Christmas is just around the corner, and for many Australian businesses, that means demands are going to change. That doesn’t necessarily mean that demand will increase. In some trades, demand may decrease, meaning that you will need to adjust your strategy accordingly.
This boils down to a phenomenon known as seasonality, which can affect all businesses. Even if you are not in a seasonal business – your customers are reacting to a particular season in predictable ways that you can leverage.
With that in mind, we need to consider seasonal analytics. When it comes to approaching seasonal drift and planning for changes that events like Christmas are likely to alter, we need to fine-tune how we approach analytics. How can we use data more efficiently for the seasons ahead?
Plan Early With Seasonal Analytics
Regardless of the data and analytics platform, you use and the strategy taken in previous years, planning early to account for seasonal peaks and troughs in demand and customer preferences is important. It’s important to start preparing for seasons as early as possible before it’s too late and you’re left wondering what your next move should be. If you’re going to be affected by the Christmas rush, start in July. To plan early, you need to make sure you are already capturing customer data. Seasonal analytics must also adapt to your specific industry and customer profiles.
Analysing foot traffic, customer loyalty, and financial data based on historical data coupled with external data, while also using more advanced predictive analytics techniques, will help in giving you a complete picture, so you are in a far better place to better forecast and plan marketing promotions, products and services accordingly. Whether you’re looking to schedule your workforce better, improve stock to meet buyer demand, or align operating hours with purchasing trends, both historical and real-time data provide answers to these issues.
With precedents, you can easily plan for how much money you are likely to take during a season. You can compare previous years of data to ensure you know what is expected to happen, and how you are going to handle it.
Using analytics to your advantage is all about being open to change. If you don’t change with the season, you are going to risk falling behind the competition. For example, analytics might tell you that customers are less likely to buy item A than item B in a particular season.
Seasonality might also show that people will want to save money more before Christmas, in which case, you will need to open yourself up to reducing prices earlier.
Analytics can help with understanding how to control stock from season to season. One way data analytics comes into play here is by providing a means of giving enterprise-wide visibility into inventory and shipping information together to optimise sales to deliver a more uniform approach to inventory management. Some studies show that predictive analytics for inventory management can lower inventory costs by 25 to 40 per cent and boost turnover by up to 3.5 times. Significantly improving demand forecast accuracy which suggests better allocation and replenishment strategies.
Seasonality and Staff
You can also use seasonal analytics to understand how to handle customer queries. Over Christmas, if your business is likely to see more activity, then you’ll know you need to take on more staff. The same works in reverse, of course.
However, you can also use analytics to help improve your efficiency over seasonal periods. Data can be used to capture how long it takes for customers to find the products they want and get to the checkout. If you have analytics dating back several Christmases, you may also be able to ascertain where sales dropped off, or where customers left your store.
You can manage these levels by helping your staff to be more efficient. You can use seasonality in analytics as inspiration to multi-skill your team. Do analytics show that sales appear to hit a plateau? Maybe you weren’t physically able to take on any more sales.
Therefore, you should consider either adding an extra checkout or consider ways in which you can help make the customer experience more efficient.
Be Open to Challenge
Analytics exists to help us plan for the unexpected. However, lack of integration between functions across an enterprise can lead to multiple customer handoffs, missed delivery dates and proliferation of unnecessary technologies. Decision support processes should be automated and intuitive business intelligence tools should link finance, accounting, ERP systems with the customer, sales and order data to create a 360-degree view of the customer across the business. By consolidating this data businesses can uncover the hidden context around transaction trends and arrive at actionable insights. While unstructured data from social media interactions and customer service call logs can also deliver insights.
None of us can predict the future, but no matter how seasonality affects your industry, with smart analytics, you can better plan ahead. Inside Info has been working with businesses across a host of industries including agriculture, services, manufacturing, distribution and retail for many years to help them use analytics to forecast and manage periods of seasonality to better harness opportunities. Business analytics will give you a detailed understanding of your company’s operations to get some insight into profitability, staff and inventory levels, so you can enjoy a fruitful Christmas period as well.
Sonia Johnson heads Inside Info’s Marketing team, as an experienced B2B marketer, having launched and built the Qlik brand in the Australian market. Sonia has 20 years’ experience working within the IT and telco industries, having worked for IBM and Vodafone, the last ten years have been focused within the business intelligence and corporate performance management sectors.