This article first appeared in the Autumn 2015 issue of OnWindows magazine.
In today’s fiercely competitive consumer goods (CG) marketplace, CG companies want to get closer to their consumers, innovate and drive dramatic efficiency gains. At the centre of this quest is data. For those who successfully navigate and harness the storm of data in today’s digital era, its potential is tremendous.
More than any other industry, with its deep connection to consumers and extensive investments in capital goods and fixed assets, the CG sector stands to benefit the most from the value big data can provide. An IDC study, commissioned by Microsoft, found that manufacturers that take advantage of their data have the potential to raise an additional US$371 billion in revenue over companies that don’t.
So how can big data increase innovation and develop new customer value?
Data and analytics were the focus of the 2015 Retail and CG Analytics Summit I attended in Chicago earlier this year. Hosted by Consumer Goods Technology and RIS News, industry leaders like Frito-Lay, MGM Resorts International and @WalmartLabs took to the stage to share thought leadership and their experiences on using data and insights strategically for business gains.
The industry wants to do more with their existing transactional databases and new sources of data like social media. It wants to move beyond reporting. It’s about understanding what that data means and how to act on those insights. As MGM put it, “data without action is just trivia.” And while attendees debated the role of data scientists, another key take away was evident. The biggest opportunity is to put better capabilities in current employees’ hands, to give them the tools and insights they need to make better actionable decisions. There’s real value there. And I couldn’t agree more.
At Microsoft, we believe that data – not just big data, but any data, whether large or small, structured or unstructured – has the power to unlock tremendous value for an organisation. Our vision is to put data and analytics into the hands of the business user.
When its employees can apply rich information available both inside and outside their organisation to uncover relevant, actionable insights, CG companies will be able to transform operations intelligently, drive growth for retailers strategically, bring better products to market swiftly, and craft personal consumer experiences creatively.
And we don’t think this should be hard. The key to stimulating smarter, faster, data-driven decisions lies within extending everyday business tools with powerful analytics and data visualisation tools to anyone in the organisation. New Microsoft technologies including the Azure IoT Suite, the Cortana Analytics Suite and Office 2016 are designed to do just that, making it easier to transform CG business data into intelligent action and get things done in more helpful, proactive, and natural ways. Combined with the proper security, privacy and governance policies in place, big data can become the basis for new waves of growth.
Here are the four high-value areas identified in the IDC/Microsoft study for consumer goods companies:
• Employee productivity: analytics can help to predict demand and optimise promotional tactics through targeted channels and geographies to increase efficiency of sales teams. Customers are using analytics to identify the highest ROI opportunities across the entire business, from marketing campaigns to merger and acquisition analysis
• Operational improvement: one of the hottest areas is leveraging the internet of things and analytics to drive dramatic gains in manufacturing and the extended supply chain. By empowering individuals with immediate information on how to improve operational efficiencies and lower costs using predictive analytics for such things as: water utilisation, predictive maintenance, better energy management, or improved asset management – can save millions
• Product innovation: using data to enable greater and timelier insights into consumers’ changing demands, as well as to drive business growth with smarter product planning and innovation
• Consumer engagement: analytics are a key enabler to building the 360-degree view of your consumer and empowering marketing teams to drive highly targeted campaigns to increase brand loyalty, usage and new channels of revenue. These experiences will be extended into retail with smart coolers and vending machines, beacon networks. And they will be extended in obvious and non-obvious ways in our daily life in such things as wearables, or TVs or home appliances.
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