Andy Farmer
Consultancy Partner

More data is being collected and stored every two days than has been collected in all of human history up to 2003, says Google’s Eric Schmidt. And there’s little wonder why.  There are now 13 billion devices connected to the internet. By 2020, that number is predicted to rise to over 50 billion.  The number of smartphone users is expected to top six billion by 2020, each carrying a sensor and GPS tracking; and one in six consumers now owns and uses wearable technology, like smart watches or fitness trackers.


These connected devices not only connect to the internet, they also connect and share information with each other. In fact, it is predicted that machine-to-machine connections will grow to 27 billion by 2024.


But devices aren’t the only things collecting data. Every time we make a call to a call centre, an audio recording of our conversation is made. And whenever we go online, we leave behind a digital footprint: a record of the websites we visit, the products we view, even how long we hover the cursor over certain areas of the screen. When we receive an email from a brand and click on a link within it, and even when we go into a physical store and connect to its Wi-Fi or buy something using a discount code at the till, our data is being collected and monitored.


This vast amount of data, often referred to as ‘Big Data’, is being harnessed by many of the biggest brands in the world. But you don’t have to have a huge budget, expensive technology, and an army of data scientists crunching through the numbers to take advantage of the data being generated by your customers. Off the shelf products have been created by Adobe, IBM and SiteCore, to name a few, to offer medium sized enterprises big data solutions and support, this means a wider range of companies in all industries can now benefit from data-based insights that can add real value and drive competitiveness.


Here are three ways how to use data:


1. Collect customer intelligence to deliver better CX

Collecting data can enable you to glean greater insights into your customers. You can find out what your customers want, what they use (and how), how they purchase goods, and what they think of those goods and services. And this information can be used to create a single customer view, which will enable you to improve the customers’ omnichannel experience with your brand. For example, British Airways is using its data from its loyalty scheme, website and ticket sales to personalise the customer experience for its frequent fliers.


2. Gain efficiencies and improve operations

Data can improve internal efficiency and operations for almost any type of business and across many different departments. Adopting and implementing smart technology can improve productivity and operational performance. The sensors that are embedded into the smart tech, which can be attached to everything from yogurt cups to the cement in bridges, can record and send data back into the cloud, where you can determine insights about how your products and/or equipment is being used; this data can even predict when machinery is likely to break. For example, Rolls-Royce is using sensors in its aircraft engines to detect malfunctioning parts.


3. Make it part of your product offering:

For some businesses data is becoming their greatest asset. After Nokia’s demise in 2013, its products were defunct and redundant, yet the company was able to salvage its losses by selling its mapping business called ‘Here’ as a stand-alone data set for $2.8bn to the Audi, BMW and Daimler Car Consortium. Many of the biggest companies (Google, Facebook, Amazon) in the world are making their profits utilising their data. Even traditional companies are starting to realise the power of their data. The tractor company, John Deere, is now selling data to its customers. Its tractors, equipped with sensors, are generating data that is being sold to farmers to help them guide their decisions about when to plant, where, the best patterns for ploughing and reaping, and more.


heat map on ipad pro


Examples of how Financial Services businesses are using data

Many financial services companies are waking up to the potential that data can offer them. In this sector, the application of data goes far beyond high-tech, big-money trading. Citigroup, one of the largest financial services providers in the world with more than 200 million customer accounts, has adopted a data-first approach to driving business growth and enhancing its services for customers. It is using multi-structured data streams from transactional stores, customer feedback, and business process data sources to detect fraud and improve its products and services.


Start-up banks such as Monzo, are using customer data to spot commonalities/patterns in spending – to advise people where they can save money (i.e. on fuel bills) as well as offering them suitable deals with third party providers. And even main stream banks, such as Barclays are experimenting with ways to use data. At an event we hosted last year Sharukh Naqvi, Barclays’ VP of Analytics, said that the bank wanted to be known as a ‘tech company with a banking licence’. He said that Barclays is creating a data store and building a recommendation engine to utilise transactional level data to deliver personalised content, with the aim of reaping the ‘customer experience dividend’. Earlier last week Barclays announced it had opened a new innovation centre in Shoreditch, for its in-house banking and technology teams, as well as more than 40 co-located financial technology (fintech) start-ups to innovate using big data.


ORM’s view

Regardless of the size of your company or the industry you’re in, the key to getting the most out of your data is having a clear, robust data strategy that aligns to your business’ long-term goals. It’s not about just collecting data, but defining how you manage, analyse and use it to support a truly customer-centric, personalised experience. This means having the right management platforms, analytics tools, people and processes in place to maximise performance and minimise your risk. Ensuring that you comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into effect in 2018, should also be a focus, as there are large financial penalties of up to 4% of global turnover for those found to be in breach.