Collecting customer data is easy—most companies have more than they can possibly analyze—but drawing insight from massive amounts of data to guide strategic decision making is an art.
The challenge for data-driven companies looking to become an insight-driven business is how to effectively sift through reams of customer data and find the nuggets that will improve business outcomes and customer relationships. At the same time, scandals such as the Cambridge Analytica controversy mean customers are increasingly more hesitant to share personal information.
Smart companies are already using data to strengthen their customer relationships by providing them with real value in return for their information. What ultimately makes a company insight-driven rather than merely data-aware is that they see customers as more than just numbers on a spreadsheet.
It’s a critical transition brands must make. Fortunately, there are others charting a path forward that can provide guidance.
Netflix matches its products with individuals
If you ever let a friend or family member use your Netflix account profile to watch movies you’d never consider, you’ll notice the streaming service’s recommendations start to skew a little. That’s because Netflix provides viewing choices based on individual customer data, rather than just focusing on offerings with mass appeal.
But the granular data it collects on individual viewing habits is not just driving how it builds and presents its library to viewers. That approach also drives the films and series that Netflix creates, such as its early hit, Orange is the New Black, and more recently, Stranger Things. High-quality, innovative entertainment is getting a chance to shine thanks to data-driven platforms such as Netflix because they’re able to connect content and audiences in ways broadcasters can’t.
Just as an online marketplace customizes what people see based on their browsing and buying history, Netflix is customizing the user experience to meet the needs of each viewer—their satisfaction and their continued subscription is the yardstick for success.
Stitch Fix uses data science for customer-led innovation
Algorithms play a huge role translating data to insight, but to connect with people, you need other people.
Stitch Fix understood this from the start—it put data science at the heart of its business rather clamping it on to a traditional organizational structure after the fact. The company employs more than 80 data scientists, many of whom hold advanced degrees in diverse quantitative fields ranging from math statistics to neuroscience and astrophysics. For Stitch Fix, data is people, not just code, and it’s essential to the company. Its people combine the data and the human element to create a better apparel shopping experience.
"Don’t forget the people," wrote Katrina Lake, CEO of Stitch Fix, in a recent Harvard Business Review article. "Shopping is inherently a personal and human activity. That’s why we insist on combining data with a human stylist who can alter or override the product assortment our styling algorithm has delivered."
Stitch Fix’s own in-house clothing branded, Hybrid Design, is the result of data scientists thinking about how to fill gaps in the market and using data collected to create products that satisfied an unmet need. A year later, Stitch Fix had nearly 30 items for women and plus sizes that were designed by computer, informed by data, but most all, inspired by human ingenuity.
Ventura Foods shares back insight to customers
Insight-driven companies don’t just take the data and run—they give back to their customers by delivering products they want and demonstrating how the information they shared has shaped the business going forward.
Ventura Foods has seen the value of closing the feedback loop because it encourages more dialogue. It uses a Vision Critical Member Hub as a vehicle to share back to its customers and solicit additional feedback. Better still, members build on each other’s ideas—giving further credence that data science is people. Being part of an interactive community encourages them to share the ideas they create in their own kitchen and feeds a two-way channel of communications that informs Ventura Foods decision making.
Data isn’t valuable without relationships
Gathering heaps of data is ultimately only useful in guiding business decisions if you’re prioritizing customer relationships and making them part of the process. Being interactive with customers and letting them know the contributions are valuable will have positive, cumulative effects that translate into better experiences and drive competitive advantage.