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Molly St. Louis

May 31st, 2019

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Data is the New Oil and Platforms Are the Tycoons

What drives businesses these days? Is it innovation in product design? Is it a better ability to reach the customer with online and mobile shopping? Is it growing improvements in the customer experience? All of these qualify, but at their root lies one common thread: data.

Data represents the driving force behind much of business operations. Data provides the necessary insights to change products according to what the market wants. Data offers the points customers desire when they turn their sights to online and mobile shopping options. Data tells a business just what it is the customer wants to make them feel like they've had a better customer experience.

No matter what businesses do these days, it commonly hinges on data, which makes gathering data effectively the new drilling for oil. Data can transform an online platform into a modern-day energy firm.

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A Hard Drive of Data is Like a Barrel of Oil

In the same way that a barrel of oil has a variety of uses—refine it into gasoline, plastics, or any of a host of other applications—so too does a gigabyte of data. When customers are presented with that data, they can make buying decisions that more closely reflect their own desires. Big data is already having a lot of impact in the field.

• Cities are saving around $200 billion annually in wasted energy by using data.

53 percent of global brands turn to big data specifically to compete with other big brands.

• Businesses using big data saw an average increase in profits between 8-10 percent.

What's more, it isn't just businesses that are putting big data to use. Churches are increasingly analyzing their data to find out what services to offer and what sermons to address each week. Governments are using big data to track economic growth and establish policy.

Example: GoNation

GoNation takes a proposition that might have seemed inaccessible to businesses just a few years ago: open up the power of big data analytics to the local restaurant. The platform’s early efforts were such a hit that businesses were asking what else the company could do. This in turn led to the conscious decision to limit what was available; a business that tried to do everything would quickly find itself unable to do anything well. So rather than expand outward into places where there was clear interest, GoNation chose to focus on its data collection and analysis, and focused on business-to-business (B2B) operations.

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From there, the company branched out. It used the data that it gathered to build websites. Businesses increasingly wanted websites, especially as more consumers were migrating to mobile devices. The businesses not only needed mobile-friendly websites, they also needed websites that were built around the gathered data.

The data also proved valuable to cities and corporations, who wanted access to the data for promotion, tourism, and similar operations. For instance, in our recent interview, GoNation’s Founder, Chaz Tanase noted how Starbucks was acting as the “local” coffee shop for many areas, but it was advertising mainly on a national level. Local users simply didn't know what was available in their area, until GoNation could help present local developments.

Data Isn't Really Valuable Until It's Used

We all have a certain amount of data on our hands. We have data about our schedules and routines, our budgets and aspirations, and so on. That data is to us now what a barrel of oil was to the 20th century, and like that barrel of oil, it's no real good to anyone until it's used.

Until that oil is refined into gasoline or plastics or any other possible derivative use, it's just a barrel of black muck. That's what our data is; ones and zeroes on a hard drive that don't mean anything until they're processed into patterns. Those “actionable insights”, as they're called, are the true value of our data. The schedule that's analyzed to shave a few minutes off the day to be put to work somewhere else. The budget that's analyzed to find waste and put cash back in our pockets.

As oil drove the 20th century economy, so will data drive the 21st century’s.

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