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As consumers and businesses become ever more connected, the increasing amounts of data generated will be crucial for not just strategic decisions, but also tactical ones taken by the minute, hour or day, especially for the fast moving products and services.
As Singapore moves forward to be a smart nation, the opportunity for businesses to tap on vast amounts of data is clear. Not just for marketing campaigns, data can enable businesses to introduce artificial intelligence to automate many repetitive tasks.
Tapping on data in a smart nation to boost business
What does rain have to do with pizza sales? Apparently, in Hong Kong, people tend to order take-out whenever the heavens open up, so they do not have to head out to prepare or buy dinner.
That was what Jardine Restaurant Group, the holder of the Pizza Hut franchise in the country, found out after seeing a spike in sales on rainy days. So, when rain came again one day in December 2015, it decided to push out attractive e-coupons specifically to housewives who may be seeking a hassle-free dinner option.
The marketing campaign worked, and sales went up by 7 per cent. With that success, it went on to target customers specifically through coupons and seasonal content, like a graphic reminding people that winter was coming.
From 2014 to 2016, customers ordering Pizza Hut meals online shot up from 100,000 to 400,000. The boost is a result of the age-old quest for businesses to understand customers better, as well as the new capabilities offered by data analytics.
As consumers and businesses become ever more connected, the increasing amounts of data generated will be crucial for not just strategic decisions, but also tactical ones taken by the minute, hour or day, as the Pizza Hut example shows.
In Singapore, the same applies. As the country moves forward to be a smart nation, the opportunity for businesses to tap on vast amounts of data is clear. Not just for marketing campaigns, data can enable businesses to introduce artificial intelligence to automate many repetitive tasks.
Yet, while data is seen as the fuel for connected businesses in future, the takeup of such transformational technologies appears still slow in Singapore.
A third of businesses here have not used data analytics and 80 per cent have not adopted artificial intelligence, according to the Committee on the Future Economy in October 2017. Reasons, reported The Business Times, include a lack of awareness or expertise, or concern about breaching data protection regulations.
Start small, but get started
For many companies, the first step can be a small one. For starters, set goals early and make sure to follow through. The success of a small project, as the Pizza Hut example shows, can lead to the adoption of bigger data sets for future projects.
Many businesses are worried that they do not have the right data to get started. While they get their many years of raw information organised, there are already troves of publicly available data to tap on, especially in Singapore’s push to be a smart nation.
The government has been putting out useful information such as the demographics in each region in the country. For a retail chain planning to open outlets across town, this is invaluable intelligence.
Other data now openly available include, say, the number of buses on the road, which could be useful for a bus company providing such services. Another dataset on the number of doctors here, for example, would be handy for healthcare providers looking to hire physicians.
To be sure, the cutting-edge intelligence is likely in the data that a business has already collected over many years in the industry. This may give clues to customers’ preferences, for example. These statistics from the past could also help predict the trends of the future.
Key to this is having relevant and accurate data for analysis. After all, if a company keeps looking at an outdated set of data, the conclusions it gets will be skewed. The decisions it bases on this data will be flawed as well.
Getting one’s data in place is a time-consuming effort. If an organisation is large, the data over the years could also take a lot of finding and organising. This can be like looking for an old photo among many USB drives or cloud drives without even knowing if it is still there.
Then there is also the challenge of reconciling data that may be conflicting. Simple issues such as a person with two different addresses still require resolving, for example.
However, there is no question that businesses will have to be more data-savvy in the years ahead. As Singapore becomes even more connected as a smart nation, the local market will create many opportunities for businesses to tap into.
In May, the government said it would be investing S$150 million to boost capabilities in artificial intelligence in the next five years. This would enable new innovations in the field to be developed here, which could translate into solutions that businesses can tap on.
Indeed, as smart nation technologies become mainstream, businesses that have been preparing for them will benefit most. With a culture of data-driven management and experience in data analysis, they will have a vital edge over rivals.
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