Why Small Businesses Shouldn’t Fear Big Data

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The use of big data is becoming increasingly prevalent in a marketplace that has come to rely heavily on technology to inform business decisions. In this developing business environment, major companies now commonly rely on entire teams of data scientists and analytics specialists armed with high end software programs to turn consumer and company data into insight. The benefits of making data-driven decisions almost go without saying. But is the analytics advantage exclusively accessed by large companies with deep pockets? What about small businesses? This group represents over half of the nation’s working population. Are they locked out of the benefits of big data on account of their often limited access to resources? Not necessarily. You don’t have to have a full service data team and platinum level tech digs in order for data analytics to impact your bottom line. Even without the extensive resources available to major companies, there are feasible ways for small businesses to leverage big data.

Judge me by my size, do you?

Despite popular belief, being small in the big data game has its charm. Small businesses are typically more agile than large corporations. Because they are not tied down by the complicated tethers of the corporate mechanism, small enterprises are generally more poised for quick changes in direction. This is particularly significant when you consider that data-based insights only provide value when a company adjusts their practices in accordance with the insights. The advantage of a generally smaller scope of problems to be addressed and fewer considerations to be made allows small businesses to reap the benefits of big data more immediately than their corporate counterparts.

No Money? No Problem.

As big data has gotten bigger, big corporations have begun spending big money on data analytics. I alluded to this earlier. Unfortunately, for smaller operations, there is not always room in the budget to spend big on data, particularly if analytics is a new frontier for the company. Some are under the illusion that there is no way to use data without a major investment. This is simply untrue. There are a number of inexpensive and even free analytics options that are suitable for small companies, particularly those who are unfamiliar with the technology.

Google Analytics offers a free service that monitors how patrons interact with websites and mobile applications. Not only does this program provide a spread of basic demographic data, but it also helps businesses, particularly those involved in e-commerce, to identifying flaws in their online interface. For example, if business personnel use the event tracking feature in Google Analytics to trace the steps of their company’s website users, they might discover that many patrons make it all the way to the shipping options page of an online transaction, but then abruptly end their session. This would indicate a need for simplification or improvement to the layout of the shipping page. In addition to Google Analytics, a number of other cost-effective analytics solutions such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon AWS are available. To the small businessman, these practical programs are worth checking out.

Dispelling Doubts about Data Deficits

Aside from worries about money, another perceived obstacle that prevents small businesses from exploring big data is the concern that they lack adequate access to data. In an article for Business Standard, data consultant Bernard Marr expressed just the opposite opinion. According to Marr, “Huge datasets on everything from demographics to weather and consumer spending habits are freely available online – if you know where to look.”

Marr maintains that the data is out there. And even if it’s not, the information age has provided us with ways to generate relevant consumer data with minimal effort. Some businesses have turned to online survey programs equipped with analysis capabilities as a means of generating meaningful data. Brick and mortar stores have used intelligent video analytics as a way of analyzing customer behavior. This technology uses surveillance cameras to generate visual data by documenting and evaluating how customers interact with product and aisle displays in stores.

No matter where you are on the food chain, data analytics has something to offer that will enhance the success of your business. It just may take a little research to discover which data analytics solutions are best suited to your business.

Linda_GimmesonContributed by: Linda Gimmeson, a tech writer with a focus in big data, machine learning, & IoT. Linda discusses big data, emerging technologies, and how companies can get real value out of their data.


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  1. I totally agree being a smaller business allows you to be more nimble and on your feet. I know for sure that coming from a large corp. my current small biz has so much more freedom.