Not every company has a Big Data problem. In fact, many companies are operating in “relatively sparse data environments,” says David Meer, a partner with Strategy&’s consumer and retail practice.
This isn’t your usual rant about how companies need to fix small data problems before embracing Big Data. No, Meer’s Strategy+Business article is much more original. He’s proposing that companies revisit existing data, and then seek out ways to add to or fill out that data for strategic advantage.
Why would they do this? It turns out the market doesn’t care if you don’t have large datasets and can’t afford to buy them. You still need to compete against data-driven companies.
“The shift is so profound that companies lacking complete or clean market data can no longer use this deficit as an excuse to rely on the status quo,” he writes. “They must make a concerted effort to use the data that is available to them (imperfect as it may be) or to explore innovative, low-cost ways to create new data.”
It’s both impressive and frustrating to read how companies are adding little data by leveraging existing data collection points — stores, additional input from the sales team and call centers — to grow their information about customers, B2B partners and the market.
For instance, a beverage company went to a great deal of trouble to expand its market knowledge, including visiting bars and restaurants to conduct observational research. The company also involved the sales team and a new algorithm based on observable characteristics. This little data initiative led to major changes in product assortments, pricing and marketing. The pilot projects were so successful, the company rolled out the changes nationwide.
All thanks to little data.
That’s the impressive example. And then there’s this:
“In another instance, a regional health insurance company trying to differentiate itself through outstanding customer experience realized that its call center was a potential source of data about customer pain points and potential solutions.”
I mean, sure — good for that company. It’s just hard to believe in this day and age, it wasn’t already doing that.
Meer suggests five ways you can easily and cheaply grow strategic “little data” sets:
- Set up tablets in stores so that shoppers can fill out surveys on-site.
- Toss in a few preference questions on your web registration forms.
- Use your call center to slip in a few questions about the market, a product or your customers.
- Create a customer user panel that will provide feedback about new products or during your R&D process.
- Require sales reps to provide feedback on trends and competitors.
Little data doesn’t have to be expensive or burdensome to be valuable. Companies almost never stop collecting analytics data once they start, Meer writes, adding that the activity even becomes self-funding.