Analyzing data and providing actionable insights from it has become a common phenomenon. Data and analytics, once buzzwords, are now part of mainstream business jargon.

The new conundrum with data is knowing what questions to ask to drive business. Without this, analyzing data becomes a near impossible exercise.

It is quite difficult to ascertain the full extent of data usage in South Africa currently, but in general, the pace of incorporating analytics into organizations has been generally slow.

This can be due to a variety of reasons – either lack of resources (technology or people) or lack of direction on what to do with the data. For data to be most effective to a business’ bottom line, there must be a clear business direction. This enables the business to know what to look for and gives it an idea of the skills and other resources it requires to achieve this.

Here are some thoughts on how businesses could make the most out of data analytics:

Sales and marketing – The spray and pray approach to sales and marketing is fast becoming obsolete due to increased regulation, along with consumers being increasingly cautious about their privacy. By adopting a targeted approach to campaigns, businesses can save costs in their sales efforts.

Customer behaviour – The sales of products to new or existing customers allows new revenue streams, but the optimisation of existing revenue streams needs the same amount of attention, if not more. Once a potential customer becomes a regular customer, it is up to the business to optimise interaction with that customer. For example, a business could incentivise a customer to buy a product by offering a discount after certain number of repeat sales.

Market and Industry research – A somewhat odd fit into the analytics realm, but still necessary for businesses to survive and thrive. Research is necessary to obtain “direct” information from your customers as opposed to analysing data in an ivory tower. Research can answer questions such as whether your product is relevant in the market, how do you stack up against competitors and what should be the next big innovation coming in your industry.

The successful use of data and analytics can assist improving efficiency in almost any industry or department.

“Both private and public institutions need to realise that using data to improve business efficiencies is fast becoming the new mainstream. With businesses evolving more into the digital realm, businesses need to ask if they are suited up to ride the wave,” concludes Dr Seetharam.