NEW YORK: Brand owners like Procter & Gamble, Google and Discovery Communications are enhancing their data analytics capabilities, tapping an area expected to deliver competitive advantages.

Procter & Gamble, the FMCG group, has been running its Business Sufficiency programme for the last two years, building dozens of analytic models to leverage the vast array of statistics at its disposal.

It is now able to monitor several crucial indicators - such as sales trends and market share by country, as well as media and advertising data - and plan between six and 12 months ahead.

"The key business benefit is the speed of decision-making," says Guy Peri, head of P&G's business analytics unit, told Information Week.

Discovery Communications, the media company, has just finished a two-month trial tracking data that from six of its Facebook pages, with a combined 15m fans, via a tie-up with Prosodic.

By maximising the relevance of posts containing links to its content, the number of followers interacting with Discovery rose by 46%, and clicks to its websites climbed by 40%.

"Because each of our 70-plus Facebook pages has a unique audience with selective interests, accurate targeting and optimisation of content has always been a challenge. There are simply no averages across an audience of this size," said Matt Crenshaw, Discovery's VP, marketing and analytics.

Google is a major entrant into this field on the supplier-side, with its BigQuery service, which it argued could help solve problems like improving online retailers' recommendations or assessing impressions from global multimedia ad campaigns.

"Fortune 500 companies struggle to unlock the potential of data, so it's no surprise that it's been even harder for smaller businesses," said Ju-kay Kwek, product manager for BigQuery.

Visa Europe, the financial services specialist, processes 11bn transactions each year, and is responsible for €1 out of every €8 spent in the region, and £1 out of every £4 spent in the UK.

To strengthen its in-house capabilities, and the information that can be shared with partners, it has recently taken a "significant" minority stake in Beyond Analysis, an analytics firm based in London.

"We have a massive data set, which is a very rich tool for understanding customer behaviour. The data is anonymous, so we don't know who the customers are, but it does mean we can understand purchase patterns," Crispin Rogers, VP, loyalty and merchant analytics, Visa Europe, said.

Data sourced from Information Week, MarketWatch, Google, Computing; additional content by Warc staff