Big data for business: How it can be used

others | Data Science   |   
Published February 10, 2020   |   

Big data is all the rage in big business. However, if you run a small business, you likely think that this powerful source of insights is out of your reach. You may be more mistaken than you realize. Big data is not only something that a small- or medium-sized business can use, but it is also something that every business should leverage. Understanding how to do so could be the key to your success this year.

Collecting Data

As you may have guessed, the starting point of leveraging big data is collecting it. Don’t be intimidated by the term. Big data simply means building an extensive data set from multiple sources and manipulating it to draw conclusions. It is much simpler than it sounds to get started.
One of the best sources of data at your disposal is your transactional data. Your point of sale system may already be capturing a lot of this information for you. Check out your Pos system documentation to learn more about exporting your data. It is likely available in a convenient Excel spreadsheet.
You can also examine the traffic in your store. If you have an online business, this is easy and built-in with most analytics tools. If you have a brick and mortar store, it is a little more complex but still very manageable. One solution is to track the number of times the door opens. Another possibility is to use a camera and software to track the number of people. Of course, if you have low foot traffic, you can also do it manually.
If you run a rewards program, you can get customer-specific data on purchases and more. This can be a very powerful way to create personalized promotions and customer experiences.
As you can hopefully see, there are lots of available data sources for you. You can also get data from third-party research sources. This may not be as specific to your situation, but it is likely a very broad data set.

Preparing Data

Gathering the data is the easy part, relatively. The more challenging aspect is organizing the data so it can be analyzed. Fortunately, there are a number of data preparation tools that can help you with this.
For many companies, the trick is to clean up the data then merge data in Excel. Once it is cleanly in a spreadsheet, it is ready to be analyzed and manipulated.
Of course, the best thing you can do is to try to collect data as cleanly as possible from the start. However, this isn’t always possible. Therefore, it is a good idea to have some automated tools that help with cleaning, culling and organizing your data set.

Analyzing Data

Finally, it is time to use your data to make some decisions. What you need to learn depends on the needs of your business. However, a common use of data is to drive personalized marketing campaigns. You can explore customers’ shopping habits and identify which ones like which products. If you can combine this with contact information with your rewards program, you can send out targeted promotions.
The timeliness of your outreach can also be driven by data. For example, you may know that your peak hours are at the end of the workday. This can guide you to send our promotional emails shortly before those peak hours, encouraging more customers to come to your store. If you take this even further with big data, you can target customers based on when they prefer to shop.
Another possible use is to make strategic decisions. You can explore customer buying trends and identify which product line extensions may generate the most income. In other words, anything you want to make a decision about, you can drive with your data set.
Learn more about big data and how collecting a large database on your customers and audience can help you achieve success. A well-oiled data process could help you grow your business.