Be Data-Driven or Be Displaced

digital transformation course with tom goodwin

Partner Content


Companies that believe they are what they sell are quickly being displaced by those that see themselves not just as a product, a service or a solution provider but as data-driven customer problem solvers. While what you sell may define your goals, objectives and competitors, it will be the innovative use of data and technology that defines your future or undoing. 

Data and technology underpin everything we do, and they are the driving force behind almost every major global business transformation. Businesses are being challenged and transforming all around us, and it’s happening at unbelievable speeds. 

Just 10 years ago, who could have guessed that the world’s largest hotelier would own no real estate? After Airbnb’s recent IPO, the company was worth more than the three largest hotel chains combined. And in the transportation industry, Uber, one of the world’s largest transportation companies, owns few vehicles. They started off delivering people to places and expanded to deliver things to people. And consider what it means for both these companies to expand locally and globally. They don’t have to build more hotels or buy more vehicles; they completely shifted the paradigm.  

Airbnb and Uber looked at customer problems through a different lens – they used data and technology to solve real-world needs in new ways. So how do you win? You master the use of data and leverage technology in ways your competitors are not. And that means thinking of yourself beyond the traditional categories, like retail and financial services, and realizing that you are in the data and technology game. What’s at stake? Your future. Chances are, if you don’t make the shift, you will likely be unseated by a competitor who does. 

Is your brand truly data-driven?

Companies that are data-driven see themselves differently. They see themselves as capable of disrupting any product or industry by using data ethically to their advantage. Upstarts are making huge waves in categories long thought to be completely commoditized. Look no further than the re-invention of shaving with companies like the Dollar Shave Club that Unilever purchased for $1 billion. And even more recently, shaving newbie Harry’s has enjoyed growth that is three times faster than the industry average, making it the third-largest shaving brand in the U.S. The market is filled with similar stories of disruptors changing the game in every industry: 

  • Allbirds – This seven-year-old company is changing the way we think about shoes. Understanding the value people place on sustainability and the positive impact it can make on our planet, it disrupted the sneaker market with a sustainable wool shoe.  A recent launch of its new mobile app was downloaded more than 17,000 times the first day, and with series-E funding secured, Allbirds is now valued at $1.7 billion.  
  •  Chime – This eight-year-old privately owned neobank made it their business to understand the banking needs of the middle- and lower-income market better than anybody else. With meaningful offerings like providing advances on stimulus checks and secured credit cards, Chime has more than doubled their market value from $6 billion to $15 billion in 2020.
  • DoorDash – This home-delivery service describes itself as connecting people with the best their cities have to offer, citing that while the company is starting with food service, its true goal is to help build stronger communities. DoorDash is changing when, where and how often we interact with our favorite restaurants to the tune of $72 billion at its December IPO.

These companies are all out in front because they saw an opportunity or a differentiated approach, and they used data and technology to disrupt the market. And while it’s a combination of data and technology, the real star of the show is the data. I know what you’re thinking – the technology is critical. That’s true, but it’s about leveraging, not inventing. 

Historically, technology required significant capital investments in data centers, servers and storage backed by armies of developers to invent new and differentiated products and services. But the cloud has been the great equalizer. Most of what is needed is readily available inside the major cloud platforms, like AWS, GCP and Azure.  Even highly complex and sophisticated technologies like machine learning and AI are available, usually as basic plug-ins, at little to no charge. And for those of us who have been in the tech business for years and know the cost and pain of moving service uptimes just a fraction of a percentage point, well that comes standard, too – 99.9% is now the minimum default for every major cloud provider.

While solving the technology aspects of these solutions is no small task, especially the technology integration challenges, becoming data-driven is where your company will need to dig deep in new ways.  Data lakes (and puddles) exist everywhere, and bringing them together to maximize insights requires a team of experts, both inside and outside your company. Becoming a data-driven company before your competitors do is truly the next innovator’s dilemma

Up next, I’ll share three actionable principles you can apply to move from data-driven theory to real-world practice.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts about what it means to be data-driven. Share your comments below, and don’t forget to engage with Acxiom on any of our social channels or visit our website for more resources on how we can help you become data-driven.