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  • Writer's pictureCristina Ferrero Castaño

From Big Mac to Big Data: It's (now) all about the data

21st century gold has taken companies such as Netflix, Tesla, Coca-Cola, Apple and Starbucks to the top of the market thanks to a strategy based on analysis and anticipation.

Pedro del Corral

La Razón

September 11, 2021

The heart of Madrid smells of freshly brewed coffee. Callao has unwittingly become a kind of human-sized nespresso that awakens the taste buds of anyone who walks through its streets. And it is no coincidence. In less than 850 metres around, it is possible to find up to 12 identical Starbucks: with the same products and similar prices. The curious thing is that, whatever the time, they are always full. It doesn't matter whether you go into the one on Gran Vía or the one on Ópera, they all generate a similar fervour without having to compete with each other. How is this possible? Simple: the company has studied in detail the routines of its customers, the traffic on the roads, the bus stops, the surrounding shops... and has hit the nail on the head. That's why it doesn't matter if it's only a two-minute walk between two of its establishments. If the data is correct, success is more than assured.

In addition, the multinational coffee company also pays a lot of attention to what its visitors ask for, or haven't you already received an e-mail with discounts for your favourite latte? Well, that's just it. Everything is analysed: interests, tastes, age, location, history... And that's a good thing. Otherwise, your high satisfaction rates would not be the same and your valuable reputation would remain half-hearted. "The best days are yet to come," Howard Schultz, the brand's CEO, has said on more than one occasion. In fact, it is the phrase with which he ends his bestseller The Starbucks Challenge. For him, the key lies in the information that, little by little, they are gathering. Only in this way are they able to optimise their proposals, transform their business models and segment their offer. In short, to be much more competitive. And, of course, loved ones. "One word comes to mind when I think of our company and our people: love. I love Starbucks because everything we have tried is steeped in humanity. Of respect and dignity. Of passion and joy. Of compassion, community and responsibility. Of authenticity.

This is the goal that has led so many other projects to adapt their corporate philosophy and to leverage the digital environment. Data-driven companies are giving absolute priority to data, one of the most coveted raw materials in the 21st century. To understand this a little better, just take a look at the figures: Google handles more than 40,000 searches every second, Instagram posts more than 50,000 photos every minute and LinkedIn receives more than 4,200,000 job applications every hour. Every click generates a trail. The problem is that raw data alone is not worth much. Which explains why many organisations are turning to big data to investigate it and modernise their services accordingly. That's precisely what Netflix has done. Why are we so hooked on it? Because they know us. And very well.

Video-on-demand platforms collect material non-stop: schedules, number of episodes, languages, genres, interruptions, changes... In this way, they are able to deduce trends and drive unique content. The best example is Stranger Things: this series was written based on algorithms. It premiered in 2016, a year in which 80s culture came back like a steamroller. ET, Alien, Alf and The Thing created a breeding ground that Netflix obviously knew how to predict. The result was overwhelming: more than 15 million viewers in 190 countries. A feat that, in Spain, it has tried to repeat with titles such as Élite, El inocente, La casa de papel and Sky rojo. If you think about it, they all share one characteristic: they all have that tawdry-intellectual touch that is so popular here. And they could only know that if they had studied our emotions beforehand. Something we make abundantly clear when we abandon an episode halfway through or binge-watch it over the weekend. "Our job is to please our users so that when they have a free hour, the first thing they do is go online," Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, told Business Insider.

A success story

Thanks to the analysis of this booty, it is possible to make better decisions. Big data is already helping companies to improve efficiency, optimise costs, prioritise customers, generate new sources of revenue... However, its benefits do not end there: this technology is not just an important part of the future, it could well be the future itself. Thus, the way in which companies and their professionals approach their missions will continue to be conditioned by how the way in which information is stored, transferred and understood evolves. The great strength of this technology is its ability to nimbly solve challenges that, in other contexts, would require much more time and resources

Nike, Tesla, Nest, BBVA and Apple are some of the other players that are betting on this route. Through it, for example, Coca-Cola pulled one of its most iconic flavours out of its sleeve. Cherry Sprite arrived in shops in 2017, after examining the numbers collected by the soda dispensing machines. In them, it was observed that customers were mixing their drinks to get a flavour similar to this one. This led the multinational to develop a product that quickly became a success. Something to which a sector as distanced as the political one has also aspired. The re-election of Barack Obama as president of the United States in 2012 benefited greatly from data analysis: his team dedicated itself exclusively to interpreting the information they received to generate strategies in line with the preferences of his voters. A feat that many now want to repeat.

More and more biscuits

There is no doubt that data has become one of the most precious treasures for companies. Not only from the biggest companies, but also from those we encounter in our day-to-day lives. For example, the use of big data helped the Walmart supermarket chain to detect that consumption of Pop Tarts rose explosively after a hurricane warning, as consumers kept them as provisions. The brand used this information to promote its products prominently during the announcement of a storm, thereby increasing sales.

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