Data analysis isn't just for corporations. Small businesses can benefit from big data technology, too.
You can do it. Even though you operate a small business, you can take advantage of the power of big data analytics.
Big data technology is quickly transforming every field and industry. Resultantly, even business leaders who are generally slow to adopt new technology are curious about how they can use big data technology.
Businesses of all sizes – even small ones – want in on big data analytics, and the reason is apparent. It's because companies that leverage big data analytics tools enjoy 15% more sales than companies that fail to do so, according to the Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
Even though the economy is expanding at a rate of less than 3% each year, entrepreneurs who operate companies that range from small to midsized businesses to large corporations are capturing vital market share by leveraging big data analysis.
The small business case for big data
Nearly 51% of small business owners believe that big data analysis is a must, but only 45% of them perform data analyses, according to a report published by the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). Furthermore, 73% of small business owners express that finding new customers is a top priority, while 63% rank retaining existing customers as a top issue.
Data analyses can help small business owners meet their goals. Nevertheless, many business owners believe that they don't have time to track analytics. However, it only takes a few moments of studying to learn how to use data to gain a competitive advantage.
Furthermore, you probably already have more than enough information to start a big data initiative without even realizing it. For instance, you can source information for data analysis from many places, including:
- Email marketing reports
- Sales receipts
- Social media analytics
- Website analytics
This information, as well as data from other sources, can help you to find opportunities for improvement.
SCORE’s report reveals that the use of analytics increases return on investment in marketing initiatives. In part, the organization attributes this to the fact that business owners who use data analytics eventually realize that they need to take good care of their customers if they want to retain them.
It's important to understand that adding data analysis to your marketing initiatives doesn't mean that you must absorb a significant expenditure for the privilege. Many analytics tools are free, such as those associated with social media business accounts.
Furthermore, you can review analytics information whenever and wherever it’s convenient. Today, top social media platforms and other data analytics tools enable you to access reporting right on your smartphone via a convenient mobile app.
Setting the stage for high-tech analyses
If you want to get the most out of data analysis, you need to ask the right questions. It’s nice to keep track of information such as sales, customer retention and gross revenue. However, these are vanity metrics. In other words, outside of goal setting, they do little more than boost your ego.
Resultantly, you need to dig deeper. You must ask insightful questions like "Which vendors offer the most value?" or "What are our most troubled product lines that need improvement?" With more insightful questions, you can use data to review the granular details that reveal the consequences of your current operational practices.
If you have yet to perform any data analyses, you may worry that you don't have enough information to analyze. A more likely scenario, however, is that you have more information than you can handle. Most businesses struggle with the latter issue. As the amount of information that businesses and people generate expands by the day, big data systems grow increasingly relevant.
Today, most business owners can’t hope to acquire any meaningful insight by reviewing data manually. However, you may have to start your information analysis initiative by manually integrating data sets into your system.
Gearing up for your data initiative
Big data isn't just a name. Data analysis involves evaluating a massive amount of information. As such, it's essential to use tools that can handle the job. Also, you must use an effective method for your data analyses.
Nontechnical staff may be able to glean some limited insight from data analyses. However, you need the expertise of a specialist to extract full value from your data sets. If a full-time analyst isn't in the budget, considering hiring a consultant who can point you in the right direction.
Furthermore, you want to learn more than statistical summaries of your data analyses. Instead, you need to understand what's causing the patterns in your data. A practical analysis will tell you just that. However, it's even more important to understand why the patterns occur.
You also want to know what may happen in the future and how you can act on that information. Technologies such as predictive and prescriptive analytics can help you to uncover insights that may reveal the future of your business environment.
The right tools for the job
The latest buzzword regarding big data systems is real-time analytics. Data analysis gives executives guru-like powers by empowering decision-makers with critical insights in real time and on-demand via an executive dashboard.
An executive dashboard eliminates the need to task an IT specialist for a report. Furthermore, there are executive dashboard tools available that small businesses can use to access information whenever needed.
Today, executive dashboards can enable you to access business intelligence tools on the fly and on the go. With the ability to access vital information via smartphone, laptop or any other device of choice, you and your team can access actionable and current data that enables you to outdo the competition. Furthermore, you can use an executive dashboard to corral disparate data sources into one dynamic display.
Even if you run a small business, you probably generate more than enough information to take advantage of big data systems. When you consider all your opportunities to gather information, the prospects for analysis are probably overwhelming.
If you think about it, your business probably has a ton of spreadsheets, database information and an information-packed customer relationship management (CRM) tool. You can use these data sources in combination with commercially available data sets and free tools such as Google Analytics.
Big data visualizations and reporting
Once you've analyzed your data, you need to present it in a way that non-technical personnel can understand and use to make informed decisions. Accordingly, you must investigate data visualization tools that will work with your current technologies.
Of course, you can use trusted productivity tools such as Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint to create presentations, but they're woefully limited. Alternatively, an interactive executive dashboard enables stakeholders of all technical skill levels to engage information quickly. Furthermore, it will enable you to present visually compelling presentations.
There are many free and open-source big data tools that you can use to launch your company's business intelligence initiative. Today's free or low-cost analytics tools enable small business owners to access and share information effortlessly.
You'll be surprised by how fast you'll reap ROI by taking advantage of an executive dashboard. By choosing the right business intelligence tools, you can level the playing field in a highly competitive marketplace. Moreover, you'll enjoy the benefit of making well-informed, on-the-spot decisions that can lead your organization toward success.