Next week the French resort of Cannes will play host to sales and marketing executives from all over Europe and beyond. It is probably fair to say that the appropriately confidently styled “Outperform Europe 2014” event will be a livelier affair than if it were aimed at finance teams. At the same time, though, it is clear that the promenades and cafes of the Mediterranean city famed for its annual film festival are unlikely to be peopled by the likes of the characters from Death of a Salesman, Glengarry Glen Ross or other fictional works inspired by individuals who always have an eye for a deal. For this event, backed by the data analysis company PROS, is much more about using big data to understand buying, selling and pricing patterns than it is about the art of closing.
Big data has, of course, played a significant role in business for some time now. For example, supermarkets use information gained via their customers’ loyalty cards to stock their stores appropriately, while the advent of personal computers and increasingly sophisticated software programmes means that today’s managers have at their fingertips detailed information that their predecessors would never have been able to glean. This weight of information can itself be a problem, of course. But that is something for another discussion. What is significant is that – despite the eager take-up of big data and analytics – one crucial area of business, namely the price at which a good or service is sold, has to a large extent remained immune. This is particularly true in Europe. Pol Vanaerde, director of the European Pricing Platform, which helps develop and share knowledge of pricing around the continent, says that so many companies are in the early stages of “pricing maturity” that there are plenty of opportunities for companies to optimize revenue streams.