The world of business – in fact, just the world – is now saturated in data. As electronic devices transmit information beyond anything previously capable, we have an unprecedented amount of information available. The question is, how can we best interpret market data to benefit business strategy?
From our individual habits, to wide scale consumer trends, geological and meteorological developments and anomalies, information is being generated faster than it can be processed. This is a phenomenon that’s generated a shift in approach to marketing and analysis – of which the most topical is Big Data. This approach refers to the vast volume of data which, due to its size, needs specialised software to be able to interpret it, so it can be translated into valuable and actionable insight.
A survey of 600 executives by the Economist Intelligence Unit revealed that 85% of participants saw the biggest obstacle to unlocking value from data was not managing the sheer volume, but analysing and acting on it. And this reflects the wider view, that the challenge of this data deluge is not how to access it, it’s how to benefit from it. It may sound obvious, but market data that isn’t useful is of no use at all, and it is frequently detrimental to allocate resources to something that fails to add real value. It’s important to be pragmatic; if data isn’t proving valuable, don’t waste time on it.
The key is identifying what you want to know before you put in place a data gathering processes. With so much data available, you need to establish what’s relevant to your market goals, and discard the rest. Ideally, market data will elucidate the market trends that present opportunities for your company. It will also identify areas of weakness, either within your own business or the wider market, which will enable you to assess whether and how to strengthen these areas, or to exit them altogether.
And crucially, market data should enable you to benchmark your company’s performance, gain competitor insight, and identify strategies to boost performance. Market data is also a crucial tool for detecting consumer trends, understanding consumer behaviour and distilling this into a richer understanding of your target market. So what’s the best approach to analysing this data?
Laura Patterson, CEO and founder of VisionEdge Marketing outlined five key actions for interpreting data to strengthen your business goals.
Firstly, once you have your data you need to synthesise it, as this is where the patterns emerge. But the next step is key. Laura says, “Once the synthesis is completed, you will need a way to bring the data to life.” Which is where visualisation comes in; presenting analytical results visually can make it easier to identify relevant trends and capture important patterns. As Laura explains, “Visualisation is an important step for exposing trends and patterns that you might not have otherwise noticed.”
The next step is looking carefully at your patterns; reviewing and discussing their trends and potential implications. Understanding why these patterns are important is a crucial step in transferring information to knowledge.
Communication is the next stage. Laura recommends using one simple statement to articulate the insight that’s emerged from each pattern. For example, capturing this insight on a Post-it Note to make sure you stick to the key findings. Once complete, you can place these Post-its on a wall or flip chart, helping you to recognise a bigger picture as it develops.
Having synthesised your data, analysed patterns and highlighted insight, the next step is to have a break, so you can incubate these insights and return to you flip chart or wall the next day with a fresh perspective. This will help you look at the patterns objectively and determine whether they will support your objectives. Remember, data that’s not useful shouldn’t be pursued.
Once you’ve collated your conclusions and insights, it’s time to get a second opinion. At this stage it’s useful to bring in people who were involved in the initial phases, to assess their reactions to your conclusions. But it’s important to provide them with the context behind these conclusions. Laura explains that the point of this step is “to decide if the insights resonate and are compelling enough to make or affect key decisions. That is, to determine whether you have acquired the wisdom you need to act.”
If the consensus is that these findings can be used to benefit your business, pursue and action them. If they’re not helpful, use this knowledge to structure your future research and help refine your insight goals.
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