Customers might not always be able to accurately convey what they want, but numbers don’t lie. The most successful companies are the ones who prioritize data and use it to improve their product and keep their customers happy. Here are some of the many companies that have succeeded by putting data first.
Not only is the short-term rental site (valued at a cool $25.5 billion last year) shaking up the hotel industry in a big way, but it relies on analytics to do so. Airbnb’s search algorithm is a huge component of their business; if vacationers can’t find rentals for the neighborhoods they want to be in within the first page or two of search results, they’ll be less likely to rely on Airbnb to find a place they want to stay. To fix this issue, Airbnb created probabilistic models to determine where someone was likely to have searched given where they booked, making their search algorithm more likely to display the best result for any given set of search terms. More recently, Airbnb has started trying to use data to increase the overall ratio of female employees on its team by analyzing the company’s hiring data. When they realized that even though they were getting many female applicants, very few of those were actually being hired, they took steps to make the interview process more gender-blind and create a more welcoming atmosphere for female applicants. By making these small changes, Airbnb was able to increase the ratio of female employees on its data science team from 15 percent to 30 percent in 2015.
Analytics and chill? It may seem that your Netflix queue sometimes knows you better than you do yourself—how else would you have found that obscure foreign film or indie Sundance pick? Netflix has been in the analytics business since it was primarily shipping DVDs, and as it has ventured into new content with the wildly successful “House of Cards,” and recent Golden Globe nominees “Grace and Frankie” and “Beasts of No Nation,” measuring its metrics has become even more important to its bottom line. From predicting exactly which comedy you’ll watch depending on which part of the world you’re in to measuring just how long you’ll scroll through your queue before switching on Hulu instead, Netflix has relied on data to disrupt the traditional movie and TV market, resulting in their stock going up 34% last year alone.
Analytics may not be the first thing you associate with the industrial giant, but in recent years the company has been heavily focusing on how data can make its products better. By attaching sensors to the products it manufactures and mining existing data, GE can make older technology such as trains more efficient by analyzing their emissions and fuel efficiency, which requires a growing team of data scientists. GE Digital, an umbrella organization for all of GE’s digital enterprises, was created last year and GE announced in January that it was moving its headquarters to Boston to take advantage of its proximity to schools like MIT and the area’s focus on research and development.
LinkedIn has long used search algorithms to determine who you might want to connect with on their networking site, but last December it announced a revamped version of its jobs section that capitalizes on its existing data to create a better user experience. The upgrade includes more data about the company, who works there, and how you compare to previous applicants so that you can better decide if sending off an application would be worth it.
Does the title of this blog post remind you of anything? Snagging the number one spot on FastCompany’s “Most Innovative Companies of 2016” list, BuzzFeed has grown astronomically since its founding in 2006, and now covers news, business, politics, food, entertainment, and tech as well as viral videos and articles. The company has been investing in understanding its data analytics since 2010, and now has 10 data scientists on staff responsible for analyzing the billions of data points generated each month.