Only 1 in 5 e-commerce executives across industries rate their organizations as having a “world-class” data-driven culture, according to Clearhead’s 2016 Digital Optimization Benchmarking Study. While the study of 144 e-commerce executives found that most have analytics technology in place, staffing shortages, skills gaps and cultural barriers have meant that for many companies, “the technology that can improve customer experience, such as analytics, testing and personalization, sits on the shelf.”
And when it comes to acting, the survey also indicates decision-makers are reluctant to embrace data-based insights when they run contrary to their existing beliefs.
This has concerning implications in distribution, where the use of data is key to profitable channel management.
I recently spoke about “Big Data Analytics for the Wholesale-Distributor” at the University of Innovative Distribution. Customer data, analyzed with an open mind, should drive decisions on what your approach to field sales looks like going forward – a critical decision all distributors need to make given the ongoing shift in how customers are buying and shopping. For example, data can reveal which customers are candidates for lower-cost sales channels, which are OK in the current channel and which are candidates for more intensive, strategic sales and marketing initiatives.
But distributors – even those with analytics already in place – are often dogged in their adherence to intuition and stories rather than data when making decisions. Like the companies in Clearhead’s study, these companies also lack the manpower or cultural will to make the most of the data they already have access to.
In fact, actionable data is one of the industry’s biggest untapped assets for spurring growth.
Managers must bring this same level of stubbornness, instead, to the analysis of and reliance on big data in decision-making. They must build data analysis into their monthly or weekly processes and make it part of their routines to counter resistance from naysayers.
Distributors must also avoid the impulse to put the cart before the horse by throwing money at new sales reps before they’ve acquired the customer insights required to properly direct their efforts. Distributors who are struggling to make use of existing market or customer data should consider spending money on market research or data analysts rather than on yet another field sales rep: If the better tools and data provided to reps can make them 10 percent more effective, it will have the same impact as a 10 percent expansion of the sales force.
A renewed emphasis on data will give you a clearer view into what makes your customers tick, helping you to understand what they are really buying and how it aligns (or doesn’t align) with what you are selling.