Data analytics are growing more prominent and more significant in modern business. While we once associated the idea primarily with “big tech,” we now see analytics playing a role in various different facets of the modern world.

This expanding use of data analytics across industries is causing something of a snowball effect. Broader implementation of analytics has driven a greater need for more education in the field. And alongside this growing emphasis on education, the job market is growing substantially. Analytics jobs are booming, which indicates that we’re starting to see a cycle of supply and demand: More use of data across industries is leading to more job demand and education, which in turn sparks further growth, and so on.

Clearly, the age of data analytics is only just beginning. But with so many businesses embracing analytics approaches, how do they actually help? What are the actual benefits?

The answers to these questions depend somewhat on the businesses at hand. But there are some fairly universal benefits worth mentioning.

Targeted Marketing & Customer Acquisition

We often think of marketing and customer acquisition as processes driven by intuition and creativity. While these things can certainly factor in, however, the truth is that these efforts are now driven by data, and its ability to direct a company’s content focus. As is stated in Ayima analysis of modern digital marketing, one of the most common problems companies face in this area is a “lack of optimised content.” And that optimised content is just what a data analytics operation can provide. By gathering the appropriate data on market preferences, consumer demographics, and content effectiveness, a business can develop insights that translate to active marketing and acquisition strategies. Armed with data, the business can begin to develop pieces of content and even products with a high degree of confidence that they will reach the desired audience and have the desired effect.

Refined Internal Operations

This is a broad category unto itself, but a business can also apply data analytics to in-house operations. This means gathering data on all sorts of internal practices — how productive employees are, how many meetings take place, how many activities involved in a typical sales cycle, how long different projects take to complete, how most communications take place, how long does it take to resolve a customer query and so on. All of this data can be organised and studied in a way that yields useful information about productivity. In many cases, findings can help a workplace to make quick and simple adjustments that result in significant boosts in output (as well as employee satisfaction).

Product & Service Development

This goes along with targeted marketing in a sense. But another benefit of data analytics is that businesses can study customer behaviours and communications to determine new directions for products and services. Anything from shopping histories, to social media discussion, to direct feedback can provide valuable insights as to what potential customers want to see from a business next. A significant amount of this kind of data can help a business to focus development on products, services, and/or improvements that it knows with near certainty there will be a market for.

Even Playing Field

In looking back at the ‘Strength in Numbers’ research paper authored by an M.I.T. professor named Erik Brynjolfsson, we discussed various aspects of the data analytics revolution — and specifically the notion that with data, mid-size organisations can “get the numbers they need” to compete. Brynjolfsson and his co-authors looked into 179 such companies and found an average 6% hike in output and productivity, as well as a greater number of profitable companies. That number may not seem large, but for smaller or mid-size businesses it can be the difference between competing within a market or not. So it’s also important to acknowledge that data analytics in modern industry can even the playing field by giving some smaller companies a better chance to compete.

None of these benefits mean that data analytics make for an automatic solution for every business. As was pointed out in a piece about big data, this practice has been “hyped so heavily that companies are expecting it to deliver more value than it actually can.” For some, big data is too much of an investment to actually be worth it; for others, it’s an interesting idea but a challenging one to implement. What it can do for a business is beyond doubt. But the business itself has to be equipped to make the most of data as well, and that’s not an entirely automatic process.

With that caveat given though, it’s clear that strategically and successfully applied data analytics can work wonders for a modern business. Better operations, more effective customer acquisition, improved product development, and a better ability to compete are all within reach for any company that puts data to proper use.

This blog was written by  Rhia Joanne. From time to time guest contributors write on the Workbooks Blog – have something to say? Email Emma at emma.wright@workbooks.com