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Big data is oxygen to business

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With the Digital Revolution in full swing, data is to business what oxygen is to mankind. It is a crucial resource – one that enables companies, especially smaller ventures, to make better business decisions, grow their customer base, keep their competitive edge and secure funding. 

“There are no two ways about it in today’s world of doing business data – both structured and unstructured – has become a vital asset. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – in particular – are benefitting from capturing, processing and analysing data effectively and efficiently,” says Miguel da Silva, Managing Director at Retail Capital, a leading SME funder that provides working capital to help smaller companies expand.

It is true what American start-up development guru Geoffrey Moore said a few years ago: “Without data and analytics, companies are blind and deaf, wandering out onto the web like a deer on a freeway”. 

“Data keeps business owners in tune with all sides of their operations, helping them satisfy existing customers, identify new markets, and fine-tune their overall marketing strategy to attract new fans and secure funding,” Da Silva says. “Without data, these days, you are nowhere.”

Here are the business benefits of using Big Data to keep your cutting edge…

1. Using data to understand your customers

This will enable you to deliver exactly what they want at all times. “A consistently good user experience is key in retaining your customers,” writes analyst Daniel Newman in Forbes Magazine. “More than half of customers today say they’ve switched companies solely because of poor user experiences. Companies who fail to embrace customer experiences as a strategic path to growth won’t just be lagging, they’ll get left behind.”

Personalisation is key. Today’s customers don’t want to be treated as numbers. They want a service that is tailored to their very specific situations. This makes Netflix and Spotify such strong brands. Over time they have mastered the art of data-driven customer personalization by suggesting movies, songs, and books that fit their users’ tastes. The result: a fiercely loyal and growing customer base and multi-million-dollar turnovers.

2. Use data to identify new markets

Besides keeping your current customers happy, a data-driven approach helps you identify new target markets, what products and services these potential customers are looking for, what they like and don’t like about their current service providers, and what would make them switch to you. This serves as the backbone for better strategic marketing decisions. As Big Data Use Cases 2015: Getting Real On Data Monetization by the Business Application Research Centre (BARC) in Germany states: being data-driven leads to better strategic decisions (69%), which results in a better understanding of what new and future customers (52%) want. 

3. Data helps attract funding

Being a data-driven SME increases your chances of securing funding. Having all the necessary data at your disposal helps you craft a thorough presentation that answers all the potential investor’s questions. This improves your chances of getting what you want. Providing funders and lenders with a detailed overview of your financials and track record whilst telling them all about how people feel about you, why they use your products or services and to what extent they would recommend your business, makes you a very attractive target.  

4. Data-driven companies adapt better

The continuous analysis of data harvested from different sources allows you to predict, forecast, and adapt to market changes, and mitigate problems ahead of time. Data-driven companies have proven to be better at responding proactively to market and industry pressures by putting measures in place to adapt to the new status quo. Being agile helps you remain relevant in times of upheaval, prevents you from being disrupted by competitors and unfavourable market forces, and ensures you can continue to meet the promises you have made to your customers – safeguarding your reputation. 

5. Keeping data secure

Data-driven companies do everything digitally, including the transmission, processing and storage of your customers’ information. This makes your operations more efficient and competitive as opposed to those who are doing everything the paper way.

There is a catch: the data under your care needs to be kept safe and secure at all times. A data leak may put an abrupt end to your customers’ trust. This can cost you your business. 

“Companies must take the required steps to encrypt and protect all sensitive documents,” says Linda Misauer, Head of Global Solutions at Striata. “For organisations, solutions are available for the secured viewing of sensitive documents such as bank statements. These allow you and your customers, each from their side of the app or platform, to securely view the content, regardless of your or their location.”

In other words, besides customers and employees data is the lifeblood of any company. Businesses, including SMEs, have to start treating it as such if they want to disrupt instead of being disrupted by competitors, market forces and other internal and external elements.

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3D printing set for $20bn boom

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3D printing is starting to be realized in a wide variety of industries, but its potential in the aerospace and defense industry is significant. The 3D printing industry was worth $3bn in 2013 and grew to $7bn in 2017. By 2025, the market is forecast to account for more than $20bn in spend, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

The company’s report, ‘3D Printing in Aerospace & Defence – Thematic Research’, reveals that most major militaries and companies are exploring options with the technology. Some are still in the testing phase, while others are deploying the technology in final production. This is particularly true in the aerospace industry, where engines, aircraft and satellites are currently using 3D-printed components.

Listed below are the militaries that have taken an early lead in implementing 3D printing technology, as identified by GlobalData.

