"I’ve been in this business years. I know exactly what makes my customers tick."
Sound familiar? It’s the premise that countless businesses have run on for decades. And it’s true that intuition and experience are a key part of running a successful business, but without bias-free data are you getting the whole picture? Modern businesses are starting to see that they need data and analytics to confirm (or challenge) what they think they know.
But many businesses are still falling behind in this thinking. A report by PwC shows that when executives make major decisions they value intuition and experience above data by almost twice as much. Yet this intuition can’t help being biased, can it?
Rachel Barton, managing director of advanced customer strategy at Accenture Strategy, gives an example we might all be familiar with. “Many organisations have an unconscious bias whereby they assume that their digital-savvy customers are the most profitable.” It turns out, however, that this is not the case. According to Ms Barton, this error leads to over-investment in digital channels, costing UK businesses up to £221 billion. That’s an expensive hunch!
There’s no doubt at all that intuition has served businesses very well for centuries, long before marketing and analytics came along, but with consumers becoming more savvy, surely businesses must too. This means being aware of our naturally biased view and seeing if the facts bear it out; seeking facts from relevant and reliable sources to ensure we get to the truth.
Don’t consign intuition to the waste bin though, it’s still a valuable ingredient in the mix. In fact, intuition has a key role, as this is where our hypothesis will usually come from; e.g. I believe people make the most impulse purchases at the till. Does the data prove or disprove this? And these questions have to be asked if our businesses are going to grow and flourish.
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