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November 07, 2019

What Small Businesses Can Learn From Big Data

One of the biggest factors in small business success is making good decisions. In the past, companies did so with the best tools they had available, such as surveys, observation of competitors, consultant advice, and even guesswork.

Now, as a business owner or manager, you have a new tool for your decision-making toolbelt: big data. When you analyze big data, you get the objective, granular information you need to drive your company forward in ways that support its success.

Here we explain what big data is and how it can help your small business. We also explore where to find assistance with big data analysis. (Hint: competent providers can offer remote services from many areas of the world. For example, in South America, software development services are cost-effective and reliable, with the added benefit of sharing time zones with the U.S.) 

What Is Big Data?

Big data refers to the massive amount of information businesses collect through government databases, mobile phone usage patterns, social media, call center interactions, physical sensors, and other sources. Big data is characterized by the “three vs,” volume, variety, and velocity, meaning there is a lot of it, it comes from a range of sources, and it accumulates quickly.

When analyzed thoughtfully, big data can reveal insights about customer shopping and buying patterns, potential income streams, likely future conditions, and so much more. Yet, only 23% of organizations have a big data strategy. Part of the resistance to creating one might be that big data seems like a big hassle. The truth is that many applications are available to help non-data experts view this information in a user-friendly way.

How Can Big Data Help Your Business?

Using insights gleaned from big data, you can better understand key external areas of your business, including customer preferences, emerging trends, and rising competition. You can also more easily track what’s working or not working with your internal operations.

For example, you could learn about your customers’ purchasing histories to better understand their preferences and then alter your outreach program to better meet their needs and gain more of their trust and their business. Alternatively, you could pinpoint precisely what the customer load is likely to be during any given work shift and adjust your staff accordingly to save on labor costs.

The list of possibilities is nearly limitless. To identify what the competition is up to, you could use Google Trends to track the popularity of a particular brand or product and back it up with information gleaned from Twitter (News - Alert). (One caveat to be aware of is that your competitors can get the same information about you.)

Where to Find Help With Big Data Analysis

Like most other services for your business, big data solutions come in all shapes and sizes. You can buy an off-the-shelf solution, such as Tableau, SAP (News - Alert) Business Intelligence, or Zoho Analytics, that’s affordable and may be perfectly fine for your needs, especially if you’re just starting out with data analysis.

These tools offer reports that answer common business questions such as “How can we save on customer care,” “Which customers have spent the most on our services,” and “How can we make visitors more efficient on our website?”

Alternatively, you can look for a provider who will offer a more personalized solution. Outsourcing big data analysis might be the best approach when you need a level of customization that the premade packages don’t offer. Naturally, these services will be more expensive over time, but the insights they provide may far outweigh what you spend. Here are some quick tips for finding the best provider:

  • Look for a vendor who has experience in your industry.
  • Try a small service with each vendor you’re interested in before signing a contract for ongoing work.
  • Be sure your working styles (such as collaboration, communication frequency and manner, and even time zones) are compatible.
  • Compare data security methods. Ask for specifics from each vendor about their practices. Include language about security in the contract.
  • Discuss appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs) and service level objectives.
  • Establish concrete goals that can be evaluated over time.

A final method is to have your internal IT team develop a custom solution. This alternative works well when you have a large enough IT department that some members can be spared to take on this task.

In Summary

Big data doesn’t have to be a big mystery or a big hassle. Even small businesses can benefit from analyzing the data they already have access to. The keys are to ask the right questions and use the results to make smart decisions.

The potential for big data to help your business is so great that at least trying it out is a smart strategic move. The results can be better customer relationships, more sales, enhanced efficiency, and overall improved business success.

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