Big data is big news. Everyday a wealth of digital information is generated by people around the world through emails, blogs, social media posts, online credit card purchases, cell phone usage and more. According to IBM, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated daily and 90 percent of the total data in existence was created within the last two years.
Todd Taylor, NetStandard’s Vice President of Hosted Technology, explained at IBM Edge2013 how this remarkable data growth offers businesses unlimited possibilities:
Business data will paint a true picture of business performance that goes beyond profit and loss statements…to display real-time performance in a global economy.
This information can then be translated into improved marketing, tailored services and cost savings.
Small Business, Big Data
While many large businesses have invested in big data technology, small businesses have been slow to take part. Taylor explains that while big data technologies might not seem appealing for businesses with limited resources, it is better for businesses to invest in analytics now, before their big data grows to unmanageable proportions.
Big data is more accessible than ever, thanks to a rise in cost-effective big data technologies. In addition to the well known Google Analytics and Google Adwords, there are many other free or low-priced technologies that are well suited for a range of small businesses.
Before investing and implementing big data technologies, small businesses should take stock of their existing data and their business objectives.
In many ways, big data is making it possible for small businesses to return to their marketing roots.
In a recent Forbes article, Steve King, partner at Emergent Resources, explains how in the past:
. . .local shopkeepers. . .knew what their customers liked, right down to color, size and taste.
This personalization was lost for many businesses as their customer base became more culturally and geographically diverse, but now “big data is bringing back personalized service.”
So, when trying to harness big data, small businesses should select specific goals that relate to their business and their customers. The aforementioned Forbes article describes how some roofing companies use Google Earth to inspect the roofs of potential customers. This allows them to determine whether or not the repairs are feasible, saving them the time and money that would be required for an in-person inspection. It also gives them the information they need to market directly to other potential customers in the neighborhood.
Big Data Tools
In a recent interview, Anukool Lakhina, founder and CEO of Guavus, explains how small businesses already generate a wealth of useable big data through sales receipts, software-as-service applications, Excel spreadsheets and social media. The key is to connect the data together in a way that produces timely and actionable insights.
This is where affordable big data technologies come into play.
Most businesses, whether large or small, have a social media presence and sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are a ready source of customer data. Social Mention is a free tool that allows businesses to monitor social media sites for specific subjects. Users receive daily email alerts on online mentions of a subject of their choice, such as their company name, a competitor’s name, a certain market trend or a certain keyword.
Business accounting software can also be a rich source of big data. QuickBooks Online offers a trends feature that allows companies to see how they are doing compared to industry averages. The trends feature compiles and organizes customer data to create overall industry trends. Users can then compare their income and expenses to those of similar businesses.
Once the data has been combined and analyzed, businesses should automate these processes for truly timely information. With targeted big data initiatives, small businesses can better tailor their services to their customers and grow their business.
Sea of Data Photo via Shutterstock