Free IMDA data tool helps Bee Cheng Hiang make sense of surge in online sales

Bee Cheng Hiang wanted to better understand how customers were shopping but its existing method by using Excel spreadsheets had limitations.
Bee Cheng Hiang wanted to better understand how customers were shopping but its existing method by using Excel spreadsheets had limitations.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - When Bee Cheng Hiang started selling barbecued meat online a few years ago before the pandemic, it did not give this a big push. But after Covid-19 hit, more people began to tap that sales platform over the past two years.

Online purchases had 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 late August, proved timely. The tool was officially launched by Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo on Tuesday (Sept 14) at a virtual seminar.

Mr Tommy Koh, Bee Cheng Hiang's chief technology officer, said the tool could help the company 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 added.

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 on Tuesday that using data can help SMEs better manage costs.

There is also a competitive lift.

A study last year by data visualisation firm Tableau and market research company YouGov found that more than 80 per cent of data-driven businesses said they gained business advantages despite Covid-19.

"This was because they could make decisions faster and communicate more effectively with stakeholders," said Mrs Teo.

For Bee Cheng Hiang, besides being able to act faster using insights from data, the new analytics tool also overcomes shortcomings with how it analysed information previously.

When using Excel spreadsheets to analyse business data, 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 is able to do this in a snap and flesh out key numbers and chart important data on a single screen.

So now, Bee Cheng Hiang knows that its minced pork bak kwa and pork floss products tend to be bought together, thanks to the tool.

"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 is aimed at using data analysis to help businesses to grow sales, get new customers, retain and engage existing clients, improve human resource planning and lower inventory costs.

Murder-mystery game provider Great Detective is planning to use the tool to help it, among other things, keep tabs on which of its games are the most popular so that it can offer more of them in the future.

Customers of murder-mystery game provider Great Detective. PHOTO: GREAT DETECTIVE

The firm wants to figure out who among its customers play its games the most too.

“This is so that we can consider enrolling them into a loyalty programme to encourage them to come back again,” said Ms Li Jie, a director at Great Detective.

The analytics tool 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 also 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 on Tuesday 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 and guides on data protection for businesses were also launched by IMDA, such as a checklist to help guard against common types of data breaches.

The BDDB business intelligence tool is available for free to companies at this website.