More and more successful business owners are finding that implementing business intelligence software into their organizations is paying off in a big way. By illuminating marketplace trends, consumer habits, and other data, companies both big and small are able to foresee what lies ahead – and use that information to act accordingly.
“When it comes to discussing business intelligence software, we’re definitely living in merchant territory,” says Dr. Horn-yeu Shiaw, a software engineer and big data expert with over a decade of experience working and consulting in the industry, who is also a Course Director in Full Sail University’s Business Intelligence Master’s degree program. “Those who have a handle on data analysis have a great advantage.”
Business intelligence software encompasses a wide range of products, ranging from spreadsheets to data warehouses to visualization tools. Often a business will rely on multiple products for the various functions and stages of gathering data and creating useful and meaningful information from it, including collecting, storing, managing, mining and analyzing. Whether free or a pricey software package, with user-friendly tools or requiring intense technical knowledge, those who can utilize and understand these tools have a lot to offer.
Google Analytics is a business intelligence software that is now widely used by almost anyone with a website. Business owners can use it to view basics, such as how many visitors came to their site, their demographic data, and what device or operating system they used. By digging deeper, they can also track the sources of their traffic, user behavior on their site, and many other customizable data points, and use that data to make informed decisions about what is most attractive to potential customers, and what isn’t – and make changes accordingly.
It’s not difficult to understand why businesses are eager to use business intelligence to gain a greater insight as to what they can do to improve their processes and increase sales. Big data can reveal not just the purchasing habits of consumers, but also how and when they want a product or service, as well as where additional like-minded customers can be found.
Internet marketing consultant Rob Croll points to businesses like Macy’s, for example, that use data not only from retail purchases (both in-store and online), but also information from social media platforms like Twitter in making decisions about promotions.
“They got on early start on it, and so now have a lot more data than many who came to the game later,” says Croll, who also points out that Macy’s sales rose an estimated 10% as a result of those practices. “They combine the in-store data and online purchase data with data from Twitter to see what the trends are in what consumers are not just buying but also talking about, and use that information to develop promotions that will appeal to that interest.”
That data can also be used to determine pricing; if something is very popular, a company can decide then if they want to either put more effort into promoting it, or raise the item’s price if they are able to determine that the impact on volume will not be that great.
“Macy’s also uses weather data to predict in-store sales,” adds Croll, who is also the Program Director for Full Sail University’s Business Intelligence Master’s degree program. “And of course, they can also use in-store data to decide which products get offered in different locations.”
These analytics can also be useful for ensuring that a business unit’s practices are on the same page as the overall strategy of its corporation. They can provide important context for other internal decisions, such as where costs can be cut, by identifying areas in which inventory can be reduced or manufacturing processes can be reconsidered. Open data access can also empower employees to make smart, informed decisions with a better understanding of the bigger picture.
These results are changing the landscape of how successful businesses operate, according to Dr. Shiaw. Her students in Full Sail’s Business Intelligence Master’s program benefit from her unique vantage point on the topic, as she draws upon her past experience to help them shape the future of business intelligence as we know it.
“The current state of business intelligence makes it a great time for entrepreneurs because everything is so new; it’s an untapped market. If you can walk into a small business and tap into Google Analytics or other business intelligence software, they’ll be thrilled,” she says. “So many mom and pop companies have no access and really need people who possess that knowledge. At the same time, there are plenty of opportunities for those with the right skills to start their own consultation practices, or to take big corporate opportunities, too.”
Full Sail University’s Business Intelligence Master’s program provides students with the tools to manage, understand, and strategically utilize the wealth of data collected by modern businesses. To learn more, click here.