The process of trend analysis involves comparing business data over time to identify any trends or consistent results. As a matter of fact, you can then develop a strategy to respond to these trends in line with your business goals and ecology .
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Trend analysis thus, helps you understand how your business has performed and predict where current business operations and practices will take you. Done well, it will give you ideas about how you might change things to move your business in the right direction and better preserve our planet.
You can use trend analysis to help improve your business by:
- identifying trends areas where your business is performing well so you can duplicate success
- identifying areas where your business is underperforming
- providing evidence to inform your decision making
- reducing energy and go renewable
- reducing waste
- using sustainable materials in your products, packaging and marketing
- using local and sustainable suppliers/partners
- measuring and reducing your carbon footprint.
Furthermore, Micro2media unique Machine learning algorithm uses historical data to analyse trends and improve your business.
Choosing trends and results to analyse
Factors that contribute to your overall success—often called key performance indicators (KPIs)—make a good starting point for regular trend analysis.
Reviewing trends and key performance indicators (KPIs)
Thus, when choosing which KPIs to track and review for trends, look for factors that drive sales figures, costs and cash flow.
For example, when reviewing sales, monitor the figures that show what is happening in your business, such as:
- categories of products selling well
- how priority products with the best margins and the best payment terms are selling
- the performance of each sales person
- how conversion rates (i.e. ratio of leads to sales) are changing.
Measuring financial trends
These financial trends have a direct impact on business performance and are worth measuring:
- cost of goods
- cash flow
- net profit.
Analysing other trends
In addition, other factors impacting on overall business performance include:
- speed of stock turnover
- payment terms and debtor or creditor days
- trading hours
- display area or floor space
- staff numbers
- waste management costs.
Developing a trend analysis system
Furthermore, by monitoring your business’s performance over an extended period of time, you can establish useful information on trends. You can then use this data to refine your business decisions and strategies.
Stages of trend analysis
Set up an effective trend analysis system by:
- preparing for analysis—determine what performance data or results you are going to examine and compare
- applying a threshold—define the level at which a variation is worth noting. For example, a 10% increase or decrease in sales over a period of time should be investigated for causes. Use your discretion as you know your business best
- conducting cause analysis—investigate why the variation occurred so you can use this information for future planning and decision making.
Use a management information system for your trends
To make sure your analysis is meaningful, put a record keeping system and process in place to record accurate information. Communicate therefore, a set of procedures that both you and your staff understand.
Make sure the business data is collected, recorded, reported and evaluated quickly and efficiently by:
- keeping accurate business records—including financial information, staff hours, stock (in or out) and marketing campaigns
- analysing trends at critical decision points—for example, potential cash flow issues, staffing, peak sales periods and the success of marketing campaigns
- collecting information on a regular basis—with the frequency determined by the type of data you are collecting
- maintaining data integrity—by agreeing on definitions of what is included or excluded from a particular count; for example, including sales of new season stock and not old season stock for the duration of a marketing campaign
- storing information in a useable format—for example, using spreadsheets or accounting software
- encouraging team participation—by promoting what you are doing to the people who collect and record your data.
Benchmarking your business for trend analysis
Benchmarking is a way of measuring your performance against similar-sized businesses in your industry. You can benchmark almost all the areas of your business that are important to your success.
Limitations of trend analysis
Hence, keep in mind there are situations when trend analysis is of limited use. Examples include:
- if conditions change dramatically, historical data may not apply
- comparing data on an annual basis may not always accurately represent business performance, since other factors may influence results
- data collected over an extended period of time does not allow adjustments for inflation.
Analysing trends to improve business
Spending time analysing your business results is valuable if the insights help you to improve your business.
Genuine trend analysis will help reveal trends in your business’s performance that aren’t necessarily obvious from day-to-day performance figures.
In addition, you can analyse your business performance for trends by:
- doing financial calculations
- looking at ratios
- creating tables of information
- graphing results over time.
Conducting useful trend analysis
Analysing one trend is rarely useful, but when trend information is combined with other business observations and information, it can be a powerful tool for business decision-making.
Here is an example of staff turnover:
Staff turnover in 2021
- First quarter 10%
- Second quarter 14%
- Third quarter 16%
- Fourth quarter 8%
The information above indicates staff turnover has dropped recently—usually a good sign. This doesn’t tell you how it will impact on your business. To find out you need to analyse other factors.
The table below shows something more useful than the information above does on its own.
Staff turnover from 2019-2021
In isolation, the information indicates a positive result. When compared to the table, turnover per quarter is significantly greater than in previous years.
There is an upward trend in staff turnover. This gives you a warning that staff turnover is becoming a problem and you may need to take steps to alter the trend.
Micro2media Machine learning & trend analysis
Our algorithm uses the following built modules for machine learning tasks.
- Trend detection
- Extracting Keywords
- Parsing data
- Natural Language Understanding model
- Emotion detection
- Concept mapper
Trend detection module
A trend is defined by Surveillance Insight as a significant and prolonged change in the number of indicators that you would expect to see. In addition, an easy-to-read user interface identifies and displays all such shifts in the indicator counts, whether up or down.
Extracting Keywords module
Furthermore, using the e-communication keyword extraction service, key words and phrases can be extracted from text such as emails or chat messages. By parsing the text into sentences, the algorithm removes the most frequent but least useful words (stop-words). The most significant key words and phrases are then determined using various statistical and frequency methods.
Parsing data module
Moreover, to produce good results, many natural language processing steps require relatively clean texts. It is possible, however, for data to be messy and to contain irrelevant information. There are a number of formats used in texts, which makes it difficult for text analysis to cope with characters such as HTML tags, uncommon characters, and corrupted or encoded sequences of random characters. As a matter of fact, this service removes redundant characters and text as a first step.
Natural language understanding module
Natural language understanding models can tag the words of a sentence with given tags, and to tag two custom entities and then use the two tagged entities to extract a relationship between the entities in the text.
Emotion detection module
The Emotion Detection module uses a custom scoring model to detect emotions and sentiment in unstructured data, such as text from web content, social media, emails, instant messages, and voice transcripts.
Concept mapper module
The Concept Mapper module detects the concepts in unstructured text such as emails, instant messages, or voice transcripts.
As with any other type of prediction (otherwise known as a calculated guess), the success of trend analysis hinges on the basic principle of “what you put in is what you get out”. Key considerations here are the accuracy and completeness of the data, the frequency of data collection and having the data in an easily accessible and usable format.
It is also important to have something to compare against. Benchmarking should be used to create the ideal gold standard to serve as your reference point. Furthermore, benchmarks can be created by looking both internally and externally. If there are similar-sized organisations within your industry that are performing well, those could be used as your benchmark. Similarly, if there are particular departments within your organisation that are performing well, they too can become benchmarks. Even a particular period (i.e. a particular financial year) can be used as a baseline for tracking purposes.
The final two pieces of the trend analysis puzzle are:
- Defining at which point a downward or upward change is worth looking into.
– Is a 10% increase in sales significant? Would it warrant a closer look?
- And identifying what caused it.
– What were the contributing factors that lead to this change? Can it be replicated?
Hence, once you have a good process in place for collecting, comparing and analysing data, trend analysis becomes a very powerful tool over time.
Our expertise within the analysis field makes Analyze the ideal partner to assist with trend analysis within your organisation.
Want to find out more? Get in touch with us today if you are looking for the expertise of a niche management consulting firm.
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