US Marine Corps

The US Marine Corps currently has the highest uptake of 3D printing of any military service worldwide. In particular, the additive manufacturing team at Marine Corps Systems Command has created the world’s largest 3D concrete printer with the ability to print a 500-square-foot barracks hut in 40 hours.

US Air Force

The US Air Force is integrating 3D printing into its supply chain. Overseen by ‘America Makes’, the US national additive manufacturing/3D printing innovation institute, it is investigating how current systems can be used to reproduce aircraft components for decades-old planes that may no longer have reliable sources of replacement parts, without minimum order quantities.

US Navy

The Navy has created new logistical units such as Navy frontline attachments, which can rapidly create spare parts for incredibly complex military equipment such as the F-35B – and are currently operational for this purpose. The navy has also worked with Oak Ridge National laboratory to produce the first 3D-printed submarine hull.

US Army

The US Army is working on 3D-printed, modular drone systems. The army wants 3D printers that can be deployed to a forward base camp and used to produce aviation backup when necessary for troops on the ground. This plan aims to create bespoke unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems and is said to be at an advanced stage of development.

Chinese Air Force

A 3D Systems ProJet 4500 printer has been acquired by the Chinese army and has been working on replacement military truck parts for the army’s fuel tanker fleet. A number of Chinese fighter jets are believed to be carrying 3D-printed parts and are currently in operation.

Russian Army

Russia has been testing multiple applications for 3D-printed parts in its newest main battle tank, the T-14 Armata. During the development process, 3D printing was used for prototyping, but it is expected that parts will be used in the final product, of which 2,300 have been ordered.

South Korean Air Force

Collaboration between South Korea’s InssTEK and France’s Z3DLAB is producing parts for South Korean warplanes that see heavy use along the border with North Korea. The aim is to upgrade existing components, rather than replace worn parts, with a new titanium composite material.

Information based on GlobalData’s report: ‘3D Printing in Aerospace & Defence – Thematic Research’.

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SA productivity could nosedive on Black Friday

Employee productivity on Black Friday could nose dive, says local online retailer, OneDayOnly.co.za

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Finance Minister Tito Mboweni hasn’t had it easy lately. Amidst a more-than-tricky economy and having to walk the tight rope in his recent mid-term budget speech, Tito is squeezed between a rock and a very hard place that’s about to get tighter with Black Friday inspired employee procrastination.

“While the minister probably has bigger fish to fry than South Africans avoiding spreadsheets in favour of scooping a deal on Samsung’s latest flat screen – Black Friday undoubtedly affects employees’ focus at work,” says Matthew Leighton, spokesperson at leading South African e-tailer OneDayOnly.co.za .

While it started as a post-Thanksgiving blowout sale by US retailers, Black Friday has become one of the most significant calendar days for consumers and the retail industry globally. “The proof is in the OneDayOnly.co.za stats. Last year, we recorded over 150 000 website users on Black Friday alone – the average on a regular day is around 60 000 and on a high traffic day such as pay day its approximately 80 000,” says Leighton.

So the demand is clearly there but are people actually doing the bulk of their Black Friday buying while they should be working? Leighton says they are. “Although the sale starts at midnight people are online throughout the day and data from last year shows traffic on OneDayOnly.co.za spiking primarily during core working hours – 06:00, 8:00, 11:00 and 15:00.

He adds that the average user session – or time people spend on the site at any one point – is three times longer on Black Friday than any other day. “In addition to spending longer on the site on Black Friday, customers also return many times during the day so these longer sessions happen numerous times during the work day.”

To add to Tito’s woes, Leighton explains that people are also multi-screening their buying efforts by watching social platforms for tips and prompts. “Most online retailers worth their salt share prompts on social feeds to drive traffic to their websites. Last year, each time we announced via social that a 100% off deal was available shoppers flocked to OneDayOnly.co.za. Almost instantly, the web traffic would spike. The pattern shows how closely people keep an eye on the 100% off deal drops via social media, as well as how effectively the platforms cater to a very wide audience in real time.”

But while Black Friday may result in the odd deadline being missed, Leighton believes the overall impact on the economy is an extremely positive one. “Last year we saw people spending in the region of R1300 on Black Friday, compared to an average of R970 on other days. According to BankServ, South Africans’ card transactions came up to R3bn on the day last year, up 16% from 2017. That’s a nice injection into an otherwise depressed retail sector.”

Leighton says people love Black Friday because there is something in it for everyone, but there’s also nothing to lose – except for maybe a bit of work time. “With so many more products available at low prices, it makes sense to peruse. If you find nothing you like, you are no worse off. And your boss doesn’t have to be either if you’re proactive and shop before work when our doors open at midnight.”

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