using software to predict

We’ve all had that feeling that somebody is watching us. When it comes to the surfing the internet, we really are being watched! At least most websites politely let us know that they are collecting “cookies.” When it comes to your own customers, there is lots of data that you can be putting to good use- and you don’t have to spy on them to make the most of it, either.

We’re talking about using the software that controls your business to your advantage. When it comes to customer data, you’ve got a lot more than you think. Whether it is coming in the form of CRM input or even the POS at your cash register, all of this data can be used to learn about your customers.

You’ve definitely heard of Big Data. That intimidating buzzword that every Fortune 500 company is relying on- the “next big thing.” After all, Garnter says that 75% of companies are planning to invest in big data in the next two years. Don’t worry though: It’s really not that scary. In fact, if you utilize CRM you are already making an investment into big data for your company. The same goes for simply making a website and keeping active on social media- both necessary practices for any growing business.

Listening to social media

The best ways to utilize social media for your business belong in a complete article of their own. Something that is commonly left out, or perhaps underrated, is the customer response to your company on social media. To put it simply: don’t just go on social media, promote your company, and move on with your day. Instead, propose questions about your company and its products. Analyze reviews for your products and services. See what is working and what isn’t.

You can do this yourself- although if your company is on the large side with an incredibly active social media following, there is software available specifically made to sort through social media to find trends and patterns. One of the advantages of the social media data method is that it is less intrusive towards your customers, because all of the knowledge being gathered is already public. It’s not like a targeted banner ad popping up in your browser that knows which websites you’ve visited.

Predictive models

The most committed corporations are utilizing predictive software models- a growing part of the $1.4 billion global market for business intelligence software. What this software does is look at all of the data customers have voluntarily given- through surveys at the cash register, optional questionnaires, and even opt-in programs on websites- to identify who the best customers are and how their spending habits usually fall. These companies then use this information to reward their best customers- and focus on selling items to interested parties rather than simply using a random, blanketed approach.

Establishing a rewards program is a great way for your company to gather more data about your customers. It’s also a great way to make them more loyal. If this is not an option, instead focus on the data that is being generated by the CRM for your company. The best CRM choices offer a built-in capability to find trends in company data. For this reason, everything about your company should be input into the CRM, including purchase history, client contact info, vendor lists, everything.

This way, the CRM can automate the pattern-finding process and help you to realize trends that you might not have known even existed. It’s possible to find your best customers quickly and easily as well as what they purchase the most of- even what time of day, week, and season they do their purchasing. This is all just data that will come naturally from you and the client interfacing with the software on a daily basis. If there is a customer that used to order all the time and suddenly stopped, find out when it happened, and why.

Some general ideas about data

Remember, even though it’s called “Big Data,” For most companies’ purposes there is no data that is too small. Here are some ideas about where to locate this data in order to put it to work for you. There is the social media aspect- this will come in the form of comments on your company’s Twitter or Facebook and also in the form of reviews from Yelp or Google. If you have a mailing list or rewards program, all of the info input by customers is available to use.

There is the data input at the purchase site- this includes things like how your customers are paying, how much they are paying, what and how much they are buying, what your inventory is looking like, and who in your company is doing the selling.

There is also data gathered at the office- this could include all interaction between the customer and customer service, as well as important data like employee hours, timeclocks and scheduling, and invoices and payment.

There’s no shortage of data coming into any company- it doesn’t even take a statistical analysis program to generate it.