Using Non-Traditional Datasets to Anticipate What the “New Normal” Has in Store for Businesses
By Brian Lichtenberger, CEO and co-founder, 7Park Data
We still can’t predict with any certainty when the pandemic will end or how long it will take for the U.S. economy to recover. What will “normal” be for those industries hit especially hard like travel, entertainment, and retail? Will consumers who have adopted new habits like shopping online for everything from groceries to furniture continue to do so? What happens to office space owners and managers if more people decide to continue working from home full-time? There are so many seemingly unanswerable questions. But the data that hold clues to the answers are available; you just need to know where to look.
Quarterly earnings reports, analyst firms’ research, government agencies like the U.S. Bureau of Labor, and the Federal Reserve are all examples of traditional data sets. The limitation inherent to analyzing traditional datasets is that even the most recent data may reflect activity months, quarters or even years in the past.
There are non-traditional (aka alternative) datasets that cover all industries, and allow investors and analysts to track vehicle sales, B2B software purchases, consumer activity like spend in bars and restaurants, online shopping food delivery and ridesharing, employment data including hiring and salary, rental rates and average rents paid, and other commonly used datasets like credit card and geolocation data.
For example, the pandemic has turned the commercial real estate (CRE) market on its head. But traditional CRE data sources, including the census or government offices that may have closed at the height of the pandemic, have incomplete or delayed data. Alternative datasets can be leveraged as indicators of trends to come and provide valuable insights about employer demand, consumer spending power, and market valuation, especially given their much shorter lag time (days instead of months) compared to traditional resources. Datasets to consider in the case of CRE could be consumer spend, payroll data, job posts, firmographics, rental rates, and new permitting.
No matter what industry your business is in, using non-traditional datasets can help you interpret the current environment and anticipate market trends that you can capitalize on in the short- and long-term. Here are three guidelines to follow:
We’re all grasping to understand and adapt to our new normal. The key to gaining an understanding is admitting that mostly everything and everyone has changed. This makes the ability to leverage data to inform business decisions a competitive imperative. The availability of non-traditional datasets across virtually every industry makes it possible for any company to gain the critical insight they need to bring their business out of the pandemic-imposed recession.