6 ways to put your data to practical use now

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Countless articles advise today's business leaders to use the data they have, and you've probably read some of them.

However, many people intend to start examining data but stop short of doing it. They're not sure how to use this data in ways that benefit the company over the short- and long-term. If you fall into that category, these six ideas should help jumpstart your data usage plans.

1. Ensure Your Audience Sees the Most Relevant Ads

People get bombarded with advertisements whenever they use the internet. Many instinctively tune a lot of them out. Thus, some companies have trouble resonating with their audiences.

KLM, a Dutch airline, dug into data from all customer points of contact. It used that information for real-time personalization of the content customers saw while depending on KLM for their travel planning. The data-driven technologies made in-the-moment decisions about whether to show a specific ad to an individual user.

This approach caused a 40% reduction in the company's cost-per-booking metric. So, KLM achieved twice as many bookings without upping its ad spend. Additionally, the click-through rate for the people that saw the personalized ads was 1.4 times higher than for those that got generic content.

You likely already have a wealth of data about what matters to your customers. You probably know which demographics are most willing to buy particular items or use certain channels. Those details can give you good starting points as you work towards using data to serve up relevant content to customers.

2. Determine Your Customers' Pain Points

Pain points are problems that people want to solve. From a marketing standpoint, people are more likely to buy things if they perceive those products as fixing their pain points. These issues vary depending on the individual and their hobbies, priorities and other factors.

For example, a pain point for a camping enthusiast might be that their current tent is too complicated or bulky to set up without assistance, but they often camp alone. Solving that pain point, then, involves offering a tent that's user-friendly for solo adventurers.

On the other hand, a mother with sports-playing kids might get frustrated over how her laundry detergent doesn't get team uniforms clean enough. Then, a company might focus on its formula's stain-fighting power, which is ideal for using with sweaty clothes.

You can use data to identify pain points in numerous ways. Start by looking at channels where customers give frequent feedback. Do they often bring up a matter they wish your products could help them manage? It's also useful to examine reviews from your target audience — even people who are not necessarily customers.

Comments from websites like Yelp and Trip Advisor, or those on message boards, often illuminate some of the things that make individuals feel fed up. Maybe members of your target audience often comment things like, "If only there were more long-lasting lipsticks for my skin tone! I wouldn't mind spending more for them than I'm paying for other options now. It'd definitely be worth the money."

Using data like this will inevitably show several pain points to tackle. The most strategic approach to take is to address one at a time. Otherwise, you could easily get overwhelmed and waste resources.

3. Improve Your Sales Team's Efforts

If your company employs salespeople to engage with customers, it's crucial to figure out what those workers should say or do to boost the likelihood of a sale. You could rely on data to find out what extras people are most open to paying for once a sales representative brings them up. This approach works well if salespeople sell base plans of a service package as well as add-ons.

Or, the data may reveal people in some areas are more receptive to some services or offers than those who live elsewhere. In that case, it'd be advantageous to train sales professionals to focus on particular offerings depending on the location of the customers they target.

You can also implement data to coach employees. Look at statistics such as the number of sales achieved in a given month, and determine which workers were most successful in appealing to their leads. It then becomes easier to develop new training materials or guidelines that could assist the team at large.

4. Prolong Customer Engagement Time

Engagement time is a primary metric that informs companies how they're doing. For example, if a company blogger starts posting about a new topic and sees a drop in engagement soon afterward, it might mean — but doesn't necessarily confirm — people are not interested in that subject enough to get engrossed in it. You can use company data to assess which factors make your customers linger while using your website, application or service.

Spotify, the streaming music brand, is a long-time leader in the art of tweaking its platform to keep people interested and, hopefully, turn them into paying customers. Numbers from the company's first-quarter earnings for 2019 show it's doing something right. The service boasts 100 million paid subscribers, representing a 32% growth compared to the previous year. Similarly, Spotify has 217 million monthly active users, a 26% uptick over the 2018 numbers.

How does Spotify keep users engaged? Mostly by scrutinizing data that shows their listening habits. For example, Discover Weekly is a personally curated playlist derived from a person's listening history combined with songs that people with similar music tastes like to hear. The brand even goes further and gives each user several genre-specific daily mixes created with the same principle.

Spotify also pays attention to data that shows at what point people stop listening to songs, as well as which ones they typically stream to completion. It uses that information to decide which tunes deserve coveted spots on the brand's themed playlists. You may not have the robust tools that Spotify does. Fortunately, it's still possible to see what's working well for holding your users' attention, especially as you test new offerings.

5. Excel at Handling Fluctuating Staffing Needs

You can also use data to help give each shift at your company adequate coverage. For example, after looking into records collected by a call center team, you may notice a surge in calls between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on most Fridays. You could then make scheduling adjustments to make sure enough people are available to answer phones to meet the demand. This tactic is scalable, making it valuable if your company is in a growth phase or anticipates one soon.

Employees who work at Walt Disney World are well-accustomed to either analyzing data or responding to what it shows. The brand uses a wristband system called MagicBand to improve the guest experience. It lets people reserve seats on popular rides, make dinner reservations within the parks and more.

Every week, Disney representatives schedule nearly 250,000 shifts for 80,000 employees. The data generated by guests' wristbands helps them with that daunting task. It can tell them which attractions, stores or restaurants experience the most backups at specific times. Then, making smart scheduling choices becomes more straightforward.

6. Boost Employee Retention

Most company leaders know how crucial it is to focus on keeping the employees they have. Hiring new workers to accommodate gaps in an enterprise's workforce is time-consuming and costly. And, most currently employed workers are open to other opportunities, according to information from Jobvite's 2019 Job Seeker Nation Survey.

Companies can study their data to figure out which factors are most likely to make workers stay on board and feel content versus ones that might make them leave. It's even possible to invest in platforms that predict which employees could quit soon. Then, proactive managers or human resources leaders can find out what's wrong and determine how to improve the situation for that team member.

If you've ever asked employees to fill out satisfaction surveys, start with their results when using data in this way. You could also ask a broad question such as, "What could we do to make you love your job more?". Ask people to submit during a defined month-long period, then compile their replies.

When taking this approach, clarify that the company is always open to suggestions. Explain this particular initiative is part of a dedicated push to make the workplace better than ever.

You likely began reading to get convinced that your company stands to benefit from data. Now, you have plenty of possibilities you can present to fellow decision-makers at your organization.

As researchers continually uncover new ways to use data to benefit businesses, your company can flourish with the data you choose to collect.

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