Tag Archives: marketing strategy

Crunching Big Data for Operations Management

Big data

For decades businesses have been using data in some way or another to improve their operations. For instance, an IT software could support small enterprises in their customer-facing processes. Alternatively, large corporations may possess complex systems that monitor and detect any changes in consumer sentiment towards brands.

Recently, many industry leaders, including McKinsey, IBM and SAS among others have released relevant studies on big data. It transpires that they are using similar terminology to describe big data as a “situation where the volume, velocity and variety of data exceed an organisation’s ability to use that data for accurate and timely decision-making” (SAS). These providers of business intelligence solutions have developed technical approaches to storing and managing enormous volumes of new data.

The handling and untangling of such data requires advanced and unique storage, management, analysis and visualisation technologies. The terms of “big data” and “analytics” are increasingly being used to describe data sets and analytical techniques in applications ranging from sensor to social media. Usually, big data analytics are dependent on extensive storage capacity and quick processing power requiring a flexible grid that can be reconfigured for different needs. For instance, streaming analytics process big data in real time during events to improve their outcome.

Insightful data could easily be retrieved from the Web, social media content and video data among other content. Notwithstanding, such data could be presented in different forms; ranging from recorded vocal content (e.g. call centre voice data) or it can even be genomic and proteomic data that is derived from biological research and medicine.
Big data is often used to describe the latest advances in technologies and architectures. Nowadays, big data and marketing information systems predict customer purchase decisions. This data could indicate which products or services customers buy, where and what they eat, where and when they go on vacation, how much they buy, and the like.

Giant retailers such as Tesco or Sainsbury every single day receive long-range weather forecasts to work 8-10 days ahead. Evidently, the weather affects the shopping behaviour of customers. For example, hot and cold weather can lead to the sales of certain products. It may appear that weather forecasting dictates store placement, ordering and supply (and demand) logistics for supermarket chains. Other retailers like Walmart and Kohl’s also use big data to tailor product selections and determine the timing of price markdowns.

Shipping companies, like U.P.S. are mining data on truck delivery times and traffic patterns in order to fine-tune their routing. This way the business will become more efficient and incur less operational costs. Therefore, big data extracts value by capturing, discovering and analysing very large volumes of data in an economic and expeditious way. This has inevitably led to a significant reduction in the cost of keeping data.

Big data can also be linked with production applications and timely operational processes that enable continuous improvements. Credit card companies are a good illustration of this dynamic as direct marketing groups at credit card companies create models to select the most likely customer prospects from a large data warehouse. Previously, the process of data extraction, preparation and analysis took weeks to prepare and organise. Eventually, these companies realised that there was a quicker way to carry out the same task. In fact, they created a “ready-to-market” database and system that allowed their marketers to analyse, select and issue offers in a single day. Therefore, this case indicates that businesses became much more effective (and efficient) in their processes through iterations and monitoring of websites and call-centre activities. They could also make personalised offers to customers in milliseconds as they kept tracking responses over time.

Organisations are increasingly realising the utility of data that could bring value through continuous improvements in their operations. This contribution indicated that relevant data needs to be captured, filtered and analysed. Big data is already swamping traditional networks, storage arrays and relational database platforms. The increased pervasiveness of digital and mobile activity, particularly from e-commerce and social media is leading to the dissemination of meaningful data – that is being created each and every second. Successful, online businesses can gain a competitive advantage if they are capable of gathering and crunching data.

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Marketing Effectiveness Audits


This article is also available here: http://www.business2community.com/marketing/marketing-effectiveness-audits-0684999

Generally, firms dedicate considerable resources on their marketing activities. Businesses’ marketing expenditure is usually devoted to campaigns, propositions, channels and customers. Such discretionary costs could optimise the interaction with customers and improve profitability which maximises the return on marketing investment.  However, the market environment and the chance factors can possibly influence results. Therefore a marketing effectiveness audit can be carried out in order to analyse and interpret all effects of the firms’ marketing functions. Such an audit will feature a roadmap for further improvements.


Management and staff have to recognise the primacy of knowing their customers. Are they capable of identifying between different promising segments?  Some managers tend to over concentrate on certain factors and ignore their customers’ philosophy. Certain managers are sales oriented as they strive to sell anything. Others may be driven by cost efficiencies as they place undue emphasis on price as a determinant of demand. Technology-oriented managers leverage their firms’ profile through digital marketing and social media.  However in business; it’s all about people interacting with people. All marketing functions should revolve around the customer needs. Ideally, each employee must meet and exceed the customers’ expectations. Integrated organisations are effective in their total quality management, as they are characterised by effective channels of communication.  Free flowing information must be in place, particularly between different operating divisions. Information communicated by one division may be critical to the operation of another, and may affect the action which will be taken by that division. Two way communication systems must exist all the way up from the lowest to the senior ranks. This sort of flexibility will allow organisations to deliver an excellent customer service. As a result, customers will perceive businesses as caring organisations rather than soulless bureaucracies. Arguably, employees may affect customers’ perceptions of their products or services. Customer satisfaction is everybody’s responsibility. The most successful businesses in the future will be those who offer a total quality, customer service product.


Enterprises need to have up-to-date information on their targeted markets. They need to know what customers need and want, all the time. The first step of anticipating customer needs is to watch what is happening. Businesses require timely and specific data relating to their provision of customer service. Marketing plans should be reviewed regularly to reflect the latest consumer attitudes and trends. The plans may need to be revisited to deal with problems and contingencies, should they occur. Relevant resources should be allocated in certain operational areas to carry out marketing activities, successfully. Adequate human resources must be carefully recruited, assigned, trained and nurtured. Employees can be effective only if they are deployed in the right areas. Different marketing strategies necessitate managers with relevant interpersonal skills. Businesses must recognise that various marketing activities must be allocated appropriate finances if they are to achieve the desired results. Checking marketing performance against ‘smart’ targets may involve qualitative assessments and checklists for continuous improvements. Key performance indicators examine customer complaints, customer satisfaction surveys and the like.

This contribution raises awareness about the purpose of marketing effectiveness audits as systematic examinations of the businesses’ marketing activities.  It is important for any organisations to carry out periodic reviews of their modus operandi as objectives and strategies are quickly outdated in today’s turbulent environment. Marketing audits help businesses to sample the effectiveness of their marketing activities; as they indicate the strengths and weaknesses of extant marketing strategies. Such audits will inevitably help to maximise returns on marketing investments by focusing on commercially successful activities and aligning appropriate resources to them. They lead to cost reductions by reallocating marketing investment away from ineffective activity. Audits provide a snapshot of how effective processes and systems are. In addition, the marketing effectiveness audit provides a course of action for further improvement. It creates a prioritised roadmap of activities to improve efficiency and effectiveness of marketing plans.

This contribution was published in the Times of Malta ‘s Business Supplement

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