Every week I am in conversation with founders and the topics of data and artificial intelligence come up again and again. Many of the small business owners I speak to express their confusion about what they should be doing on those fronts. They are bombarded with marketing for data and AI products and servicesbut they don’t quite know what to do with all that information.
What are the real benefits your business can gain from modernizing its approach to data and implementing AI?
As a data scientist, founder, and reporter, I’ve thought a lot about this. And I’ve identified three key areas where companies tend to see real profits:
1. Increase productivity.
The most immediate way your business can benefit from the implementation of data and AI is to increase efficiency in tackling certain tasks, especially repetitive or error-prone human processes where machines can do better. Many companies have many thousands of rows of important data in Excel spreadsheets or something similar. Chances are yours is one of them: your team puts data into spreadsheets by hand and manipulates it through intricate calculations, deploying valuable human effort to do so. Compare that to a modern data and AI approach: your company’s data, whether it’s customer behavior, marketing analytics, inventory management, or any other aspect of business operations, is brought to a more robust repository, such as a database in the cloud . Proven processes for getting the data into place correctly, called ETL (Extract, Transform, and Load), guide the migration.
About a year ago, Eyeful Media, a digital marketing agency based in Dallas (#542 on the 2021 Inc. 5000), began modernizing its data stack. The company used to receive all of its customer data in spreadsheets and kept the data in spreadsheets during manipulation and analysis; the spreadsheets consistently crashed during those efforts due to the processing load on their local computers, memory errors, or other typical spreadsheet problems. Eyeful’s highly paid analysts not only spent too much time fiddling with data, they were also constantly dealing with software errors. They generated reports manually, CEO Antonella Pisani says, “they took their time to focus on more strategic work.” Embracing a modern data and AI approach, Eyeful now pushes the information it collects from customers into databases and then uses dashboard tools to automatically generate reports for customers that present easily digestible analytics.
If you can set up these processes and structures in your own company, you will save your team the time it takes to do this work by hand – increasing the efficiency of the process, the accuracy of the resulting data and – probably – happiness. of your people.
2. Get new insights.
By leveraging the computing power of the cloud and leveraging the sophistication of analysis possible with databases, Eyeful can deliver much better results to customers than Excel-generated reports. The dashboards built on top of that stack are more convenient, easier to read, and refresh automatically. When Pisani recounts some of her big wins over the past year, she points to the insights her clients have gained in their marketing efforts thanks to Eyeful’s new breed of reports. By collecting a larger set of data and dividing it across a wider range of criteria, Eyeful can “solve some of the bigger problems these customers face,” Pisani says. With their new approach, she says, the depth and breadth of their analysis far exceed what used to crash their spreadsheet programs. Where a spreadsheet-based analysis looks at one or two criteria in relation to each other, the new approach can compare and contrast many different types of fields at once. So instead of just looking at trends for all customers over time, a modern data stack makes it a lot easier to cluster customers into different groups and categories in the same analysis and then break that data down by product area. Pisani remembers one of her clients saying to her, “This is so cool, I would have given up my firstborn child for this dashboard.” Fortunately it didn’t come to that.
When you use a modern data stack, you not only get data that is more secure and calculations that are more reliable than in spreadsheets, but you also create opportunities for better understanding of your data. It can allow you to develop personas for your customers so that you can target them more effectively, or analyze marketing efforts through A/B testing, or discover that a particular product only sells well if another product in the market. offer. And it can all be automated to appear directly in management dashboards, freeing your top talent from the task of creating the analytics and instead giving them time to make decisions based on the insights.
3. Offer additional features in products and services.
What your company is doing today may not seem AI-centric at all. Perhaps you sell physical products or offer expert advice. But once you have a data platform up and running that can deliver insights, you can package those insights to drive sales. For example, AI-based recommendation engines are a common tool that companies from Amazon to Netflix use to increase sales. When customers buy one product or service, your sales platform can recommend related products or services based on the behavior of other customers.
You can also give your customers insights about themselves based on similar analytics, turning automatically generated reports into a product. Think of the year-end reports you receive from music services or credit cards that tell you about your choices as a consumer, and what applying a similar approach to your company’s offerings might look like.
Going from insights to new features – or entirely new products – opens up a wide range of possibilities, depending on where you start and what you find.
There are many more reasons to get started modernizing your data and applying AI to your current processes. We’ll get more of it as this series progresses.
Do you have questions that you would like us to answer? If so, leave them in the form below to let us know.