ENTREPRENEURSHIP / AUG. 04, 2014
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How Can Big Data Benefit Small Businesses

If there is one trend that has empowered small business owners in the last two years, it is the emergence and popularisation of big data. This is a broad and widely used term, and on a fundamental level it refers to the collation, use and analysis of information with a view to increasing profits or driving improved customer engagement.

This trend has now begun to impact on businesses and ventures of all shapes and sizes, from large corporations to inexperienced and aspiring entrepreneurs. So while proactive giants such as Facebook and Netflix have already succeeded in analysing customer searches and data to develop far greater insight into their needs, there is ample opportunity for independent business owners to follow similar examples and adapt them to achieve commercial success.

The Main Big Data Trends and how Small Businesses can Learn

With this in mind, let’s consider the prominent big data trends and the lessons that small businesses can learn when looking to capitalize. Consider the following: -

1. The Use of Big Data to Tap New Markets and Develop Unique Insights

While all for-profit businesses will retain the need to make a profit, this is no longer to sole driver of all commercial decisions or actions. Customer engagement is now extremely important to brands, and this relies on the delivery of insightful content and the customisation of solutions to resolve specific issues. This is something that big data is now being used to facilitate, both in the private sector and among nonprofits who are striving to improve lives and administer justice. Take the recent analysis of six databases compiled by Syrian human rights monitors, which was conducted on behalf of the UN High Commissioner with a view to determining precise the death toll from Syria’s civil war. The cumulative total of 60,000 far outweighed existing estimates, and sparked an international debate and subsequent investigation.

What can Small Businesses Learn?

Aside from the collation of existing information, big data tools can also be used to access previously untapped resources and develop unique insight into a group or market. This is crucial, and as a small business owner you can capitalise by communicating directly with a targeted consumer group and posing key questions that touch on their experience with your brand. The truth may well alter your perception, and help you to adapt your marketing and sales strategies going forward.

What Can you Use to Achieve this?

When it comes to accumulating new data and integrating this with your existing information, Palantir is one of the most effective tools on the market. Now in its 10th year of existence, it is a large scale suite that can effectively store multiple data sets and simplify the individual processes of visualization and analysis. It has been designed to enable scalability when it comes to the management of data, so that you can easily reach out into new markets and quickly develop accurate insights.

2. The Use of Big Data to Expand your Product or Service to a Wider Market

Social enterprises often have advantages over commercial ventures when it comes to innovation, simply because they are not bound profit and turnover. This does not mean that they cannot set an example for private businesses to follow, however, especially in an age where the cost of technology and manufacturing has fallen dramatically. Social enterprise Bookshare hit the headlines last year, for example, after it processed requests for more than 1.3 million book downloads on behalf of users with disabilities such as blindness and dyslexia. The infrastructure behind Bookshare is unique, as it operates outside of U.S. copyright law and utilises big data to collate collections of print books from around the world and makes them accessible to visually impaired users. Big data tools have also enabled the outlet to monitor which books are the most popular, so that it can constantly refresh its online library for the benefit of its readers.

What can Small Businesses Learn?

Depending on your precise needs, big data tools can be used to collate information that is either broad in its scope or extremely focused. When focused on a single product or service concept, it can help you to develop a unique, in-demand and evolutionary entity that is available and accessible to as large a market as possible. You should also keep in mind that big data can be used in a practical and directly actionable manner, especially if you have a service that relies on the gathering and organization of information.

What Can you Use to Achieve this?

When it comes to utilizing big data as a way of developing a product or service, there is a pressing need for efficient, real-time processing. Open source big data tool Storm can help small business owners to access this, as it is entirely free and has been designed to collate and distribute real time data within any commercial framework. Not only can it perform real-time analysis on vast data sets and streams, but it is also easy to use and delivers immediately actionable information.

3. The Return to Customer-focused Values

When big data first came to prominence, it was focused primarily on targeting customers and developing an insight into their experience with your brand. As businesses came to realise the scope of big data and its potential, however, it is a concept that has been applied to drive efficiency, improve manufacturing processes and refine the use of technology. Online giant Amazon is one brand that has remained true to the core purpose of big data, as it strives to gather relevant information about individual customers and uses this to initiate emotive, meaningful and reciprocal interaction. The primary objective of this is to develop a new stage in the business to customer relationship, which moves beyond brand loyalty and is based on love and genuine affection.

What can Businesses Learn?

While your small business may lack the resources of Amazon, it has at least one advantage in that there is less customer data to collate, process and analyse. In theory, this should make it far easier to apply the tools of big data to understand and effectively engage customers, with a view to inspiring brand loyalty and then genuine love. By using big data to gain an insight into your consumers you are placing them at the heart of your venture, and potentially claiming a critical advantage in a competitive market.

What Can you Use to Achieve this?

If you are a customer-focused business, the New York based 1010Data is a big data tool that is capable of delivering unique insight on targeted consumer deomographics. It is an analytical, cloud-based service that is easily accessible, and it a unique query language to process multiple stream of data simultaneously. This enables you to analyze every aspect of your customer’s behavior simultaneously, which in turn provides both broad and focused data sets going forward. This tool is ideal for developing a unique insight into individual customers as well as targeted groups, and it delivers excellebt value to business owners.

The Last Word  

The popularization of big data has had a huge impact on small business owners, as it has enabled them to improve efficiency and compete more effectively with larger corporations within their market. it has also afforded them the opportunity to engage their customers, so long as they learn how to use big data effectively and select the best possible tools for translating information into actionable insight.

Image Source: - Wikimedia / Big Data

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