Big Data is an essential vitamin for IT. Although it can be beneficial for adults (large enterprises), it is best and most necessary for growing children (small businesses). That is why startups and SMEs should not shy away from this new trend. In 2012, when the concept started to catch on, there were numerous adoption barriers, but now only neglect and indifference can keep a company from joining the revolution.
The emergence of many Big Data companies as a software service (BDaSS) has eliminated the need for having a dedicated team of scientists and analysts or even collecting your own data in some cases. It has now become an outsourced service like recruiting or accounting, with affordable prices. Some generic tools which can still give you an important competitive edge are even free.
Stages of Big Data Implementation
To harness the power of Big Data as a small company, you should treat it as another useful tool and not worry so much about the technical aspects, but focus on your strategy. The game-changing power comes from fast response abilities, sometimes even on the spot.
First, define the top 3 needs of your company. Do you need more clients? Do you want to learn which products are underperforming? Do you want to spend less on marketing? Are you having trouble keeping track of payments?
To illustrate the point, let’s go old school: imagine it’s the 1970s and PCs haven’t been invented yet. We recommend using good old pen and paper to map out your thoughts. Now, think of all the things you could measure to get more insights about your problem. Don’t get stuck on the details, just make a comprehensive list involving both online and offline items.
Try to make a list of the data you already have that matches your needs and data that you can easily find online like census office records, search engine aggregated data or free fiscal files. Make a separate list of the data you do not have but think would help you solve the problem you face in your company.
Reach out to different Big Data consulting companies and ask them for a quote on your problem stating the data you have, the data you think you need and the expected results. It is your duty as the head of your company to know what deliverables you expect from a service provider. Don’t take an off the shelf product, instead ask for accurate information to move forward. Select the best offer based on portfolio and customization.
Big Data for Better Marketing
With free tools, such as Google Analytics, you can start using Big Data within a month of setting up a website. Find out where your customers come from, what their peak hours are and how they interact with your site. If they go right to the “Prices” page, maybe you should make that more visible, or if they spend much more time on a blog post about an individual product, that is your next cash cow. Learn about them and make subtle changes, one at a time to work towards your goal.
Aim to create 360 degree profiles of customers but understand that this is a gradual process, and a continuously evolving one, since each client or lead can change their preferences on the spot under certain conditions, which you need to determine. Track visitors and attach triggers to their actions to have enough clustering evidence.
Most small companies can thrive by using social media platforms that come with integrated analytics and even some advice for a proper targeting of the marketing budget. The AI behind Facebook can suggest placement, frequency and even similar audiences to those that had a positive reaction in the past.
Growing your client base without leaving your office is becoming the industry standard. For companies that have a small budget for marketing, AI can help them get more bang for their buck, while documenting the whole process.
Use the transparency given by the Internet to create competitor profiles as well. Even with no data analysis knowledge, just searching for the Twitter handles of competitors can create an accurate description of their customer care strategy.
Digitally Enhanced Operational Flow
Even if you have a small bakery, you can use Big Data coming from sensors on the production line or sales recordings to find out what temperature makes your bagels the crispiest or how much flour you should order before the Christmas rush to maximize your sales. Big Data does not always have to answer fundamental questions since it is the little things that make a difference.
If your goal is to create a functional supply chain, perfectly integrated with suppliers and delivery, look at your data and some traffic reports. Avoiding peak hours with route planning based on widely available traffic reports can save you time, fuel and money.
AI Powered Recruitment
A small company probably may not need this feature as much as a corporation; but AI can be a nice-to-have. It is still important if you are in a niche where good candidates are hard to find or in one where for each job posting you receive a large number of unqualified applications.
Born Digital or Adopting AI?
If you are just opening a small business now, integrate Big Data into the management and marketing strategies from day 1. This makes it easier to respond to market threats and opportunities in an agile manner, seizing every trend. If you have already survived the first years and are feeling stuck and struggling, go over the steps described, get a focal point, gather the data you have and start small, but determined. Right now, using Big Data is still a competitive advantage, but in a few years, it will become just the standard way of doing business.