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There is little doubt that companies that have and know how to use data cope with adversity better than those that do not.

A food outlet in Tamworth in the West Midlands discovered that, by using passenger counts for local buses and train services, traffic flow data, WiFi/Bluetooth detector counts from people passing their shop window, and historical weather observations from the Met Office they could figure out the best time of day to publish offers.

Covid of course has been a major setback to the their plans for growth.  However, their ability to use data to understand where their potential customers might be and what they might need will mean that, when people return once again to the high street, this business will come roaring back.

Businesses store a lot of data, even if they are unaware of it.  And they can access unlimited amounts from a huge number of sources that lie outside the business that might hold clues about what to sell and to whom.

But you need to know what you are looking for, and how to find and use it.  For example, if your passenger counts and traffic flows are buried in large tables of numbers, you need a way to bring the numbers you need into the light, and then unearth the story that they have to tell.

This is where data visualisation comes in.

Simple charts and infographics can reveal relationships and patterns that can provide important clues.  For example, on days when it rained, fewer people arrived by bus, but more by car.  So whenever it was predicted to rain, up went a standalone board at the exit to the car park with offers that would appeal to the cold and wet shopper.

Also when it rained, time spent by shoppers in front of the store window increased.  Once a chart of shopper ‘dwell time’ revealed this, the answer became obvious.  The shop had an awning providing protection from the rain.   Predictions of poor weather therefore led to timely offers in the shop window to draw the weary shopper inside.

As Covid continues many stories are starting to surface of businesses pivoting to sell new services, find new customers – doing everything they can to survive.  Many will be operating on gut-instinct with a bit of guesswork thrown in.  And all being well, simply because they have been proactive and resourceful, they will succeed. 

But those who can also apply some of the science that sits behind the use of data will probably have the edge.


Paul Clarke, Director – Figuringoutdata.com


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