Big data has changed the way international business and online retail giants such as Amazon and eBay sell, track data and essentially approach their business. From improving marketing, to managing inventory – these giants utilise large amounts of data to make incredibly informed business decisions that save time, money and ultimately cut bottom lines.
What is Big Data?
We see and hear the term again and again and as a concept it often seems quite intimidating – it’s not! Big data is simply the data your company has access to, obtained and processed through new techniques to create the upmost value.
The data used could be anything from transaction histories of customers, to web traffic logs, social media interaction, production data bases, and supply chain statistics. This data can be structured, semi-structured or unstructured in form. Though, as a whole is far too large for your Excel sheet or MS Office documents.
However, thanks to modern data storage and processing power, we can increasingly make sense of this mass of data. This technology allows us to examine data for trends, traits and patterns – something beyond the human eye or an Excel sheet.
The results of this processed data allow us to examine the correlated data we have in a whole host of new ways and in doing so, solve small business problems, and improve their efficiency levels as well as a whole lot more.
Big Data for Small Businesses
Even though smaller merchants and mom and pop businesses may never be able to capture the sheer breadth of data larger businesses can; they can still benefit significantly from big data trends with the data they have.
In fact, there are innumerable ways that big data can help small business succeed and become increasingly productive and we’re going to take a closer look at these.
Better Customer Relationships
According to Steve King of Emergent Research, only 14-18% of all small businesses use CRM system, even though these are considered the low hanging fruit of the big data world. With most businesses utilising the power of social media, implementing a CRM program in line with this can be a very fruitful experience. They give insight into customer needs; allow business to solve problems and answer questions quickly and simply facilitate you in understanding customers better.
One simple and very effective way large retailers have, and small ones are, currently implementing big data is in the customer purchase recommendations process.
Analysing customer actions at the point of sale can herald some very interesting results. For example, by looking at data on which customers purchased products X, Y or Z, you can create correlations that allow you to advertise targeted items and relevant promotions to people with similar purchasing patterns. This is a route small e-commerce businesses can take. Amazon managed to increase its sales notably through the use of such a recommendation system and there’s nothing stopping small businesses doing the same.
Real Time Personalisation
Big data is a real time personalisation power house. For online businesses, big data offers the opportunity to process data there and then and so can provide a constantly changing, personalised experience to each customer every time they log on.
For example, it allows businesses to offer new customers specific bargains that will create stickiness and keep them on-site, while at the same time provide loyal customers with rewards for repeat purchases.
Employee Behaviour and Productivity
Big data can take the guess work out of monitoring employee’s behaviour and performance. From taking account of online productivity, to monitoring how they are performing on and off-site; big data can provide significant productivity boosts – one example of this is Driver Behaviour offered by most modern telematics companies.
Big data can have a remarkably positive impact on the way retailers and small businesses provide customers with the availability, status and the location of orders.For big data to work well within the supply chain, implementation in the commerce, warehousing and transportation sections of the business are generally required. However, the benefits include cleaner supply chains, fewer errors and happier customers.
Small businesses need to stay competitive online, particularly in terms of pricing. Big data can help.
Dynamic pricing allows for the monitoring of competitors pricing and facilitates automatic re-pricing of products within certain pre-set paradigms should a competitor undercut the small business.
Gain a Deeper Understanding of Your Customers
What better way to satisfy customers, than gain increasing amounts of insight about them – big data facilitates this. At its most fundamental, big data can monitor a small business’ website and garner the demographic information, location of users and plenty more information.
It also tracks the movements of people throughout the site, how they came to be on the site (i.e. through search engines, paid traffic, social media etc.) and the customer journey through to check out. This can then be used to implement the best tried and tested marketing approaches that have been proven to succeed in channelling more people on-site. This makes for a more efficient approach and a higher reward for fewer risks.
Big data may have once been the preserve of larger business, however it can now be implemented by small business to great gain.