Can Small Businesses Benefit from Big Data?

All organizations irrespective of their size generate volumes of data. However, for SMBs, the question is, does the cost and effort justify the value to be derived from data? Data analytics provides deep insights that complement human judgement. Forrester describes the power of big data for small business as “A major disruption in the business intelligence and data management landscape.”

There are several success stories of small businesses benefiting from data analytics. One interesting story is of a zoo in Washington State that was unable to plan daily staffing commensurate with attendance. The zoo’s major source of income was through attendance, which was highly dependent on weather.

By parsing historical data, and analyzing it against decades of local weather data, they found some predictable intelligence. This helped them to fine-tune their plans regarding staffing and promotional activities.

The fear of big data is probably related to the word `big,’ and small companies wonder if they have enough data to qualify for big data. It does not matter. Any data, including visitor logs from a website, is enough to provide vital information on customer behavior.

Another reason why SMBs shy away from big data could be the lack of streamlined processes and information silos. A lease-management company in North Carolina, that manages nearly 1,000 rental properties in the Outer Banks, was unable to accurately predict profitability for homeowners through tourist rentals. With data stored in spreadsheets, the management found it impossible to analyze the data that they had amassed over the years. The company opted for a business analytics tool, which distilled the data and simplified the available information.

Based on the analytics, the company could share vital information with its guests. They could now make rental-pricing recommendations to owners based on seasonal trends and so forth. The business has grown by over 10 percent and costs reduced by 15 percent in the last three years. Big data analytics for small business also helped this company to identify invoice-processing errors, and overall it saved $50,000, annually.

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Smaller organizations focused on business needs may not have the time, or even not see the need for streamlined processes. Big data makes allows us to think about the current strategy, economic environment, and competitive landscape. To move from small to medium and from there to large requires processes. Incorporating them now can help to mine data, which will be useful in the short and long term.

To summarize, big data for small business helps small organizations to watch and learn about their customers and their preferences. Even if it is just from their website, it is still intelligence. For retaining customers and acquiring new ones, for up selling and cross-selling, for streamlined processes, which lead to operational efficiency, big data has a hoard of benefits that simply cannot be ignored!