The decisions made by the C-suite don’t just determine the overall direction of the business — they also dictate whether it will succeed or fail. This is especially true during times of crisis. While widespread disruptions like those created by the COVID-19 pandemic may be hard to plan for, it is clear that earlier C-suite decisions regarding company practices and strategies have influenced results.
For example, while Walmart saw e-commerce sales surge by 74 percent to drive strong first quarter revenue, JC Penny plans to close hundreds of stores as it files for bankruptcy.
While such outcomes aren’t always fully within control of the C-suite, sound decision-making before, during and after a crisis can have a profound impact on the company’s growth and profitability. If data is not involved in the process, business leaders stand poised to fall behind the competition and potentially experience significant future losses.
Create a Competitive Advantage
The importance of big data and data analytics is no secret. In a blog post for business intelligence platform Sisense, Adam Murray gives this example: “The healthcare sector is rapidly adopting Big Data analytics for better diagnostics, more efficient responses and treatment strategies, and better targeting of treatment to different populations. […] Furthermore, the current COVID-19 virus has highlighted how important accurate data is, updated in real-time, to develop treatments as well as assign and distribute resources that will optimize life-saving care.”
Data is crucial for understanding and evaluating both internal and external trends. Business executives who use big data to gain insights don’t need to operate off a “gut feeling” to make key decisions. Data provides the underlying proof so that decisions can be made with confidence.
One competitive advantage of data-based decisions is that it allows companies to act quickly without relying on preconceived biases. The ever-increasing availability of real-time data helps companies become more agile so they can pivot and adapt to any situation.
Data presents a very real chance to get ahead of the competition. But with more and more companies jumping onto the data bandwagon, late adopters are more likely to fall behind if they don’t use available tools to better leverage their data.
Understanding and Acquiring Customers
Every decision made by the C-suite must ultimately be made with the customer in mind. Data helps companies better understand current and potential customers, allowing them to better personalize the buyer’s journey and facilitate changes that will improve the overall customer experience.
A study from McKinsey shows just how big of an impact C-suite executives who are willing to dig deep into customer analytics can make. In a survey of 400 international companies, those that reported “extensive use of customer analytics” were 126 percent more likely to have above-average profit, and 186 percent more likely to have above-average sales growth in comparison to their industries as a whole.
When used properly, customer data can give executive teams greater understanding in every step of the sales process. From areas where representatives are struggling to close a sale to overall brand perception issues, data will reveal potential weaknesses that hinder the customer acquisition strategy.
Data can help brands better retain their current customers and identify signals of intent that indicate if a prospect is ready to make a purchase. Understanding this information will help marketing and other departments work in sync to better reach the target audience and acquire customers.
Eliminating Unnecessary Expenditures
During times of crisis, finding ways to eliminate expenditures can prove crucial for a company’s survival. But with data guiding corporate decisions, C-suite executives can find ways to effectively cut costs and improve their profit margin before a crisis strikes.
Writing for Inside Big Data, Kayla Matthews notes, “The categories of indirect expenses vary by each enterprise that incurs them, but some of the common ones include rent, utilities and office supplies. Companies can’t start to reduce their indirect costs without knowing the average amount they spend on things each month. Big data analysis helps in this area by providing baselines that inform enterprises of their most substantial indirect expenses.”
Data analytics can also speed up product testing, identify equipment maintenance needs and even better evaluate potential hires. Integration with “smart” products and tracking software is necessary to gain many of these insights, but such data can prove instrumental in reducing back-end expenses associated with running the business.
Big data is ultimately about optimization. Data helps C-suite executives recognize opportunities to streamline their supply chain, reduce marketing and logistics costs and address other inefficiencies that cut into the bottom line. The end result is a company that is more financially stable and equipped to weather future industry disruptions.
How Will Your C-Suite Use Its Data?
It’s not enough to simply have data available. Regardless of how your organization gathers data, that information will only be as good as your ability to analyze it and apply it to your business decisions.
By digging deep to better understand your data and its implications, your C-suite will be able to take better informed actions that guide your company to a stable, growth-oriented future.