Data can be a powerful tool for businesses, if used correctly—this is the central premise of Analytics for Firm Decisions, taught by Professor Hema Yoganarasimhan in the Master of Science in Business Analytics program at Foster School of Business. In her course, MSBA students learn to be data-savvy by focusing on the carefully constructed data as it relates to specific business goals to make key decisions about marketing plans. The transition from average analyst to data-savvy decision-maker comes from learning how to identify marketing problems, combining consumer theories with custom models to optimize marketing outcomes, and ultimately drawing smarter conclusions from the data derived.
Identifying Marketing Problems & Optimizing Outcomes Using Data Analytics
One of the primary learning outcomes this course tackles is showing students how to draw smarter conclusions from data by first outlining and recognizing potential problems. Students ask themselves questions like How can I measure a consumer’s perception of a product? To find a solution, they draw on fundamental courses from prior quarters. Specifically, students build on the foundational principles learned in programming essentials, probability & statistics, and spreadsheet modeling. “Professor Hema was a rockstar, even when reviewing programming. She quickly went from the fundamentals of how to evaluate code and set up models to making the case for how to interpret it and reach a conclusion. It really set the pace for the course,” current MSBA student, Nicola Ruggiero, shared.
The intricate part of the course comes from balancing marketing fundamentals (the four P’s”—product design, pricing, promotion & advertising, and pricing)—with the data from the models to reach better business decisions. “Say we looked at a store that sells Tide products,” shared Nicola. “The model could tell us how different store placements or promotions of the Tide product would affect the sale increase or decrease a.k.a. the price elasticity, and how it would affect the products surrounding the Tide product.” By combining their knowledge of marketing fundamentals with insights from the data, students are able to make smarter, more informed marketing decisions. Ultimately, students are armed with the ability to identify the best products to promote, products that need to sell better, and products that have a competitive edge.
From Formulas to Facts
If you are wondering what type of math is involved in this course, the answer is nearly everything. “There was a lot of calculation in this course, probably more than in any other course,” recalls Nicola. “She [Professor Hema] referenced a lot of log-linear, log-log models, and many, many formulas, which we had to learn how to use. We even wrote our own programming to solve for equations in our scripts.” The material presented challenges to students, regardless of whether they had a background in mathematics. Luckily, Professor Hema’s course was designed to aid students in the difficult process of drawing conclusions. Class lectures coupled with sample cases and formulas to review together were just the tip of the iceberg. As students gained confidence in their knowledge, they were assigned case studies to complete on their own, and formulas to practice before applying them in class. With a firm foundation built, students were given their final assignment—students worked in teams to create an analysis of wine products selected from different countries based on reviews. They got to pick products, assign prices, and decide which products were worthwhile.
“The final project was probably my favorite part of class,” shared Nicola. “Working on that assignment helped me understand why everything came together the way it did.” During the last class, students presented their findings to one another in a poster sharing session. “When we completed our project, that’s when I had my aha moment. I realized we had made the best wine selection for the wine shop and were confident in our decision.”
Hema’s class brought students full-circle as they learned to weave together marketing fundamentals with insights from data models to reach better marketing and business outcomes. Learn more about the Master of Science in Business Analytics program.