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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

Powering Digital Business Moments with Analytics

The world of business is rapidly changing. To adapt to new business models, we must master the digital business moment -- a transient opportunity that can be exploited dynamically.

The speed at which businesses need to interact with customers is accelerating at a breakneck pace. Companies that rely on the old models of doing business, wherein they had days or weeks to address and respond to a customer's needs, are being abandoned in favor of enterprises that can keep up with this new pace and provide service in the moment.

The key to understanding this new world and adapting to new business models is to master what has been referred to as the digital business moment. By definition, a digital business moment is a transient opportunity that can be exploited dynamically.

Transient opportunities are those that only exist for a short period, lasting from seconds to just a few minutes. These opportunities are often at customer decision points. They include a customer's decision to buy, to leave and not return, and to share their experience (good or bad) with friends and associates. Amid a constant barrage of noise in the world today -- combined with the hectic lives of your customers -- these moments come quickly and leave just as quickly, often never to return.

To be successful, your enterprise must quickly capture the information about your ecosystem in which your customer exists, analyze the information to determine what is happening, and respond with value-added services that will steer your customers toward decisions that will strengthen their relationship with you.

How can your enterprise do this, and what does it look like in your environment? This is where analytics professionals can apply technology to solve your businesses challenges.

Step 1: Identify the Moments

Your first step is to identify where these digital business moments exist within your customer life cycle. If you are a digital-only business or have a significant digital presence, this might happen as soon as customers visit your website or identify a product or service of interest. With the popularity of online marketing, this interaction could happen far away from your actual e-commerce site: in an email, on social media, or in search engine results.

If you are a business with a physical presence, this might happen the moment that your customer enters your front door. The key is to identify at what points your customers will make critical decisions that will either enhance or detract from your relationship with them.

In the last few years, many new technologies, both open source and commercial, have been introduced to handle this type of fast ingestion, data preparation, and analysis. Stream processing technologies include products such as Apache Storm and Apache Spark.

These platforms have been engineered to scale the analysis of microtransactions in parallel. They do this by breaking a problem down into a large number of independent, autonomous tasks that are performed synchronously over a multinode distributed infrastructure. The goal of these technologies is to ingest and analyze large amounts of data quickly and in a scalable manner.

Too often, analytics professionals get lost in the implementation of the technology and forget that the purpose of these platforms is to solve a business problem -- the identification and exploitation of digital business moments. When implemented correctly, the data fed into these systems directly correlates to what the business needs to identify. Data examples include:

  • Video footage of store traffic (to identify when customers arrive and what they are browsing)
  • Web logs of website visitors (to see what customers are looking at and to identify what phase of the buying cycle they are in)
  • Email to customer service (to understand the challenges customers are facing)
  • Traffic on a social media platform (to identify what customers are saying about your brand, both positive and negative)

Step 2: Taking Action

What do you do with all this information once you've analyzed it?

By itself, identifying that a customer is looking at a specific product or has a specific question defines the business moment, but this is only part of the equation. The next part is an outbound response that completes the digital business moment. This dynamic response is what changes a normal business moment into a digital business moment.

Often the response is nothing more than delivering the right information at the critical moment. Examples include:

  • Sending an SMS to the customer's phone with a discount code for a specific product
  • Sending an email to the customer educating them about a specific facet of your business that will enhance their experience
  • Providing product reviews optimized specifically for them at that moment

To be most effective, this information should not be a general marketing message that is delivered homogeneously across the customer base but an insight specifically targeted to the individual with respect to their business moment at hand. It is this content ultra-personalized to the customers' needs that fully defines an effective digital business moment.

At other times the key to a successful digital business moment is to offer a service that uniquely meets their immediate needs. This might range from deploying a customer service representative to interact personally with the customer to engaging a salesperson to answer more complex questions during the buying decision.

A classic example of this outbound response is the OnStar system built into many car models. When the system detects a problem (the business moment), a customer service representative is alerted and determines what service needs to be dispatched to best help the customer. At the same time, the customer service rep provides emotional support while the customer waits for the service to arrive, reducing customer anxiety.

The Responsive Future

Done effectively, the deployment of technology to capture and respond to digital business moments will become a competitive advantage for next-generation businesses. As your competitors take advantage of these new business models, you will face an adapt-or-die environment. Those who adapt quickly will become the new leaders and will dominate their respective industries. As an analytics professional, now is your opportunity to take a leadership role and guide your business into a future filled with digital business moments.

About the Author

Troy Hiltbrand is the senior vice president of digital product management and analytics at where he is responsible for its enterprise analytics and digital product strategy. You can reach the author via email.

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