The term “big data” is thrown around a lot these days, but what does it really mean? In simple terms, it refers to very large data sets, the sort of information that’s too complex to sort and analyze with traditional tools. There’s a ton of potential in this big data, and small businesses can benefit – if they have the right tools.
More data means more risk… and more opportunity
Everything from sending an email to rating a product to swiping your credit card can return reams of data. In fact, as of June 2017, we’ve created 5 zettabytes of data; by 2020, digital information will grow to 50 zettabytes. When you consider that one zettabyte is one sextillion bytes…well, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
But it’s crucial to keep up with this data proliferation, because there’s a lot on the line and you may be more at risk than you realize. Recently, more than 50 million users on Facebook was gathered by a third party without the users’ permission, making it one of the largest data breaches in the social network’s history.
As of June 2017, we’ve created 5 zettabytes of data; by 2020, digital information will grow to 50 zettabytes.
As more sensitive data moves around, cyber risk for small business owners grows. Now more than ever, it’s important to treat your digital information – and that of your customers, clients, and vendors –carefully. But while there are risks, there are also several ways big data can be useful to small businesses.
1. Improve your decision making
The right data can inform your business decisions, helping your company become more efficient and more competitive. But do you know what type of information will help you achieve your business goals?
For example, while web traffic is a crucial piece of the puzzle, for many organizations, it fails to provide any actionable insights. But when a business owner can see which demographics and customer segments are interacting with the company’s website, they can use that specific data to feed and fine-tune marketing efforts.
It can be overwhelming to gather and organize your data: you might not know where to start, or perhaps you’re worried about how much it will cost. Thankfully, there are several ways your small business can gather and analyze data without breaking the bank. Platforms like Google Analytics or IBM’s Cognos Analytics can assist with gathering long-term data to reveal trends and other valuable information.
2. Understand and interact with your customers
Data is a top tool for uncovering customer preferences. Think you know what your customers want? Instead of going with your gut, turn to big data for a definitive answer.
By analyzing the data your company collects, you can identify consumer trends and predict market opportunities. In a recent research report, the Boston Consulting Group shared that businesses that create a more personalized experience for their customers will see their revenue increase by 6 to 10 per cent!
A restaurant in the New England area by the name of Farmstead Table is a great example. They took advantage of big data by using a point-of-sales platform to not only process credit card payments but also to track anniversaries, birthdays, favorite meals, and other customer data. With that information they could save time, but more importantly, they could target customers with relevant messages that generate repeat sales.
Businesses that create a more personalized experience for their customers will see their revenue increase by 6 to 10 per cent.
3. Optimize your social media efforts
As word of mouth overtakes traditional marketing strategies, social media should play a central role in your digital communication strategy. In 2015, Facebook influenced 52 per cent of consumers’ online and offline purchases, up from 36 per cent in 2014. Need more convincing? 71 per cent of customers who have a positive service experience via social media are likely to recommend that company to others — that’s an easy way to a big brand boost!
Using tools like Mention and Twilert, you can set up alerts and notifications whenever a subject you’re interested in is mentioned online, like your business name, the products and services you offer, or any relevant keywords. By tracking these mentions, you can be sure to respond to customers as often as possible.
Timely, frequent, personalized response: this is the key to ensuring your company is a part of the conversation. It allows you to build on your brand voice to generate more interest, improve customer satisfaction and engagement, and leverage positive customer experiences.
4. Upgrade your operations
Leveraging data will help you run your business smoothly and efficiently. Whether it’s data related to your warehouse operations or your customers, it can be analyzed and used to improve operational processes and actions.
Once you’ve got a handle on how to your company’s current offerings can make use of data, you can look into how data could open the door to new services. For instance, Rolls-Royce added a data-based element to one of their products: using sensors in the jet engines they manufacture, they can monitor the performance of those engines even after they sell them. This data allows them to monitor the performance of the engine in order to predict maintenance needs — a service that’s potentially very valuable to customers. In fact, servicing now accounts for 70 per cent of the company’s annual revenue.
A solid footing can help you jump higher
Running your small business takes a lot of time and energy, and when you’re not down in the trenches, you’re probably dreaming up ways to grow better and stronger. But while innovation is important, it’s also important to protect what you already have if you want to avoid a major setback.
Learning to mine, understand, and apply your data can take time; protecting it will take expertise. Our experts know cyber risk and how that impacts small business operations. Find out how we can help your small business stay safe, secure, and successful.