Thursday, July 30, 2015

Are Your Insights Interesting or Actionable?


“What is the business objective and who is the audience?” this is the question you should always ask before developing data insights.  This will help you figure out if you need to focus on Interesting or actionable insights. Yes, actionable insights are also interesting but not the way Media thinks. Media hypes Interesting Insights, insights that might not be actionable and valuable to the business. Your business stakeholders might prefer actionable insights over interesting. I said might because some business stakeholders (sometimes) will prefer Interesting even though that can’t do much with it, it just sounds good in their presentation.
Let’s look at example of Interesting insights that gets coverage in Media.
“We can tell you that on a January morning in Miami, if a set of weather conditions occurs, people will buy a certain brand of raspberry,” he says. Not just any fruit. Raspberries. When advertisers ask for an explanation—why raspberries?—Somaya can’t always provide a clear answer. “A lot of times we have to tell them to just trust us.” Other times, he finds correlations that make perfect sense. “There’s a particular dew point percentage that makes everyone in Dallas rush out and buy bug spray,” he says. “We couldn’t figure out why, then we realized that insects’ eggs hatch at that dew point.” Basically, everyone in Dallas was getting bitten at once.
Great, very interesting but as a business what will you do with it? If you are a grocery store in Miami then either you have raspberry in stock or not. If you have it then great, you don’t need those insights. If not then you can’t just go order your distributors to get you the Raspberries when those set of conditions happens.  Ordering takes time and so does shipping, by the time you get those raspberries in your store it is already too late.
Similarly in the second case, you can’t just go ahead and start stocking bug spray when the dew point hits a certain point. Either you have them in stock and you will sell them or you don’t have them then by them time you get that shipment, dew point has already changed. Let’s assume that you are able to use advertising (mobile/online/social/TV) when the right conditions (dew point and other conditions) happen.  But, by the time customer gets the message those conditions are most likely already over, leaving your advertising worthless. But Media does not care about that, all they care about is more readership which comes when there is something interesting.  In a nutshell, such insights are developed for Media, if that’s your goal then sure go ahead and generate and publicize them.
Actionable insights on the other hand might not be as interesting to the outside world but as they are to your business. These insights will certainly provide the value to your business.  If you tell your stakeholders that customers buy notebooks in two weeks leading up to school opens (back to school) and buy calculators a week after school opens, then that is an insight you can use to drive more sales. You can plan your inventory and advertising based on school start dates. Media likely won’t talk about such insights but it is actionable and interesting (for the business).
So when coming up with insights always keep in mind the objective and your audience. Both Interesting and Actionable have their place but don’t confuse one for the other.

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