Historically, major research organization and big corporations have been the primary or even sole users of so-called big data – essentially data sets that defy traditional standard methods of organization and manipulation. But recently, there’s been increasing interest among small and medium-sized businesses in these ultra-large data sets and the insights they provide.
Companies use big data to gain a clearer understanding of major shifts in buyer behavior that can drive sales or result in a sluggish marketplace; perhaps even more importantly, big data can uncover potentially lucrative trends that can help you understand where your business dollars should be invested to ensure you get an even larger share of the sales pie.
More than a decade ago, big data was defined in terms of the three Vs: volume (there’s certainly a lot of data, but how much is valuable?), velocity (the Internet has allowed data to be collected at record speeds) and variety (data comes from lots of sources, which can make it difficult to manage). There are many companies willing to provide big data analysis for your small to medium-sized enterprise; knowing which company to use – or whether you even real need it – requires you to be introspective about your company and its needs so you don’t spend money acquiring a lot of data that isn’t applicable to your industry or your customer base.
To a large degree, you can identify the types of data that will be most useful simply by spending some time poring over your own company’s analytics, including web data that helps identify your customer and his or her habits. This data on a small scale can be invaluable in determining steps that are immediately actionable in addition to helping you learn the types of big data that could be helpful in setting your course in the future.
For many companies, tools like Google Analytics provide all the data they need to grow and thrive; others may turn to companies like SAP, SAS – even Amazon or Microsoft to get their data fix.
Whether your company needs to tap into big data for bigger profits depends a lot on your industry, your product or service and your goals, as well as your customers. For the right company, big data can provide more satisfying and customized customer experiences as well as bigger sales. For a company that doesn’t really need big data, it can drain resources that would be better spent elsewhere.