The future of business analytics will look like your favourite app

Believe it or not, this world already exists. Most of us just don’t know it.

Spotify currently has 381 million users listening to music and podcasts; Netflix just reported that it has 221 million subscribers streaming movies and shows across the globe; It is estimated that 100 million people use an Apple Watch, and many more millions use other wearable fitness devices as well. The list goes on– these companies help millions of people discover new artists, find a show to watch, and even live healthier lives. Their users are everyday consumers, not business analysts or data scientists, and yet they are somehow making decisions using insights based on the largest and most complex of data sources. If you want to see the future of analytics in business, look to the leading consumer apps.

Smarter decisions through infused analytics

If it seems like consumers of these apps are not really using analytics that is because they are not – at least not in the way businesses typically talk about analytics. Missing from these apps are standalone dashboards, static charts, or any mention of data warehouses. Instead, these apps use data insights to offer informed choices to their end-users– what show to watch, what music to listen to, and whether we are on track to meet our daily fitness goals.

Analytics is what makes these decisions possible. Spotify, for example, combines data from a user’s historical listening habits, other users with similar musical tastes, and even popular songs recommended anywhere on the internet, in order to offer more relevant songs to listen to. This is an immense amount of data that even the seasoned data analyst would struggle with, but for Spotify, it is done instantly, personalized to each user, and critically, the results surface in the app itself.

This is how every leading consumer app gets millions of people to use data every day to make smarter decisions. They use cutting-edge technology to extract insights from data and then infuse those insights throughout their app. As a result, users simply have the insights they need, in the apps they are using, often unaware they are using analytics at all.

Analytics that prescribe action

Another innovative feature of top consumer apps is helping us focus on taking action. Traditional analytics focuses on descriptive analysis and tells us what already happened. More advanced analytics is predictive, using historical data to guess the future. Leading consumer apps go even further, giving us prescriptive, guided analysis with suggestions and recommendations based on the actions we want to take.

Look at smartwatches or fitness trackers, for example. They inform us of how many calories we have burned and that given our current rate, we may not make our goal for the day. However, they also provide suggestions on what to do as a result: you will hit our goal if you just take a twenty-minute walk.

These devices would not be nearly as effective if they simply captured data and made it available to query through an analytics tool. They might be useful, but probably not widely adopted, if they provided a standalone dashboard of historical data, viewable through a web portal through a phone or computer. Instead, all the data crunching happens on the smartwatch itself, and the user simply receives a notification of what to do next. As a result, they have revolutionized the fitness and health care industries by simply focusing on helping people live healthier lives.

Analytics will help us invent brand new products

The biggest limitation of traditional business analytics is that it is too focused on reporting. Various technologies have come and gone, helping businesses build prettier dashboards, dashboards that are accessible anywhere on any device, or even automatically generated dashboards. These advances made business analytics more efficient to operate but did nothing to improve the utilization of information. The future of analytics is helping people pick the right action by offering the right insights at the moment they are needed.

This is ultimately what consumer companies get right. They focus on using insights from data to help people make smarter decisions, and not on the data itself. We are finally beginning to see more businesses adopt this consumer approach to analytics, and these companies are not just in the media and entertainment industry either.

Freckle, for example, is an education company helping schools understand student progress. Personica is helping restaurants adapt to becoming online digital businesses. Moreover, just two years ago, Ava, a company providing a fertility bracelet powered by analytics, announced that it has helped 50,000 women become pregnant without invasive treatment. Each company provides a product or service made possible by analytics; each does so by making the analytics seem invisible.

This is the future of analytics, and it is only the beginning.

Written by Scott Castle, SVP of Product at Sisense