We live in a time when innovative digital technologies are more accessible to organisations than ever before. Whereas ecommerce platforms, AI solutions, and broadcasting services used to command a hefty premium, now businesses of all sizes are able to take advantage of competitively-priced cloud capabilities. It is no wonder that these types of investments dominate transformation agendas.
And yet. In a world where all your competitors have access to the same tools, how can you set yourself apart?
And yet. In a world where all your competitors have access to the same tools, how can you set yourself apart? If you were the first person to advertise your business to customers on social media, you would have had a major advantage. But shortly after your competitors would have cottoned on and you would no longer have a monopoly. What competitive advantage remains? Data.
Let us consider three examples of how data gives organisations an edge.
Digital media has grown into a US$ 680Bn per year industry precisely because businesses of every size are now able to take advantage of platforms like Google, Meta, and Snap. However, in most cases these organisations simply end up fighting for the exact same pool of customers. Given similar businesses will target similar interest-based segments, how to use your data to your advantage?
Solution: First-party audience data can help you understand those most likely to engage with your brand, and allow you to take a surgical approach to targeting instead of attempting to talk to every customer in a generic audience.
Ecommerce provides another example. Platforms like Shopify, Magento, and Salesforce have democratised the ability to run fully-featured online stores. Yet in a world where many retailers sell the same goods, and the online experiences are composed of identical building blocks, how do you stand out? The truism is that you need to be customer-centric, but how to go about it in practice?
Solution: Web analytics data can play the role of compass, giving insight into the parts of the online journey that work and the ones that do not. Maybe a product is not selling due to a lack of interest, but because customers cannot find it.
For organisations worried about their supply chain or manufacturing operations, there are now myriad software solutions that help with with sales and operations planning. Despite the widespread adoption of these technologies, few manage to exploit them to their full potential. Often this relates to the low quality or the aggregated nature of the available data. How can your data help?
Solution: Operations data can not just give you a detailed insight into the state of a system (e.g. a warehouse) at a point in time, but this granular data can supercharge your forecasting capabilities with far greater accuracy.
Ultimately, through a process of diffusion and adoption, most organisations will end up with roughly similar technological capabilities. While businesses can indeed attempt to gain an edge through seizing the initiative and becoming early adopters, this approach is both expensive and fraught with risk. Better to focus on developing the data capabilities required to supercharge technology's impact.
Cover photo by Maximalfocus.
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