When Bee Cheng Hiang started selling barbecued meat online a few years ago, it did not make a big push.
After Covid-19 struck last year, more people began to tap its sales platform and online purchases more than doubled.
The traditional food products company wanted to better understand how customers were shopping, but its existing method using Excel spreadsheets had limitations.
A free data analytics tool, made available to the firm for testing since last month, proved timely.
The tool was officially launched by Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo yesterday at a virtual seminar.
Mr Tommy Koh, chief technology officer at Bee Cheng Hiang, said that the tool helps the firm better plan production and sales activities.
"If we see from the data that sales of some products are better than expected, we can act quickly to boost production to meet demand," he said.
This free business intelligence tool is part of the Infocomm Media Development Authority's (IMDA) Better Data Driven Business (BDDB) programme.
The initiative, announced in March, seeks to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are starting to learn how to use data to make sense of it.
It also aims to support SMEs looking to apply and share data for more complex purposes.
Speaking at the eighth annual Personal Data Protection Seminar, Mrs Teo said using data can help SMEs better manage costs.
There is also a competitive boost.
A study last year found that more than 80 per cent of data-driven firms said they gained business advantages despite Covid-19 - "because they could make decisions faster and communicate more effectively with stakeholders", she said.
Bee Cheng Hiang has been able to act faster using insights from data, while the tool has also helped it to overcome shortcomings in how it analyses information.
When using spreadsheets to analyse business data previously, it was not able to easily figure out which products were frequently bought with others, for instance, without a lot of tinkering.
But the business intelligence tool - which can be downloaded at www.imda.gov.sg/bddb - can do this in a snap and flesh out key numbers and chart important data on a single screen.
Now, Bee Cheng Hiang knows that its minced pork bak kwa and pork floss products tend to be bought together.
"We want to make the tool available to management in one to two months," said Mr Koh. "They see the potential of it helping them with the day-to-day business."
The tool can help businesses to grow sales, get new customers, retain and engage existing clients, improve human resource planning and lower inventory costs.
It also has data protection features, such as collecting only information necessary for analysis and changing customer names into pseudonyms.
Under the BDDB programme, 100 subsidised training places for data analysis will be offered in the fourth quarter, under a tie-up between IMDA and the National Trades Union Congress. The subsidy is for up to 70 per cent of the training fee.
Mrs Teo also announced that companies that receive IMDA's Data Protection Trustmark certification can get discounts on premiums for private cyber insurance, such as to cover data breaches.
The voluntary certification, launched in 2019, helps consumers identify organisations that have in place data protection policies and practices that are assessed independently.
New resources on data protection for businesses were also launched by IMDA. These include a checklist to help guard against common types of data breaches.