You might have heard the term, ‘big data’ and assumed it’s too complex to be useful to small businesses. In fact, it can be incredibly beneficial to your bottom line.
What is big data?
For such an important business resource, big data can be hard to define. Some people refer to it (somewhat light heartedly) as data that’s too big to put into a spreadsheet.
More commonly though, it’s a combination of data that is generated from traditional and digital sources that relate to your business.
It can be sourced and collated internally or from external providers. The most important point is that the data should be relevant, and able to be used by your business to achieve your goals.
Where can a business find big data?
We mentioned there are two typical sources of big data: traditional and digital. What information falls under those categories?
Traditional data sources
Traditional data sources are usually pulled from a business’s internal records:
- Point of sale data
- Client/customer survey and feedback
- Shipping times and costs
- Financial records
- Statistics from call centre interactions
- Inventory management records
- Machine or equipment sensor reporting
- Foot traffic counters
- Marketing data
Digital data sources
Digital data is sought from online engagement with your brand. Data is generally generated through interactions with your online platforms and social media presence. Digital data sources include:
- Social media interactions with your brand (across all platforms)
- Social media mentions (discussions about your brand)
- Traffic to your website
- Online sales.
External data is often really useful for contextualising your own business data. It can explain or situate spikes in web traffic or sales, for example, by describing external influences. Sometimes externally based big data can help inform longer term strategic decisions.
- Census data,
- Trending search results online
- Economic data
- Significant events (both scheduled and unpredicted)
How can a business use big data?
It’s clear that there are a lot of different places you can draw data from. There’s no need to use every bit of information that’s available to you, but it’s useful to keep an eye on key metrics that indicate the health of your business, while using other streams to guide strategic decisions.
Engage data analysis assistance
If you do not have time to crunch the numbers yourself, source reputable software that can work with inputs on your behalf. Consult with your IT support provider as they may be able to recommend a product for you. You could also engage a data analysis company to create reports from your raw data.
Provide better customer service
It’s very useful to understand how customers interact with your website. If you identify trends or particular products being searched, for example, you can modify the website to make those popular pages easier to find. This can translate into increased sales.
Being present on social media is a key part of most businesses today. Use a free provider like socialmention.com to keep tabs on where your name comes up. You’re better able to respond to emerging issues and customer complaints, for example.
Your website can be monitored to provide extremely detailed data about visitors, including age, location, gender and unique visitors. When you combine usage patterns and sales data with population data you can really see what is going on with your audience and customer segmentation.
Watch the competition
Because there are many ways to monitor websites and brands online, it can be prudent to run analytics on your competitors. You can find a lot of information about them, but remember that they can conduct the same searches on you.
The Internet of Things
As more machines are linked to the cloud and each other, the amount of data increases. This allows for far greater efficiencies to be created, and predictable issues like maintenance can be signalled before a breakdown occurs, saving money and downtime.
Increase employee efficiency
Workstations can be monitored to analyse where employees are spending their time online. Depending on the software you can draw inferences about stress levels, health and concentration.
Are internal networks being utilised well? Just as your customer-facing website can be analysed for traffic patterns, so too can your internal networks.
Going beyond instant feedback, big data can be extremely useful for longer term planning. Combining social and economic data about locations, for example, may help locate your next storefront. You might also call on shipping or freight costs to these locations. When you plan for the future, draw in current statistics to complement the global data.
Targeted marketing campaigns
Targeted marketing campaigns is a fantastic use of big data and it can extremely effective. Review previous data collected from older campaigns. How did your target markets react? How much did customers engage with you on social media? Did sales result from the drive? Taking these statistics into account can help you streamline your approach for your next campaign.
A thorough analysis can identify inefficient parts of the business that may need to be removed or altered. You can also identify areas that are performing very well and funnel more budget support to them.
Big data can seem intimidating but it’s easy to see how selective use can elicit useful insights to how your business is running, how people interact with it and where opportunities lie in the future. Smaller businesses are able to monitor the trends with the same ability as larger companies but are far better placed to respond and get ahead of the crowd.
EC-MSP is your trusted IT support partner in London. If you would like more help advice and support establishing your business tech support needs or analysing big data, contact us today to see how we can help.