My wife and I go to the grocery store quite a bit. Sure, we need to eat, but also love to eat a wide variety of foods. We take our time in the isles and talk through what meal we’d like before we decide on particular brands. We enjoy the experience and feel we’re in charge…but are we? The store and its suppliers apply enormous effort to increase the amount we spend and to steer us toward particular products and brands. It is more effort than many people realize.
Getting the balance of effort versus sale right is the name of the game. Unless you’re selling a soft drink, simply broadcasting a message is rather inefficient. So instead sellers put their efforts into figuring out when and where to reach the right demographic through targeting.
Targeting an audience is enormous revenue for radio, television and freeway billboards but very one-way and inefficient. How many email offers do you receive that you’ll never read? How many enticements come in the mail and never get opened before ending up in the trash? Inefficiency is the mother of disruption.
Big Data fairy tale
In our quest to find the better way, enormous hype has shifted toward Big Data as the answer. The idea that we can find the perfect match of message and behavior by sifting through high volumes of high velocity data is attractive, but is it the answer? No.
Big Data brings to the table the ability to look at patterns of what has happened so that we can formulate a model for what should happen. In selling, this model represents a way to match buyer, situation and message. This only comes to life, though, when it meets up with an actual customer in an actual selling situation. What truly matters occurs in the moment.
Right here, right now
That enormous turn I mentioned is the ability to combine information from multiple systems, like inventory, logistics and customer history with a model derived from insightful analysis to make an offer with split-second timing. It isn’t about emails delivered to a demographic or to a particular customer a week after a purchase. Those are the inefficient ways of the past that are giving way to the information-enabled, in-the-moment offer while the customer is present and ready to make a decision.
This isn’t about a database or complex application. Those are the old way. This new way relies on powerful analytics to ‘listen’ to what is happening and figure out what to look for, highly efficient movement of information between internal and external systems, pattern matching and rules engines that can sort enormous amounts of information and extremely high-speed processing in-memory instead of traditional information storage. These pieces come to together to create personalized, smart offers in fractions of a second.
And it works beautifully. Enterprises are already seeing substantial revenue increase, higher margins and far better inventory management by applying these concepts to their business. Investment in information infrastructure is paying big dividends. Far more important than Big Data’s hype, this is the future of selling.