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Just about two decades ago, most of the information was accessible only by a handful of individuals and organisations. This changed remarkably with the advent of User-Generated Content (UGC), which led to the ‘democratisation’ of data. Small businesses have gained most from this transition. As information became the new paradigm, most new opportunities arose around use of information.
Big Data for Small Business Owners
Now small businesses and startups can afford systems such as VoIP, collaboration tools, VCs etc., which were once exclusive to the big multinationals. This cheap access to sophisticated, data-powered tools has given small businesses a new window of opportunities that was once unimaginable.
Big Data is not new to small business
We might not realize it, but we are already using big data – that too at the micro-level in our businesses. Most businesses use Google Analytics to get insights such as – who is coming to their website, how they are interacting with the different web pages, where they come from and what they do once on their site. This is big data in action – analytics derived from vast amounts of data (volume) that is constantly growing (velocity), and reveals different aspects about the visitors (variety). Only to be presented in a much more visual, intuitive and easy-to-decipher interface. Imagine what we would be doing in the absence of such a service – manually downloading server logs and going through each entry!
A case for greater personal service
Vast amounts of individual customer-level data is increasingly becoming available. This enables small businesses to anticipate and meet customer needs much before they are even expressed. For example, imagine an app that recognizes hotel patrons by their mobile phones, the moment they enter the parking lot. This information can trigger an automatic check-in and the front desk execs can have their paperwork and room key ready by the time they even enter the hotel. Won’t that create a ‘wow’ factor around the hotel’s brand?
Cheap analytic tools level the playing field
Earlier if you wished to analyze your customers, you would take a sample and then run it through some tests to drive your decision-making. Sample is now passe, as the whole population can now become your sample. Take thousands of records about all your customers and feed it to a big data analytics tool – would these insights not enhance your decision-making capability instead of using, lets say, a sample of top ten or hundred customers?
Sophisticated analytics and deep data insights were once privy only to the large corporations. Now even small business owners can use analytics (cheap or open source) on their data which helps them in cutting their operating costs, incorporating best practices and streamlining operations.
Discovering new opportunities
Markets change dynamically, and in order to sustain, companies must adapt to that degree of change. This dynamism also throws up new business avenues in the form of emerging (often unstated) consumer needs. Monitoring and analyzing industry trends and competition’s activities can lead to a significant competitive edge.
Businesses can adopt much more intelligent robots and machines taking care of the mundane, routine tasks. These machines can be fed with sensor data that’s analysed in real-time to track, report and forecast trends related to customers, processes or employees
It’s obvious that small companies have a limited big data exposure – the data that they collect doesn’t usually run into tera-bytes. But all this is changing with the internet of things, as more and more devices are embedded with sensors that interact with each other, the amount of data is bound to rise exponentially. What this data can mean in terms of revenues generated from reduced costs, greater efficiencies or increased selling opportunities is obvious. So, is it the right time to discuss big data in your boardroom?
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