B2B Increases Its Use of Big Data, But It’s Not Always The Right Data

Today’s supply chain is global, intricate, and complex, forcing manufacturers to bare the complex task of maintaining insight into their business customers, their supply chains, and their cash flow. A global supply chain has only been made possible due to technologies that connect businesses and facilitate digital payments, and these innovations are also imperative for suppliers to gain the insight necessary to managing their business.

For many enterprises, that insight comes in the form of Big Data, and new tools that analyze that information. But companies, especially smaller manufacturers, can be overwhelmed by this data, rendering it more of a useless burden than a crucial tool.

For the third year in a row, Dun and Bradstreet NetProspex has released its report on the creation and use of B2B databases among companies using its Workbench supplier management platform. The results of that study are painfully clear: data is flowing in, but the resulting databases used by companies to make business decisions are incomplete and inaccurate.

These revelations suggest that incoming Data-as-a-Service and Software-as-a-Service startups have a large gap to fill to make sure that companies are not only using Big Data, but are using the Right Data.

Data Pours In…

When Dun and Bradstreet NetProspex began this annual report in 2013, the research found 7 million records analyzed through the Workbench platform. That figure quickly jumped to 61 million in 2014 and, in 2015, is estimated to spike to 223 million. That is a 265 percent increase in the volume of data points processed through the platform in a single year.

“This dramatic increase in volume not only points directly to the fact that B2B marketers continue to seek out ways to understand the quality of their marketing data,” the research concluded, “but also to the importance of tools that allow them to quantify the impact of their data quality on their demand generating activities.”

…But It’s The Wrong Data

This wave of data – which will likely continue to grow in the coming years – can provide unprecedented information for suppliers, the research revealed shocking findings about the accuracy of that information.

More than two-thirds of records recorded were missing critical information about company revenue or industry data, and 62 percent of companies’ use of email to reach prospective business customers had a “questionable” ranking of the data used for those campaigns. Eighty-five percent of businesses surveyed said that revenue information about the businesses found in their databases is missing. About 75 percent of records within B2B databases, the research found, are either inaccurate or incomplete.

Overall, researchers gave companies’ accuracy and completeness of collected data a score of 3.2 on a scale of 1-5. That score is up from the 2.7 score businesses received in 2013, but clearly, there is room for improvement. “What we discovered is that despite the essential role that data plays in today’s B2B marketing world, the quality…is often less than ideal,” the study said.

A Missed Opportunity

The B2B community has largely come to a consensus that Big Data can improve business operations, and technology is key to analyzing that data. But the latest study uncovers some contradictory behaviors among B2B firms.

For example, researchers found that more than 80 percent of suppliers use social media platforms to reach potential business customers. About 80 percent post product and service information articles on their website, and nearly 80 percent reported using eNewsletters to reach new clients. Four of the top five tactics used to connect with business customers were digital and, on average, suppliers use more than one dozen different media to do business.

What’s more, more than half – 59 percent – of suppliers said that depth and accuracy of data is most important to reach new customers in 2015.

Yet with all of this use of digital strategies, a surprising 72 percent of businesses had missing website domains within their databases, despite the fact that the majority of B2B firms are now doing their procurement online.

“B2B companies are increasing their investment in time, resources and planning to improve the effectiveness of the content they develop to attract new customers and retain existing ones,” the report reads. “Organizations lacking a complete and consistent view of their contacts run the risk of poor conversion rates due to misaligned messaging that relies on broad-brush targeting and ineffective segmentation.”

These numbers suggest that suppliers and manufacturers are missing a large opportunity to actually use the influx of data coming in from this plethora of digital marketing strategies in which they invest.

Not only is this a missed opportunity to more accurately and effectively target new business customers, but there is also a missed opportunity to retain more cash. Dun and Bradstreet NetProspex reported recent findings from SiriusDecisions, which revealed that companies that properly manage their data can obtain a 66 percent higher conversion to revenue. Other studies, like a separate report by the Data Warehousing Institute, find that businesses in the U.S. alone waste $611 billion every year thanks to incorrect mailings and staff overhead stemming from the use of inaccurate and low-quality data.

The message is clear: while it is encouraging that B2B companies are making an effort to invest in digital technologies, these technologies can largely be useless – or perhaps even harmful – if the data resulting from these tools is inaccurate.