Analyze This: How Fresh Takes on Data Analytics are Driving Business Growth

By Doug Hague, EVP & Chief Analytics Officer, Bank of America Merchant Services

Doug Hague, EVP & Chief Analytics Officer, Bank of America Merchant Services

As chief analytics officer for Bank of America Merchant Services, a global leader in payments, eCommerce and security solutions, I find there’s nothing sweeter than harnessing the power of data to help a client adapt and thrive in today’s tumultuous business environment.

Take, for example, a Charlotte-N.C.-based ice cream shop that recently asked for our advice on expansion opportunities. We analyzed their transaction trends and customer data and quickly pinpointed a prime area in which the small business could launch a second location. The data showed that many customers loyal to the shop’s flagship location were likely coming from a popular nearby hamlet. High sales volumes during specific times of day, coupled with what we know about traffic patterns, tipped us off. Now our client is enjoying enviable revenue growth and increased brand visibility. That’s whipped cream on the proverbial sundae.

"Big data is likely the most potent weapon that’s being brought to bear on the treatment and prevention of prevalent diseases—enhancing the quality of care"

Bank of America Merchant Services, formed in 2009 by powerhouse brands Bank of America and First Data, amasses, dissects and interprets massive amounts of customer data to deliver insights and advice to clients of all sizes throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. Those in our clients’ organizations who turn to us for analytics expertise include senior executives, financial experts, marketing leaders and risk stewards.

Clients often ask how they can leverage data to keep the customers they have—despite dogged competition—and attract new, loyal ones. I tell them it’s all about using the data to better understand their customers’ wants and needs.

Think of it in terms of old—or traditional—and new. Today there are countless fresh ways for customers to interact with purveyors of goods and services. Social media interactions, multimedia demonstrations, eCommerce, mobile shopping and showrooming are all relatively new trends that represent radical departures from how previous generations searched for and acquired the things they needed. All of these new commerce routines and customs present tremendous opportunities to aggregate and make use of previously unimaginable troves of data.

Perhaps you’ve read about businesses that are using speech analytics to improve customer service interactions. Who anticipated things like tone of voice, keywords and other clues derived from interactions between customers and company representatives could yield valuable, predictive insights? In the healthcare industry, big data is likely the most potent weapon that’s being brought to bear on the treatment and prevention of prevalent diseases, as well as enhancing the quality of care. And in the retail sector, analytics that scrutinize shoppers’ in-store habits—including their route through a store, which displays make them pause, and how long they stop, are increasingly fueling decisions that improve customer satisfaction and drive sales higher.

Modern analytics are also helping businesses find novel and innovative applications for the data they’ve been collecting for years. For instance, at the request of a quick-service restaurant chain, Bank of America Merchant Services recently studied the correlation between payment transactions and couponing as part of the business’ marketing, customer acquisition and pricing strategies. After reviewing the insights we shared, our client recognized some striking inefficiencies and opted to devote a greater proportion of its investments in other avenues with greater promise.

More is not always better, a notion the big data phenomenon illustrates exceptionally well. Never before in history have businesses had at their disposal greater volumes of information. The key is to identify, with surgical precision, the new and conventional data sets that offer convincing evidence upon which important decisions can be made. When it all comes together, it’s sweet indeed.