More than 1.6 billion people across the world bought something online in 2017 and that is set to top two billion by the end of the decade. There can be no doubt that digital technology is crucial for every business – transforming the way they connect with customers as well as sell to them.
Yet this is sometimes framed purely as a challenge – with companies needing to keep up to avoid digital disruptors from running them out of business. But we shouldn’t ignore the opportunity this poses too. While businesses do have to work harder to keep up with technology the reward they receive for this is data. The data businesses are able to collect and utilise thanks to technology gives them the opportunity to do more and be more efficient.
Here’s how this works in practice.
CRM allows you to keep on top of your customer communications
Collecting data is only the start of the process. If it sits there inert in a file somewhere then you might as well have not collected it. So, once a customer has filled in a contact form, placed an order or been in contact, how can you use the information they have given you to good effect? That’s where customer relationship management (CRM) systems come in. These pieces of software allow you to keep all of your customers’ details in one place – along with a log of their purchase history, any feedback they have given you, customer service issues they might have raised and details of the marketing materials you have sent them and when. Through these systems you can identify what works when it comes to selling to your customers – and what doesn’t, pinpoint unhappy customers and do something to win them back over and pick up common complaints that need to be fixed for your business.
Big data isn’t just for the big boys
You might well have heard a lot about the virtues of ‘big data’ in recent years. It’s important, however, to recognise that the ‘big’ here doesn’t just mean it’s for big businesses with big budgets. Smaller companies can tap into business intelligence software that allows them to organise and analyse their data more effectively so that, as with CRM, this becomes something you can use in a really practical sense for your business. Retailers, for example, are able to use point of sale software that allows them to take a real-time look at the sales they are making. This data can be used to track buyer behaviour, spot seasonal shopping trends, eliminate stock control issues and make flexible purchasing decisions.
Keep on top of the books
This real-time data collection doesn’t just help you in an outward-looking sales sense either. Capturing sales information in this way can, with integrated software, ensure that sales are automatically recorded in your accounts, saving a lot of painful paperwork. Such accounting software also allows you to have an up-to-the-minute view of your business finances, highlighting cash flow issues before they become a bigger problem, helping you to track invoices and making it much easier to ensure you’ve paid your taxes and bills in full and on time.
Managing customers, stock and finances is made much simpler thanks to technology and data. By doing this well, businesses can benefit from the advantages of technology and focus on capitalising on the opportunities it poses.