Businesses who are hoping to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace, control costs, and make more direct connections with their customers can do so by making good use of the data collected by their website, social media, advertising channels, and POS system.
Unfortunately, you can’t just glance at your data one time and reap all of the benefits. Instead, success is dependent on repetition. You need to review your data regularly, going over the same sources of information time and time again to understand your customers’ behaviors, spot any changes in those behaviors, and identify trends, problems, and opportunities as they arise.
We call the data review process lather, rinse, repeat because it can and should be a regular, familiar part of your routine – just like washing your hair! Here’s what’s involved:
Step One: Take Inventory of Your Channels and Current Data Capture
You want to be sure that all of your systems are collecting data the way they’re supposed to. You’ll know what type of activity has happened in your business over the course of the previous week. Your data should reflect associated activity – for example, if you’ve been running a promotion of your Brand X merchandise, you should see more traffic going to the category and product pages for Brand X on your website. If the data differs wildly from expectation, or worse, you show no activity at all from a channel, it’s a good idea to check and make sure your configuration is still correct and no one has accidentally turned your reporting systems off.
Step Two: Outline Your Questions
There are some questions business owners want the answer to all of the time – where is my traffic coming from? What’s stopping visitors from converting? There are also questions that apply only at certain times, such as What’s the impact of the sponsored Instagram post I just ran? Each week, prepare the list of questions you want answers to, so you know what you want to learn while reviewing your data.
Step Three: Review Reports & Your Customer Profile
The value of data is that it provides an objective, accurate picture of what’s actually happening in your business. Reviewing this data in conjunction with your customer profiles can help you check if your assumptions about your customers are accurate; additionally, it can help you identify categorize your customers based on purchasing patterns and preferences. Many businesses serve more than one target market. Your data provides a clear picture of who’s doing business with you and why.
Step Four: Identify Action Steps
Your data review may reveal problems that need to be address or opportunities that should be capitalized on. Every data review should yield at least one actionable insight. Capture these and make a plan to use these insights to improve your business. Some actions may be minor, immediate items, such as fixing dead links or changing a social media ad, while others will require a more involved solution.
Step Five: Repeat
After another week has elapsed, it’s time to sit down with your data and go through the review process again. The steps remain the same: make sure your data capture is working properly, prepare questions, review reports and customer profiles, and identify action steps. The more time you spend with your data, the more natural and intuitive the process becomes. You’ll also become more adept at identifying trends and opportunities as they emerge, allowing you to give customers exactly what they want – even before they know they want it.