Think Outside the Data Warehouse

January 14, 2015

Step 5 to becoming a data-driven organization by harnessing external data.

This is the fifth installment in our series devoted to becoming a data-driven retail organization. You can catch up on anything you missed in step 1, step 2, step 3, and step 4.

The final step to becoming a data-driven organization is to realize that not all useful data belongs to your business. It's time to look beyond the walls of your office. While there's untold benefit to be gained from everything that lies within your company, there are also external data sources available to you that can offer even more insight. 

Consider social media. Businesses learned within a few years the power of listening to the people they want to serve and talking with them one-on-one. Now it's become unarguably important to take the raw data from social media and connect it to your marketing and sales data. Those who don't are seen as out of touch. 

Beyond this, there is a treasure trove of external and big data out there that can help you make better decisions if you could just harness it long enough to let an analytics platform investigate it for patterns and trends.
  • Social media
  • Google search result data
  • Non-profit published information
  • Demographics information from census surveys 
  • Nielsen ratings for web pages and TV ads
  • National Retail Federation data
  • Weather status

With access to connections such as Microsoft Analytics Platform System, Google BigQuery, Hortonworks, Cloudera, HDInsight, MongoDB, SAS and the likes, the possibilities are seemingly limitless.

I personally think it's amazing how businesses can now collect useful external data by smart thinking combined with a digital strategy and investment. For example, enabling customers to use their Facebook login when they log into your web shop, customer club, attend competitions, and so on, gives you access to mountains of useful data about the person, such as friends, jobs, education, likes, hometown, gender, age, and other demographic information. Posted pictures even increasingly contain meta data such as GPS coordinates and dates.


The weather report or the television program could also be influencers on your business. And weather data can give you a forecast on business as well. Back to the supermarket analogy. Say a big winter storm is coming. You better have an increased stock of bottled water, flashlights, and batteries, because those sales are immediately about to spike. 

Don't fear data

With the right tools at hand, you don't need to be a data scientist to dig in the data set and read them like a story. How would your storyboard look if you had all the data you could wish for?

Smart software tools like TARGIT's Data Services allows you to analyze data easily without being an IT specialist. It is very easy to combine data and get a clearer picture and profiling your customers, and help you target your customers with relevant content and marketing. This video shows you how easy it is.

In today's business world, it's increasingly important that business owners and employees have the tools to convert data into insights, since they are the only ones that are able to tie the knowledge back to the business and make use of it and drive decisions into actions.

Data-driven organizations don't stop with their data. If decisions are based on data, and more data is preferable to less, than all data (that's verifiable) is fair game. Business intelligence and analytics solutions offer the opportunity to base your decisions on data that's available right now, but may not be tomorrow. That data can still be valuable, but its fleeting nature makes it hard to capture and analyze.

And it's important for data-driven organizations to take some time now and then to play with all of that data they've gathered: the ERP-based data, the one-off spreadsheets and information, and the truly external data. Poke at it, manipulate it, and see what you can learn. You never know when you'll stumble onto an observation that can lead you to the decision that earns your company an extra million dollars. That's data-driven decision-making, and that's how data-driven organizations work.