4 ways small businesses can effectively use big data

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Are you a small business still in the early stages of digital transformation? Don’t be afraid to admit it, because you’re not alone. According to tech writer Kevin Kelleher, many of the small companies he interviews still believe big data is only accessible for business “giants.”

Smaller companies may feel they either can’t afford or don’t need to use data opportunities. But there are lots of simple ways you can effectively gather, analyze and make sense of data you already to enhance business insights — without breaking the bank.

1. Know your customers.

Web hosting experts Atlantic.Net explain small companies can use data to explore customer behavior, usage patterns and preferences to implement a strategy fit for their target market.

This may seem like a daunting, complex task, but you don't need to be a data scientist or own expensive software to successfully achieve this. Small companies already have an abundance of raw data to tap into from a key asset: their website.

Free tools such as Google Analytics, Google's free Web-traffic-monitoring tool, provide all types of data about website visitors, using a multitude of metrics and traffic sources to help you learn helpful information about your site visitors.

This means companies can determine more accurately how their site visitors are going to behave and how to adapt the customer experience to prevent them switching to competitors.

2. Collaborate through the cloud.

Providing access to centralized files and data used to carry a hefty price tag for software subscriptions and consulting time, but that’s no longer the case. Today cloud storage providers such as Amazon Cloud Services have grown exponentially in creating cloud and data storage for small businesses. And the recent development of affordable cloud services provides countless other advantages in addition to cost-savings, from increased organizational flexibility to scalable growth planning options.

Businesses now have the ability to share information company-wide from the cloud, which means individuals can open shared files anywhere in the world — even when they’re offline. Often you just need the Internet and a small subscription fee to use these services.

Many cloud services are also available as a package deal, so you don’t necessarily have to purchase and deploy hardware and software equipment separately. This means more cost-effective options for smaller businesses.

3. Formulate a game plan.

Once you’ve enticed visitors to your site, you need to know what you want them to do once they’re there. Ask yourself key questions such as, Which specific content do I want them to download?” or “Am I tempting visitors to purchase our product?” From this, you can then finalize your overall analytics goals.

Once you know what questions you want answered and the site pages you need to monitor, you’ll be better positioned to understand where to focus and what results you should be tracking. Obviously, your strategy should go beyond looking solely at hits to your site. To get the most accurate insight you should start looking at conversions instead and determine key priorities from there.

4. Use size to your advantage.

According to research from Mckinsey Analytics, smaller companies tend to have a less fixed mindset. They’re more comfortable being part of an active learning culture, where outcomes cannot be easily predicted and quick thinking becomes second nature. This is one of the reasons big data insights are so suited to small business. After all, even the brightest sparks of insight are pointless if you’re not agile enough to act on them.

You can benefit from your company’s more fast-paced environment if you monitor what’s happening across your website and spot changes in customer behavior and engagement. Unlike bigger competitors, with slower compliance processes, you’ll be better placed to tweak a campaign in real time, which can help you appeal more to certain users with actions such as sending a discount code of specific interest.

Creating a structured plan for big data analysis will redefine business practice for organizations both large and small. With dedicated planning and preparation, business insights will emerge with more predictable regularity and smaller companies will be able to reap the rewards of being able to compete with bigger organizations.

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