How Your Small Business Should be Taking Advantage of Big Data

January 14, 2015
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Big data has been a term widely related to big business. However, more small businesses are taking advantage of the insights that it can offer. If you own a small business and you’re not sure how you should take advantage of big data, keep reading for more helpful tips.

Big data has been a term widely related to big business. However, more small businesses are taking advantage of the insights that it can offer. If you own a small business and you’re not sure how you should take advantage of big data, keep reading for more helpful tips.

Understanding Big Data

In simple terms, big data is a phrase that describes data that’s so large or moves so fast that it’s difficult to process with traditional software. Today, we create a lot of big data. For example, in just one minute the world sends 200 million emails, completes 2 million Google searches, uploads 48 hours in YouTube videos, and creates 685,000 Facebook updates. Unlike yesteryear when big data was kept on handwritten ledgers, today we use computer databases to keep track of it. However, just like big data of the past, it still helps companies make better decisions and improve operations. Even lawyers can use big data but they need someone who understands analytics like the staff at Lawyersseo.com who can help translate the searches and even have your firm showing up on a higher page on Google.

Learning Customer Patterns

One area where small businesses can use big data is learning about customer patterns. Whether you track what’s purchased with which credit card they’re using, when and where they purchased something from a home computer or a reliable mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet via your website or app, or to see which social media posts get the most traffic, using this data can help you understand what interests your customers. For example, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium used big data to learn that many of their customers purchased tickets online at night or in the early morning. With this information, they were able to create time-limited deals on their website and increase their online ticket sales 771 percent over the last two years.

Buying Better Product

Big data isn’t just useful for learning what customers want to buy. It can also help small businesses buy better products to sell to their customers. Carvana, an online car marketplace, wanted a way to predict if a car they purchase at auction has a higher likelihood of being a lemon. With their system, they were able to have a better idea of which cars they should bid on and which cars they should pass up. In turn, they could buy superior cars for less than what they usually sell for and pass along nearly $1,500 in discounts to their customers.

Monitor Inventory Levels

While traditional databases have tracked inventory for decades, big data can watch inventory levels that were once impossible to follow. Brian Janezic uses one such system with his car wash businesses. His system keeps track of cleaning supplies and automatically creates a purchase order when one gets low. With his new tracking system, he also immediately knows if there’s a problem with a machine that wastes inventory. For instance, if a valve is stuck open, Janezic will see a dramatic decrease in one drum in real time, and he can fix it before losing close to $250 in soap.

Better Manage Customer Service

A final area in which small businesses can take advantage of big data is to help improve customer service. Chris Mittelstaedt, of FruitGuys, knew there had to be a better way to handle the up to 1,300 emails his company received every week dealing with the fresh fruit they sell to workplaces around the United States. 

Mittelstaedt admits that before he implemented a new big data system to deal with that massive amount of information, he had no idea exactly how many emails they were handling, and he didn’t know what their response times were for replying back to those emails. Eventually, he found out that it would sometimes take over 24 hours to respond to some emails, and he felt that time was too long.

Today, a shared inbox helps the four customer service representatives not only speed up response times, which is now under two hours, but it also helps them spot trends in their communication. For example, if they see many emails praising a certain fruit delivered that day, they know they have a popular item and can immediately pass that information along to the buyers.

Big data is no longer something that only big business can use. Today, small businesses can also use big data to improve everything from the product they buy to the customers they serve.