big data

Access to accurate and timely data is a key to success in running a successful business in the 21st century. Technological advances have made it possible for companies to accumulate vast amounts of data about virtually every aspect of the business. But with the sheer volume of data that’s now available, the challenge for owners and CEOs is determining which data is most important, and how much of this data they need.

According to SMB Research Group, only about 18 percent of small businesses and 57 percent of mid-sized businesses utilize business intelligence and analytics solutions for harnessing and using data.

Drowning in Data

The fear of literally drowning in a sea of overwhelming data has kept many small and mid-sized businesses from taking advantage of the benefits that can be derived from harnessing and using big data. So has the perception that big data is the realm of large corporations with hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on sophisticated IT systems capable of mining vast pools of data.

Unfortunately, such fears and misperceptions could be costing many small and mid-sized businesses a tremendous opportunity to improve operations, boost efficiency, reduce costs, streamline supply chain management, and increase sales and revenue.

For example, by harnessing the data important to your business and analyzing it effectively, you can gain insight into buyer behavior and purchasing patterns, enabling you to target your marketing more effectively. Such data can also allow you to launch new products and services faster and with less risk, and scale your manufacturing operations up or down quicker, providing more flexibility to respond to changing customer demands.

Harnessing Big Data Cost-Efficiently

The fact is, harnessing and analyzing big data doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Google Analytics, for instance, is a free, easy-to-use website monitoring tool that provides detailed data about traffic to your site. This includes details about site visitor behavior, such as where visitors come from, how they engage with your site, and how long they stay on your site. With this kind of information in hand, you can make better decisions with regard to site design and architecture that can improve your website lead generation efforts and boost your online sales.

You can also tailor your product and service offerings more closely to what individual customers want by utilizing big data. For example, think back to the days when local merchants knew what sizes, colors and quantities of products their customers wanted when they walked in the door. By providing detailed insight into individual customers’ preferences — for example, by tracking the digital footprints they leave on the Internet or social media sites — big data could enable you to offer them more personalized products and services.

Improve Operations Efficiency

Big data can also help improve your internal operations and efficiency and reduce costs. At some companies, there is little coordination between different departments when it comes to sharing data. For example, sales, manufacturing, inventory, labor and supply chain data might all be housed in different silos and inaccessible to different departments. Data analytics tools enable companies to consolidate this dispersed data so management can use it to make better business decisions.

Once consolidated, such internal data can then be used to hone your sales and marketing strategies for maximum effectiveness.

Affordable Big Data Tools

A wide range of tech companies from tech giants to small startups are now offering affordable data analytics tools designed specifically for the needs and budgets of small and mid-sized companies.

If you have shied away from big data for fear of drowning in it or because you thought it was the realm of big corporations, it might be time to reconsider. You could start by taking advantage of free and inexpensive data analytics tools that could help you harness and use big data to benefit your company in a variety of different ways.