Business intelligence has long been established as the Holy Grail of business strategy and decision making. However, what is exactly business intelligence and how does it relate to the new hyper-digitised environment and new customer consumption habits?
El pasado lunes 26 de julio Borja Martín, director de Kale, conversó con el presentador radiofónico Toni Garrido en el #SabadellPodcast de Banco Sabadell.
On Monday 26 July, Borja Martín, Kale's director, spoke with radio presenter Toni Garrido on Banco Sabadell's Podcast.
En una conversación distendida sobre mucho más que business intelligence, Borja y Toni hablaron sobre las vías de conocimiento de los nuevos consumidores, los nuevos roles relacionales del cliente, el papel de las pequeñas empresas en todo esto y, en definitiva, sobre la vida misma.
In a relaxed conversation about much more than business intelligence, Borja and Toni discussed the techniques for getting to know the new consumers, the new relational roles between companies and customers and in short, life itself.
Is there a 'new consumer'?
Clearly, the Covid-19 crisis has transfigured almost every aspect of our lives. The business world has been no exception. According to Borja, changes in consumer behaviour were already being detected before the pandemic. However, it cannot be denied that Covid-19 has inflamed or accelerated some of these changes.
Digitalisation, globalisation and the movement towards green consumption were already leading the way. The new context brought about by the pandemic has led to the resurgence of forgotten patterns such as the move towards intimate spaces and the emphasis on being home, the return of local commerce, the development of collective intelligence, etc. We have all heard that during the pandemic, especially during the hardest months of confinement, there has been a 60% increase in DIY searches on how to do basic things —which in Silicon Valley would seem archaic— such as baking bread, setting up a table, creating board games, etc.
And they are here to stay. There are a series of behaviours that appeared at the beginning of the pandemic that have not disappeared now that the health crisis is less intense and does not force us to shut ourselves away in our most intimate and private space, home.
The importance of knowing the customer
If there is one thing that both Borja and Toni made clear in the Banco Sabadell podcast it is that knowing the customer is crucial.
Establishing relationships and conversations with consumers helps companies to get closer to them and to provide them with better offers, products, services and customer experiences. At the end of the day, that's what both the customer and companies want.
Knowledge about the customer strengthens the company-consumer relationship in an almost exponential and magical way. As the linkage increases, so does the generation of value for both parties. The customer is more satisfied. A satisfied customer is more beneficial for the company. And everyone is happy.
So far we all agree. So, how do we get to know the 'new' or 'old' customer better?
What is Business Intelligence?
In the 19th century, the banker Henry Furness was accused of corruption after he managed to predict market trends in the unstable Europe of the time, successfully adjusting his company accordingly.
What did Henry Furness do? Collect, structure and analyse key data about his business or, in other words, Business Intelligence.
Today, the social concept of business intelligence is somewhat different, although the essence has not changed that much. What has evolved is the context, strongly shaped by digital environments that provide thousands of times more data than Henry Furness could ever have dreamed of.
Back to the 21st century, the orthodox definition of business intelligence would be something like this: “a system for capturing data, processing and analysing it and then exploiting it to visualise and make better decisions”.
However, in practice, Borja defines business intelligence as: “a method to know which are the key variables that move a client to do something that has to do with our business expectations”. Toni Garrido adds: “Business intelligence is going to your local bar and the waiter asking you if you want the same as always”.
Indeed, any action that serves to discover what the customer wants —what he wants to drink, what can we do to make him grab a snack with his coffee, or guessing at which table in the bar he prefers to sit— is business intelligence.
In Furness' days questions were pretty much the only BI tool available. Digitalisation has led to businesses today being able to access information in a less invasive way, without the need to constantly harass clients with questions. However, we should not delegitimise questions. Anything that we can ask the customer —regardless of the methodology or the tool used— and that helps the customer explain what we want to know, is also business intelligence.
The new dichotomy: Big Data vs Smart Data
Existing in the 21st century and not having heard of Big Data sounds like science fiction. Big Data has been officially part of our lives for more than two decades now. Unofficially, much longer.
Yet, in the last few years a debate has arisen as to which is more appropriate or desirable, Big Data or Smart Data. To put it simply, Big Data is the massive collection of data, while Smart Data is the collection of useful data. Big Data equates to large amounts of information and Smart Data to less information but of value.
Borja Martín's stance in this debate is clear: "I am on the non-technical side, on the side of knowing the technical side to help companies make better decisions, and I am a firm advocate of the second option. Having more information does not always mean making better decisions. Having data is fine, but knowing how to implement it is much more important."
In short, business intelligence has become a fundamental piece of the business puzzle. Digitalisation, Big Data and technology have multiplied the possibilities for businesses to gather information. However, more information does not always translate into more knowledge, and in order to know the customer, data analysis must be combined with traditional methodologies such as asking questions.
In the words of Borja Martín: "Technology is the method, never the purpose".