Before we can answer this question, we need to try and define exactly what big data is. It’s a term that’s been around for a while, and you’ve probably heard people talking about it. But, is it an actual thing or just another buzz word (or phrase)?
Put simply, big data is all the information that’s captured every time someone interacts digitally. Every click of a mouse, like or share, or email sent leaves an online footprint that’s stored up in the virtual cloud. It also includes non-digital interactions too, like payments made with a debit or credit card, and phone calls and written communications, although these are less common than they used to be.
And once this data’s been gathered, businesses can use it to get insights about their customers based on their behaviours. It helps them predict what customers are going to do and make marketing more targeted. The theory behind it is the more you know about your customer, the more personal you can make communications with them.
Too big to handle?
One of the problems with holding so much data is understanding and using it effectively. Doing this requires high-tech analytics often driven by artificial intelligence (AI). This can be expensive, which could put it out of reach of some smaller companies.
However, there are ways smaller companies can utilise big data that don’t have the big price tag. In fact, one comes free. Google Analytics is a great tool for tracking what your customers have done, and you can get hold of it with a simple download.
Some CRM systems also come free (or relatively cheaply anyway)and can be customised to do whatever you need them to. They also often have software included that sorts data for you automatically. It can also highlight particularly useful information and help you understand what it means.
Keep it social
Another simple way a smaller business can get to grips with big data is through social media. Again, software is available relatively cheaply that alerts you when someone mentions your business or any keywords you program it to recognise.
Most of your customers will use it, so it’s a good way to connect with them. This is particularly useful as you can respond in real-time and get a conversation going with a genuine customer.
It’s good to actually talk
We mentioned phone calls earlier, and they can still play a huge part in big data use. VoIP systems can record calls, so you can play them and analyse customer concerns and address any trends.
Get things in place now
It’s fair to say whatever the size of your business, you need to get systems to improve your big data capabilities now. The free systems mentioned above will do the job for you, but if you want something more sophisticated, modern cloud-based technologies have made things simpler and cheaper for everyone as there’s no need for extra hardware. The systems will grow and adapt with your business.
Other uses of big data
Big data doesn’t just cover what your customers do though. In the manufacturing and engineering worlds, it’s used to improve efficiency and increase production. Analytics can help to compare and understand what factors are important in processes and how to get the most out of them.
Other areas big data can play a part include improving product quality, risk management and logistics. It can predict maintenance schedules and future growth.
So, is big data for small businesses? 100% yes
Getting to the heart of your information quickly and accurately can give you a huge advantage. It should be looked as a strategic asset you can’t do without – it really is that valuable.