Information is power, or so the saying goes. Yet, that power rests in large part on how recently that information was collected. Let’s say you want to buy a house, you take the tour and like what you see. Before you make your final decision, though, you want to see a home inspection report. Do you want to base your decision on a home inspection report from six months ago or the one the home inspector will finish an hour from now? How about an inspection report from one month ago? One week?
Information is constantly changing, anything could have changed within the past few weeks alone. To make effective and accurate decisions, you need to be working with the most current information. That desire rests at the heart of real-time analytics and the competitive advantage it offers.
What is Real-Time Analytics?
Businesses are inundated with data from countless sources. They get data directly from customers, aggregate data from social media, traffic data from websites, and even from marketing tool suites. Real-time analytics takes all of that data, processes it, and provides up-to-the-moment results.
The kind of results depends on the analytics software you use and the settings involved. For example, some businesses prefer that the software provide answers only when queried on something specific. Others prefer that the software offer real-time alerts or trigger real-time actions for certain pre-set results.
Why Does it Give You a Competitive Advantage?
No business can know with certainty what data its competitors possess. You also can’t know with certainty how soon they’ll analyze that data and put it to work. Leveraging that real-time information lets you adjust tactics, change orders, or even create promotions in response to new trends before your competitors do.
That lets you collect on the immediate benefits of reduced waste, better marketing, and an uptick in revenue. It also helps solidify your business as being on top of what is happening in the world. Customers like businesses that either predict or seem in close tune with the market. Every time you seem on top of your game, you cement your business as the one people should turn to first.
What is the Cost of Working with Outdated Data?
So, what are the pitfalls of working without outdated data? For some functions, such as forecasting, data that is a little out of date probably won’t change the results by a significant amount.
For any business that must respond quickly to rapidly changing trends, the cost can prove to be high. Let’s say a trend highlighting the value in some otherwise obscure IT function is rapidly developing in a specific industry. If you run a managed IT service company, recognizing the trend quickly lets you update your service offerings, set pricing, and shift your targeting strategy. If you don’t catch that trend quickly, you can lose out on potential revenue from new customers and expanded services for old customers.
One of the most obvious use cases for real-time analytics is monitoring your IT infrastructure. Immediately you are able to gain visibility into the capacity, availability, and performance of your infrastructure investments. This lets you respond to any issues as soon as they arise. Getting the information tomorrow won’t be any help to your service levels.
Another common use case is for digital marketing efforts. Let’s say that you offer a rewards program for customers. When they are shopping online or in an app, it’s a golden opportunity for some personalized marketing based on their previous purchase history. Real-time analytics can alert you or your automated marketing system that the customer is browsing the store. That lets you deliver customized discounts, coupons, or personalized promotions when someone is most likely to buy.
Real-time analytics is a powerful tool for carving out a competitive advantage. It helps keep your company at the forefront of changing trends. It also helps your business adapt faster when the unexpected happens. In turn, you reap short-term as well as long-term benefits in terms of cost-savings, revenue boosts, and customer conversions.