Experts have been talking about big data for years, but 2015 could see a shift where every business decision derives from analytics. Numerical insights are bound to become unescapable as brands see the value of advanced, pervasive and invisible analytics.

Companies have started to embrace data insights for business decisions. Fashion retailer Zara, for example, announced that it was using data and new technologies to track items in store to make smarter stocking decisions. Each time a garment was sold, data from its RFID chip prompted an instant order to the stockroom to send out an identical item.

With insights at their fingertips, businesses will abandon completely ‘instinctive’ decision making so that all decisions and discussions are informed by data. This data-driven way of working will become a competitive asset – only with better data and insights will businesses be able to win in their marketplace.     

For marketers, using data will enable them to develop the best possible customer experience; defined as ‘unified brand experiences’. Customers don’t think in channels or devices, they expect to have the same brand experience wherever they interact with a company. Whether they’re buying a product on their tablet, desktop or in-store, they want to have access to the same products and branding they trust.

Apple has seen great success from its slick and seamless ecosystem, which means that users build systems around their products. The Apple Watch, for example, will require an essential component: an iPhone. Some features require a wireless connection with an iPhone meaning that Apple can really put its ecosystem to work. By creating ecosystems brands can offer the multi-channel customer experiences that customers are craving, investing in data software to achieve the joined up view of their customer and target them as they use it.

However, these ecosystems will likely also become more complex with the development of wearables. According to CCS Insight, shipments of smart wearables are expected to grow from 9.7 million in 2013 to 135 million in 2018 and, at CES recently smartwatches were the talk of the show thanks to Garmin, Sony and Swarovski (alongside other brands) all launching new products.

Wearable devices will play a large role in the Internet of Things, bridging the gap between indoors and outdoors. Once they are adopted more widely they will present hugely valuable data for marketers, as well as for the user wearing them. Sensors within clothes, for example, could identify that the wearer is developing an iron deficiency and order iron-rich food to the fridge connected at home to help treat this over time, or alternatively they could understand how a person was feeling and advertise products to them, such as films on streaming services, which appeal to their mood.

Analytics are changing the way marketers do business. However, to transform into completely analytics-driven organisations, brands will also need to make a fundamental shift in their thinking and approach. Investing in the right tools and technology is essential, but for data to be a long term strategic asset the company also has to make it a cultural focus. Only with the support of everyone within a company and by getting rid of silos can data be at its most valuable. That means insights from marketers being used across the business to inform more than just their own campaigns, but product development and customer service too.

In addition, with analytics everywhere, ensuring the protection of this data should be as high on the agenda for marketers as using data to build their campaigns and provide better customer experiences. The risk to data has become apparent in recent months with privacy being compromised by large high profile tech companies; Sony Pictures and Snapchat were both recently exposed to large data breaches for example. This has encouraged companies to realise the importance of secure data services and they will likely demand better encryption. Marketers need to take action to ensure the privacy of their customers’ information, rather than relying on preventative measures when it’s too late.

Typically, the marketing or IT team has been responsible for holding and managing data. However, now that it is becoming a bigger strategic asset, it’s likely that they will find themselves working alongside a chief digital officer, providing a link between the two teams and the rest of the business. The role of the chief digital officer is to promote the use of data as a strategic asset. Tasked with tackling issues like stopping data from sitting in siloes and ensuring that staff have the tools and skills needed to analyse, understand and implement insights, this role will have a clear business focus on using data to formulate strategies, grow sales and improve processes within the organisation. The creation of this role has been predicted in previous years but this year the chief digital officer will really become an influencer within organisations.

The creation of this new role is an illustration of how important data has become to organisations. And over the next 12 months data insights will only become more valuable, as companies realise the value of the business insights that can derive from analytics. Data will no longer be the language of marketers and IT professionals, as companies realise that it can shape decisions across the whole of their business.