential and investing in it will strengthen every other business process.

Businesses that leverage data are able to more accurately predict future trends and uncover valuable information that would otherwise lead to missed business opportunities. It’s no longer a question if your organization can afford a data strategy, but how your business will survive without one.

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McKenzie Foley

McKenzie Foley

McKenzie Foley leads the marketing and communications for Thinkdata Works. She focuses on aligning business and data strategies for the enterprise.

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