Small businesses have big data too

By Jennifer Saxon

As an SME, you may not think that big data is relevant to you. But you probably have your own “big data” available to use – data that can help your business thrive.

The wellness industry in particular has a wealth of data at its fingertips. From yoga studios to gyms to salons and spas, all have data that could be a gold mine of useful information. Analysing this data doesn’t have to be complicated. With the right tools, you can extract real insights about your customers that boost sales and help you provide the personalised service that keeps people coming back for more.

The benefits of big data

There’s been a lot in the media about the introduction of the general data protection regulations that were mentioned in the Queen’s Speech. The regulations mean that even SMEs need to understand what data they hold and how they manage it. And you should always take legal advice on how to manage that data.

What we’re talking about here is aggregate, anonymous data, that you can use to track trends and how customers behave, rather than personally identifiable data.  If you understand what data you have, you can start to analyse it, to track trends, streamline your business, and provide the services and products that your customers love.

  1. Identifying patterns of customer behaviour

If you provide a fitness or wellbeing service or product, you’ll have data detailing everything from what products your customers love to buy, to which classes they prefer to attend, to when and how often they visit. Using this data, you can analyse what services are popular, and when.

Do people prefer to attend yoga in the morning, or after work? Does that high-impact Zumba class get fewer attendees because it’s at 7am on Saturday? Would it do better later in the day? Or vice versa?

Do customers who come to your salon prefer one product over another, and do you offer them the opportunity to buy it at the till? Or perhaps one product isn’t doing well, in which case you can change it or perhaps feature it more prominently by offering complimentary treatments.

By using insights derived from customer data, you can change the way the business operates to provide a better experience for customers – and of course, bring in more revenue for you.

  1. Creating more efficient processes

Data can be used to check and improve the health of the business. For example, a hair stylist may find that booking their customer’s next appointment while they’re paying for a hair cut increases the frequency of their visits.

The salon might then run a trial and find that offering 10% off for booking a next appointment at checkout increases the likelihood of making a booking on the spot. So while a 10% promotion on a coupon might not work for you, the same offer given to a customer at the till might increase how often your customer gets their hair cut.

This then has the knock-on effect of letting the salon manage their stylists’ diaries months in advance, helping the business make the best use of their time, guaranteeing revenue and locking in resources.

Likewise, personal trainers and those who offer classes may find similar benefits by signing customers up for a series of sessions or classes for an introductory rate, which could improve take-up and bring in recurring revenue (boosting cash flow).

  1. Offering a connected experience

By using the insights from personal data, you can offer a more personalised experience for customers, both when they are and when they aren’t at the gym or salon. Keeping track of the small details will help you relate more personally to your customers. At the gym, keep note of recent injuries or areas where your customer struggles or excels. Show them you remember them and care about them personally by asking about these details when they start their session. Consider tailoring a workout they can perform in between sessions to help them with their injuries and other challenges.

At the salon, keep track of your customers’ styling and product preferences, even beverage preferences, so you can provide them with an effortless experience. And don’t forget birthdays, anniversaries or any other major milestones they share with you. Mention them when you see them in the salon and send them emails and messages when those events happen in between appointments.

  1. Preventing people from missing out

You can use data to generate real-time insights to make immediate changes to your marketing (so you get the most from those insights), or to alert customers to special deals. If a particular class or product is doing really well today (maybe because of a new trend, or even the weather), you can adjust your marketing to focus on doing more of what works now, rather than just seeing with hindsight what might have worked last month.

All businesses use customer data, but the smartest ones will use it to generate insight that can support growth. Data gives you knowledge, and knowledge really is power.

Jennifer Saxon is senior director, corporate marketing, MINDBODY