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Using data to your advantage

By Sarah Prevette | June 15, 2012
Using data to your advantage
Sarah Prevette

The emerging tech landscape is changing constantly, so it can be daunting for companies trying to stay on top of the latest trends in consumer technology and social enterprise tools. Several companies have dominated the headlines in the past few months, from Facebook’s recent initial public offering and its purchase of photo-sharing app Instagram, to Pinterest’s massive user and traffic growth. But beyond the big headlines of the day, trends are emerging that will dictate how businesses leverage their own data, and the way they interact and market to existing and potential customers.

Companies are creating data on a daily basis –from sales charts to customer feedback and internal expertise (for example, Walmart processes one million transactions every hour). Your company is a goldmine of unleveraged data. And start-ups are emerging to help you capture this data and act on it. Business intelligence start-ups are looking to give you an edge by mining the data you already have and turning it into a way to increase sales and improve efficiency.

Analyzing your internal data gives you a serious competitive advantage, but often requires a hefty budget and a long lead time. The problem certainly isn’t generating the data, but transforming the data into a digestible form. By the time many of these large data sets are distilled, the data isn’t relevant anymore.

“Relying on gut feelings are good for certain decisions in your business, but not for understanding your customers’ behaviour,” says Kevin North, CEO of Vancouver-based data company Terapeak. “You need real data and numbers to make your business the most efficient and profitable it can be.”

Companies like Infochimps, Cloudera, and DataMeer are helping companies collect, analyze, and leverage their data. And this trend will only continue to grow as companies look for ways to turn their data into revenue.

Another trend for companies looking to increase their customer base and increase engagement with their current customers is influencer targeting. Influencer-targeting tools help companies monitor the conversations happening online about their brand. They help you identify the people with either the largest networks or the most influence in a certain area and engage with them.

Social media analytics platforms have been around for years, with well-known platforms like Salesforce’s Radian6 and Marketwire’s Sysomos dominating the landscape.

While these platforms build influencer targeting into their products, it’s a small part of what they do. Devoted influencer platforms have emerged to help companies hone in on finding the power users in their networks. Klout is probably the most well-known influencer network. It assigns a score to users based on the size and relevancy of their networks, and is being used by businesses such as hotels, some of which give free upgrades to guests based on their Klout score. Klout imitators like Kred have emerged to provide an alternative, but right now Klout seems to be the de facto score.

There are also companies like Traackr that make finding influencers their business. It allows agencies and brands to find, rank and track influencers. And PeopleBrowsr, the social media monitoring company behind Kred, recently released an application programming interface (API) that allows companies to drill down and find influencers based on a variety of criteria.

While the data mining companies mentioned earlier are trying to capitalize on a company’s internal data, platforms like DataSift are trying to mine social media data to help companies turn social streams into useful insight for their business.

Expect data mining and influencer targeting to be two emerging trends in 2012. And pay attention to the companies mentioned to make sure your company is poised to take advantage of them.

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