Big data – it’s a term that refers to, quite literally, a big amount of information. In the modern world, major businesses now collect and store massive amounts of data on customers and clients, economic trends, and the impact of financial decisions. But big data isn’t just for big businesses.
Small companies now have the capacity to collect information on a scale like never before, and this data can lead to important insights in the growth process. Big data allows businesses of all sizes to identify mistakes, improve marketing, and innovate – and it’s a tool no organization should go without. In this article, we’ll go over some of the key ways that big data can add value to small businesses.
Approaches to Big Data
Collecting and storing large amounts of data can be a big challenge – and analyzing it for useful insights is an even bigger one. Smaller businesses can choose one of two approaches to this process: in-house analysis or working with a consultant.
Consulting offers many advantages to small businesses which want to work with big data. Consultants offer expertise without a steep learning curve and are often immediately available to begin collection and analysis without impacting staff workload.
IT firms not only help businesses develop infrastructure to collect data, but keep it safe as well. Businesses should be sure to select a consultant that can handle the demands of big data security. Firms like Computers in the City (computersinthecity.co.uk), for instance, offer a number of services specifically tailored to the General Data Protection Regulation.
Hands-On: Collection and Analysis Tools
Small businesses may also opt to analyze big data themselves. This option is often less expensive than hiring a consultant – but it can be more labor intensive. Businesses that choose this approach must take several steps to protect their data, including training staff on privacy and security, creating policies on data use and collection, and properly labeling all data collected.
Types of Data
Although “big data” itself is not a complex concept, it can be complex to deal with. There are several types of big data that small businesses may have access to, and each has their own unique benefits. For small businesses, most data falls into one of two categories:
- Unstructured Data. Most of the data that exists is unstructured. Unstructured data can be created by humans or machines and includes complex, detailed pieces of information like photos, social media posts, and even text messages. This data, while sometimes difficult to manage, can be very useful when utilized properly.
- Structured Data. Structured data refers to information stored, usually deliberately, in databases. Data in this category can be automatically collected, like usage and location data from devices, web logs, and financial transaction records, or manually collected, like personal account details entered into a web form. Structured data is useful for evaluating the demographics and behaviour of a customer base.
Both types of data can be used by small businesses to improve customer relations, improve marketing, and make smarter, more effective business decisions.
Benefits of Big Data for Small Businesses
Businesses of all sizes that utilize big data have better outcomes. The availability of data collection tools as well as access to existing big data sets from social media and other demographics databases allows organizations to gain some surprising insights which lead to more efficient business models, more satisfied customers, and improved growth.
One of the most obvious benefits of collecting and analyzing big data in a small business is the potential to improve marketing. Small businesses can use existing big data sets to narrow their marketing to specific audiences. Many social media platforms already offer streamlined options for marketing based on user demographics, interests, and social networks, and companies can utilize these tools to reach niche markets.
While predicting a market and targeting marketing towards a specific audience is a valuable tool, big data also provides the opportunity to evaluate that marketing. Small businesses can collect data on their actual customer base to determine which demographics make up their market, determine areas to expand, and further target marketing to their highest-utilizing groups.
Improved Customer Understanding
In addition to the demographics of a market, big data can also reveal insights into the customer experience that can help small businesses improve their business model. Data sets that include customer behaviour on company web pages, purchasing patterns by season, dates, or time of day, and detailed information about customer journey can inform decisions about web design, promotions, pricing, and more.
Customer experience data can also help improve innovation. Big data on search terms, feedback keywords, and product use can help determine the next direction for products. Small businesses may be surprised to find that the priorities of the customer are different than expected, and predictive innovation can improve sales and customer relationships.
Big data doesn’t just improve a business’s relationship with its customers. Data collected on internal processes and finances can help a company determine areas of improvement in workflow, staffing, purchasing, and more. Internal data can also reveal important market patterns that shift over days, months, and years. Predicting and preparing for these changes can help small businesses preserve their limited resources when they’re not needed.
Finally, small businesses benefit from utilizing big data because it increases their competitiveness. More and more companies are integrating big data into their daily operations and larger decision-making processes – and those who fail to do so will quickly fall behind. Developing the skills needed to effectively use big data is an investment with long-term payouts, and the rest of the market isn’t waiting to get started.
Big Data – Big Perks
Effectively collecting, storing, and analyzing big data can be a challenge, particularly for small businesses with limited IT resources. However, the data already exists, and companies which learn to utilize it can benefit immensely from the insights it provides. Small businesses can use big data to rapidly improve their customer relations, marketing, innovation, and competitiveness – and those that fail to do so risk falling behind in the modern world.