How Big Data Can Help Small Businesses

December 20, 2012

Small businesses can now enjoy the big data analysis tools that were once privy only to larger corporations, wrote The Washington Post on Tuesday. Such tools are helpful in empowering small business owners to better understand and serve their consumers, develop stronger marketing strategies, and streamline their business operations.

According to NPR, big data is defined as an aggregation of data that is so large that it would be difficult to manage or productively understand without sophisticated analytics tools. Examples of big data include the collective emails that a company might gather from its customer service department, the many listings of the number and type of merchandise that a retailer sells over the course of a month, or how many people visit a certain page of a business owner’s website on a given day. With the right technology, these pools of data can help small businesses find trends in their customers’ preferences, detect inefficiencies in their work flow, and improve their chances of success.  

In its article discussing the role that big data will play in small businesses, CIO cited the opinion of Brad Smith, CEO and President of Intuit. “We believe that data is the Moneyball for small business,” Smith told CIO, “It levels the playing field. […] It’s going to help small businesses operate more efficiently and enable local entrepreneurs to compete effectively with a company of any size anywhere across the globe.” With the rise of cloud technology-based analytics software and free tools provided by many people’s favorite social media sites and search engines, analyzing big data is more affordable than ever for small businesses and even individuals, reported The Washington Post. Examples of such tools include e-commerce and customer relationship management (CRM) softwares, social networking sites like Facebook, and search engine tools such as Google Analytics and Bing Webmaster Tools.

The New York Times expanded on how entrepreneurs have used one or more of the above tools to improve their bottom line. For example, Kim Kooren, co-founder of an artisanal wine company called Velvet Palate, uses the e-commerce software Magento Enterprise, which tracks her sales and sorts her customers according to the frequencies of their purchases, in order to understand how to market to the different segments within her customer base. In addition, the online social media analytics service Sentiment Metrics allows Kooren to see her customers’ discussions about her wines, which then helps her to tailor her wine purchases and marketing strategies even further. Other examples include SimplySoles founder Kassie Rempel, who uses Google Analytics to see how visitors learn about and arrive at her website, and oGorgeous founder Cassey Ho, who has improved the efficiency of her fashion retail business with the help of the e-commerce software Highwire.

Despite these clear benefits to the organized accumulation and analysis of big data, some still have concerns about the widespread use of such data to learn about consumers. In his article for NPR, Geoff Nunberg quipped, “You idly click on an ad for a pair of red sneakers one morning, and they'll stalk you to the end of your days. It makes me nostalgic for the age when cyberspace promised a liberating anonymity.”

Compiled by Kaitlin Louie

“Big Data Offers Huge Potential for Smaller Companies, Intuit Says,”, December 17, 2012, Thor Olavsrud

“Forget YOLO: Why 'Big Data' Should Be The Word Of The Year,”, December 20, 2012, Geoff Nunberg

“How Small and Mid-Sized Businesses Can Tap the Power of Big Data,”, December 17, 2012, Santiago Becerra

“Simple Tools Help Owners Sift Data for Eager Customers,”, December 12, 2012, Julie Weed

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