Editor’s Note: This is the second in a three-part Create Smarter Businesses series. The first article was posted on May 1. The final article is slated to appear in early July.  

Part one of this series discussed the difference between unstructured and structured data and its potential to unlock valuable insights and trends that aid in making key business decisions. Unstructured data is too valuable to ignore. It contains insights of huge transformational significance to organizations. Distributors with a forward-looking perspective should be examining unstructured data and taking advantage of the benefits it offers to drive growth and increase business efficiency. In turn, this will increase their competitive advantage.

Data has had a huge impact on all aspects of business and this trend will continue. IDC has forecasted that by 2025, individuals will have 4,800 daily interactions with Internet of Things (IoT) devices or one interaction every 18 seconds. With more than 80 percent of this data being unstructured, businesses run the risk of missing opportunities to better serve customers and increase customer loyalty by ignoring this data.


Unstructured data can provide a wealth of data and a comprehensive view into all aspects of business operations. Therefore, incorporating the examination and analysis of unstructured data into decision making can have sizeable performance gains. It can allow organizations to make better, smarter, more informed decisions. Analyzing unstructured data provides an opportunity for savvy distributors to elevate their success through enhanced awareness of customer habits and desires.

Email remains the preferred customer order method with more than 74 percent of orders still being submitted via this channel. Therefore, distributors are missing out on a significant quantity of actionable insights if they solely focus on extracting data exclusively from organized, structured digital sources. Data from emailed orders can present patterns and beneficial insights into business operations. This includes awareness into areas such as customer purchase patterns, transaction preferences, and timing of order placements. Knowledge of the time of day a customer submits a purchase order allows distributors to tailor and offer time-specific discounts or promotions to that customer. Insights into all these factors creates an opportunity for increasing sales and adding additional products to an order, one of the best ways for distributors to directly increase margins.

Reviewing unstructured data can provide understanding into all types of order channels. It provides distributors with a full view into how much time it takes to serve each customer, highlighting the true cost to serve. Full visibility into each area of the customer transaction provides an accurate snapshot of processes and knowledge of whether customer expectations are being fulfilled. Distributors can gain insight into where bottlenecks are and identify the accounts that are within profit forecast. With a comprehensive summary of information, such as time spent by employees serving customers, distributors can target resource inefficiencies. Ultimately, this allows improved resource allocation that increases margins and productivity. Knowledge from unstructured data into how customers progress through stages of the purchasing funnel can also help distributors design programs and incentives that aid with the satisfaction and, most importantly, the retention of these customers.

Analysis of unstructured data can also garner insights into factors such as seasonality and the type of products a customer typically orders. A deeper understanding into the ups and downs of order volume can assist distributors with inventory control through more accurate forecasting of product quantities. With data highlighting factors such as channels used for order placement, management of inventory can be streamlined and employees placed more efficiently.

Overall, distributors that invest in solutions to garner insights from unstructured data can ascertain a significant advantage over their competitors. Ignoring unstructured data runs the risk of missing opportunities that may benefit business growth, improve customer service, and boost sales. This could lead to a performance gap that will only continue to rise as additional data is generated.

Publication date: 05/30/18