Small business owners: It’s time to meet big data

Here’s a quick quiz for people who own small businesses. Do you know what big data is? You might have read about big data. You might have even read that people businesses who study big data use it to forge a more powerful relationship to customers and gain an edge over their competition. But as a small business owner you’re busy. You have to hire three more employees . You have to approve your product’s new marketing strategy. And you need to find a different location that can better serve your growing business. This doesn’t mean, though, that you can disregard big data, and here’s why:

Defining Big Data

What is big data? John Weathington, writing for the Tech Republic blog, does a good job explaining: Big data, as the name suggests, are massive quantities of fast-moving information. This information is free, but it serves a valuable purpose in the marketplace. Big data, if appropriately mined and studied, can tell you what your target customers want, the things they lack and just how much they’re going to be prepared to pay to get it. In other words, big data can tell you the best way to run your small business.

Big Data In Action

CIO Magazine recently highlighted three business success stories that were made possible thanks in large part to companies harnessing and using big data to gain new customers. The magazine looked at financial firm Financial Engines. This company uses large financial data sets and analytics tools to offer clients data-based advice on how they can best save for retirement. The impressive amount of trend and statistical information the company can access is a prime selling point to new customers.

CIO also points to a company called Exmobaby that sells baby pajamas that have built-in biosensors. These sensors send health data from babies to their parents. You can bet that this usage of data sets — the health information from babies themselves — attracts parents who want the best for their infants. Then there’s the start-up Parchment, which analyzes databases of student information — everything from grade point averages to SAT scores to college-acceptance data — to aid their clients, students, choose and apply for colleges. The advantage this company provides? It will help students apply to those schools statistically most likely to accept them. Big data, then, helps both businesses and consumers. It helps consumers make better choices, and it also helps those businesses who provide this data gain new business.