How small businesses can benefit from big data

By Josh McAllister

In the world of business, decision making is one of the most difficult skills to master. Making the right decisions often comes down to the quality of information you have available to you at the time you make them.

In the past, placing ads in newspapers and on television could generate results, but the results were very difficult to track. Thanks to the internet, all of that has changed. We now have valuable information at our fingertips, like page views, unique visitors, and other important factors. Companies now collect millions of pieces of information on their potential customers and use that information to make better decisions. This is the essence of big data and it has the potential to help businesses succeed.

Understanding your customers

With the help of big data, you are able to get a better picture of who is buying your products. You can gather information about their demographics, average income, location, preferences, and many other relevant pieces of information. You can get a better idea of what customers want, how often they want to purchase it, and what gets them excited.

Many big data tools make it possible to sift through a customer’s purchase history and combine that with their demographic information. This allows you to customize an offer just to that person that they are much more likely to take advantage of.

Even if a company does not have the capability to look at individual user information, it is possible to tap into larger sources of information that are collected. This is often done when a company is new and doesn’t yet have a lot of their own customer data to pull from. The adoption of social media has made this process easier. Companies can tap into a treasure trove of data that people freely provide to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Improving your products and services

One of the best uses of big data is to improve your own products and services. With the help of big data collection methods, you can gather information on how customers are using your products and services.

This makes it possible for you to see any pain points that customers are having with your products and improve upon them. This level of proactive adjustment to your products will improve customer satisfaction.

It may also help you come up with new ideas for additional products and services. Regardless of what you sell, consider whether you can provide your customers with any additional data or information that would help them. This could be provided as an additional product or simply as a free bonus.

Recruiting the best employees

Big data also helps in the area of employee recruitment. Many companies keep track of employee statistics such as absentee rates, productivity, and other important numbers. This can be combined with publicly available information from LinkedIn and other social media sites to help identify the best job candidates.

You may also be able to use this info to find the best channels for recruitment and then entice job seekers to come work for you. Hiring better employees will make your life easier and improve the service you offer your customers. After they’re on board, you can then use big data to track their productivity and gauge their performance.

Keeping an eye on your competition

In business, it’s always important to be aware of what your competition is up to. Thanks to big data, you don’t even need to leave your desk to do so. You can often find financial information, product info, and everything you might want to know about your competitors online. Once you have that information, you can then compare it all to your own brand to see how you stack up.

Cutting down on operational costs

Big data can also be used to save your business money on operational costs. It can help you identify trends and see exactly what you’re spending all of your money on. Any business process that generates data can be tracked and then optimized to increase efficiency.

Things like production machinery, vehicle location information, and online ordering systems can all be tracked. By using GPS technology you can track locations of vehicles, product and employees. This can be combined with traffic and shipping data to get a real-time picture of what your business is doing.

Now that you’ve seen a few examples of how big data can be used by a business, start thinking about how you can apply it to your own business. When it comes to big data, many businesses fixate on the word “big” and think that it’s out of their reach. They think that it’s only something that the big corporations use. In reality, it is attainable for businesses of all sizes if they’re willing to use it to improve their operations.

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Josh McAllister is a freelance technology journalist with years of experience in the IT sector. He is passionate about helping small business owners understand how technology can save them time and money. Find him on Twitter @josh8mcallister.

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