Here’s What Big Data Can Do For Your Small Business

These days, everyone’s online — tweeting, Facebooking, leaving Yelp reviews, shopping, watching YouTube tutorials and turning to forums and discussion boards for answers to their questions and solutions to their everyday conundrums. All of that activity is generating data at a rate of 2.5 quintillion bytes a day. In the past two years alone, users created 90 percent of all the digital data that has ever existed.

You probably already know that companies are harnessing the marketing power of this vast supply of data to tell them what consumers want, where they are and where they plan to go, what their shopping habits are and more. But, as a small business owner, you probably assumed that Big Data can’t do much for your business — don’t you need some fancy software and a team of well-paid data scientists to parse it?

No, you don’t. Many small businesses are using affordable software solutions to gather and make sense of information that can help them tweak their price structure, develop new products and do more to satisfy existing customers and bring new ones in the door.

Big Data Isn’t About Size

The number-one misconception about Big Data is that it’s, well, big. It’s right in the name. But, while the sheer volume of data that exists is definitely pretty big, that doesn’t mean it has to be too unwieldy for a small business owner to make use of. When it comes to using Big Data for your small business, it’s about quality, not quantity. Focus on capturing the right kind of data for your business’s needs.

Have a Plan and Set Goals

Harnessing the power of Big Data is about making future predictions based on past trends. Before you start to collect any data, have a plan for how you’ll collect it and what goals it can help you meet. What do you want to achieve? What data can help you reach your goals?

For example, Twiddy & Company, a property-management organization in the Outer Banks wanted to maximize profitability for its homeowners while satisfying guests and cutting costs. Using business analytics tools, Twiddy & Company was able to pinpoint seasonal rental trends, which they used to help homeowners tweak their rates well in advance — a move that satisfied both guests and owners. They were also able to reduce costs by as much as 15 percent, by automating maintenance, comparing individual contractor charges against the average of their 1,200-plus vendors and streamlining invoice processing.

What are you hoping to achieve for your business using Big Data? Maybe you want insight into which promotions are most popular or whether there are seasonal trends in your industry that might affect your pricing structure. Maybe you’re wondering what new products and services customers want or you’re looking for a way to increase customer loyalty. Big Data can help you reach all those goals and more.

Make Software Work for You

Before you can put Big Data to work in your business, you need to start capturing data from your customers. You can collect data from customers’ mobile phones, laptops, tablets or any other device. Many companies of all sizes are already using websites, apps and social media platforms to collect information from customers.

Another way to collect information is via Wi-Fi and GPS, which can be used to harvest location data. Location tracking services can follow customers who have used your Wi-Fi or who have downloaded your app, letting you know when to reel them in with tailored content or giving you insights as to where they go after they leave your business or where they’re coming from when they arrive.

But just collection data alone isn’t enough to help you reach your goals. You need a software solution that can help you make sense of the data you’re collecting. There are many software tools that can swallow your raw data and spit out easy-to-understand charts, graphs and tables showing you what your data means. Not only can tools like SAS, Kissmetrics or even Google Analytics tell you what your customers have done in the past, they can also help you predict what they might do in the future. Still having trouble making sense of it all? Consider taking a free online course in business analytics.

If you don’t make the most of what data science can offer, your small business will suffer. You don’t need to be a huge, multinational conglomeration to benefit from Big Data. All you need is the willingness to enter the game.