Learn the difference between data and information in business, and discover what your enterprise needs to leverage your market research to its fullest.
Read more: Get data smart [Free Guide]
Data versus information
Put simply, data is a number, picture, statement, etc that is unprocessed.
It might be a name, the content of an email, an address, a sales figure; anything of that nature. If you printed out a bundle of receipts from your latest transactions and observed the total value, you would have a set of data.
Every business generates data, whether it’s through the cash register, an email list, a loyalty card or even just casual conversations with customers.
It isn’t just numbers in a system. You can get both structured data (numbers), and unstructured data (images, audio, writing, conversations). It is quite similar to the difference between quantitative and qualitative data.
Data in its raw form, as you can imagine, isn’t particularly useful. Knowing that some customer somewhere at some point paid $10 for something only tells you one thing: how much they paid. Once you begin gathering other data points, such as who, when, where, why and for what, and expand that out to your whole customer base, you start getting something more helpful for your strategy.
You start getting information.
Related content: 5 best practice tips for collecting customer data
What about information?
Information is processed data. It has meaning and context. It isn’t just a single data point, it’s a series of data points that have been melded into something that informs or allows you to act.
Take that $10 purchase from earlier. Once you know the specifics of that transaction, and other similar transactions, you might start noticing that one particular product is performing well at a specific time of day, or is being bought alongside other items. Each and every single one of those numbers, sales figures, timings, customer numbers; those are data points.
Once you group them together, collect them, organise them, analyse them and manage them, you get information. From information, you can see trends or connections or unfulfilled niches. From information, you can start strategising. From information, you get business intelligence.
Computers need data. Humans need information. The question you need to ask of your business is whether it has the capability to both gather data as well as changing data into information efficiently and accurately. It’s the difference between conducting research and generating actionable insights.
Related content: 4 steps to quality control your customer data
What does your business need from data and information?
From data, information. From information, business intelligence. Every business generates data, large and small, and every business can take advantage of data—it is how you process data that makes the difference.
However, all too often, businesses are working from broken, inaccurate or unimportant data. The information you need will change entirely on your growth stage and what industry you are in, and as a result, the data that you focus on will be unique as well.
- Do you need to find a new demographic to appeal to?
- Do you need to find a way to cut costs?
- Is it time to expand your physical presence? Perhaps your digital?
All of these questions affect the information that you need, and thus the data you need.
Moreover, the data you gather has to be both reliable and valid. Market research, i.e. data gathering, doesn’t stem from a single, short survey from a select group of customers. It is an in-depth, complex process, in which analysts separate the bad data from the good, the important from the unimportant; the wheat from the chaff, in other words.
Only by working with ‘good’ data can you hope to create ‘good’ information—the cornerstone of any solid business strategy.
Related content: The best way to analyse your customer experience feedback
Data builds information, and information builds strategic success. Without the first, you can’t have the second or the third. A good business is built upon great market research, which can gather and analyse all of the data that your company is currently gathering, separating the useful from the useless.
Get good information. Start with great data.
For more information on making the most of your market research, check out our free ebook below.