Woman at computer in florist type shopIn today’s world, nearly every decision made by a consumer leaves a digital footprint. From opening an email, posting on social media, visiting a website, or making a purchase — consumer information, or big data, can be an invaluable tool to help inform business decisions. 

While some small business owners believe their company is too small to use big data, the truth is that big data can help businesses of all sizes cut inefficiencies, make smarter decisions, and increase profitability. 

The challenges and benefits of big data for small business 

Small businesses may not be able to devote the same budget or resources to big data as larger companies, but in recent years, more affordable tools and solutions have become available that can work for businesses with tighter budgets or smaller teams. 

And while the average small business may have less self-generated data compared to major corporations, that shouldn’t deter small business leaders from leaning in to big data. In fact, as small businesses are often more agile, they may be better suited to put their learnings to good use. 

For example, data may reveal that customers have little interest in one of the services your business offers. This revelation may lead you to remove this offering, enabling your business to save money. Similarly, big data can shine light on your customers’ preferences — allowing you to tweak your products and services to match, which may lead to increased sales and revenue. 

Further, learning more about your customers can help you make smarter pricing decisions and create more targeted — and, likely more successful — marketing campaigns. Overall, using big data to inform business decisions and improve your strategy can help give you an advantage over your competitors. 

Big data tools for small business 

While there are plenty of benefits to using big data, the process of collecting and analyzing the information can be time-consuming. That’s why it’s especially important for small businesses to find vendors that provide user-friendly and affordable tools that fit their specific needs. 

  • If you want to gain insight from your website: Services from companies like Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics may help you gain insights from the data collected on your company’s website. Both platforms can help you understand where your customers are located, what they do on your site, how long they spend on your site, and which pages or site elements they engage with most. Whether you opt for a free tool like Google Analytics or premium service like Adobe Analytics, these tools can show you how effective your marketing efforts are, where your site traffic originates, and how users are interacting with your site.
  • If you want to gain insight from your email campaign: Services from companies like Kissmetrics or Sherlock may help. These type of marketing services provide businesses with the data to allow them to create and manage automated email campaigns related to customer behavior. Their offerings can help minimize cart abandonment for retailers, increase return customers, while providing invaluable insight into an individual’s engagement with your product or brand.
  • If you want to gain insights on your finances: Microsoft Power BI and Wolfram Alpha may be options. Microsoft Power BI creates visualizations of business data, such as gross profit, revenue, inventory levels or product turnover. Wolfram Alpha — which also comes in free or premium versions — can help generate expert-level answers for your questions about sales projections, financial projections, and more. 

How to get started 

Your small business is unique — so it may take some time to decide what type of data tool might help meet your needs. Websites like G2 can be a great supplement to basic online research, making it easier to find relevant software and explore product reviews. Also, you may wish to source recommendations from others in your industry, or through organizations like SCORE.  

Once you’ve identified a couple of data tools that you are interested in, sign up for free trials or request product demos. Trying out the data tools firsthand can help you determine whether the tool is right for your business. 

When exploring a new product, you may find it helpful to consider the following questions:

  1. What are the three most important features or capabilities we desire?
  2. In what ways will this product help us achieve our marketing or sales goals?
  3. Will this product require specialized training or certification?
  4. How does the subscription work, and how flexible are the terms? 

Before making any final decisions, be sure that the right members of your team have had the opportunity to test the product and provide input. 

After testing your options and consulting with your team, you can feel confident investing in a big data tool to help leverage the data in your small business. Remember to evaluate the tool on a regular basis to ensure it’s still meeting your needs, particularly as your marketing or sales goals evolve.

Finally, if investing in a big data tool isn’t possible or reasonable for your company at this time, have no fear. There are smaller sets of data that you can gather and analyze — from your point-of-sale system or accounting system, for example — to get started. 

Technology is constantly changing and evolving, offering new solutions for small businesses.