Big data is transforming businesses large and small in every industry. To stay competitive, even small companies need to “go big.” Learn what big data is, how to get it, and what to do with it.
You are probably familiar with the phrase “big data,” and if so you have most likely heard that it is transforming education, healthcare, and pretty much every type of business imaginable. But what is big data? And what can it do for your small business?
Big data is exactly what it sounds like—a ton of data. For businesses, big data includes everything from traditional data, such as customer feedback and survey results; to financial data like credit card purchase records; to online metrics such as website visits and clickthroughs; to social media updates, Tweets, and customer reviews. It can be collected from public databases, point-of-sale systems, web traffic analyzers, and even using online survey software. In other words, big data refers to virtually any bit or byte that can be collected and analyzed. Big data is often characterized by the 3 Vs: volume—there is a lot of it; variety—it comes in many different types; and velocity—it accumulates very quickly.
In today’s fast-changing business world all companies, regardless of size, need to understand and use big data. For example, data-driven marketing allows businesses to reach their target customers more effectively while also saving money. Big data can also help organizations have better insight into their customers’ preferences and purchasing patterns as well as develop more creative solutions to problems.
Global management consulting firm McKinsey has identified five main ways big data creates value for businesses:
- Big data makes information both more transparent and more usable.
- Big data helps businesses track down problems and improve performance.
- Big data allows businesses to better tailor their products to specific customer segments.
- Big data improves decision-making.
- Big data informs product development.
Finally, all companies need to pay attention to big data because that is what the competition is doing. Big data has made its way into every sector of business and industry, and adopting data-driven strategies in marketing and other activities is essential for firms to stay competitive and grow into the future.
So where do you get big data? There are two main ways to access big data:
- Use existing data sources
- Generate your own
A lot of data is already available for businesses to use. Earlier this year the federal government announced a plan to make more government data available online, and companies have started using this data. For example, Yelp is now including health department sanitation ratings on its reviews in several cities. The potential for using government data is vast, especially for businesses in the service industry.
Of course, there is also a significant amount of data spread across the web, in particular on social media. It’s true that the amount of information available on these sites is immense, but the good news is that with a host of analytics tools available, you don’t need to hire a data specialist to help you make sense of it. Google Analytics provides a lot of useful information about how customers access and interact with business websites. For an even easier way to track customer activities, try Spinnakr, a new tool that its developers describe as “big data for dummies.”
Finally, the Internet gives all businesses the opportunity to generate bigger, better data using more traditional means, like surveys. Online survey software, like ProProfs’ Survey Maker, allows companies to create branded surveys that can be disseminated either to specific customers or to the entire Internet population. Survey software is free and easy to use and it allows businesses to create survey questions in many different formats. It also does all of the work of collating and analyzing the results.
Big data is certainly big, but it is no longer out of reach for small businesses. New tools are available that make it easy for companies to realize large returns from small investments. Start using big data to create value for your company today by mining public data, using analytics tools, or exploring online survey software.
Sameer Bhatia is founder & CEO of ProProfs.com which is a leading provider of online learning tools for building, testing, and applying knowledge. Through its Survey Software, ProProfs offers marketers and trainers powerful-but-simple features without requiring them to download or learn expensive software. Sameer has a background in technology with a Masters in Computer Science from USC (University Of Southern California) and is an ed-tech industry veteran. You can find Sameer on Google+ and Twitter.