Big data: it’s one of those trendy marketing terms with more than one meaning, and it’s everywhere.
The first meaning is the sheer amount of data available. Technology makes it easy to know seemingly everything about your customers, as well as your potential customers. Where do they live? How do they buy? What’s their buying history? How many times has your company interacted with them before they make a decision?
It goes beyond your customers. You can parse data in so many ways that it’s mind-boggling. Which campaigns generated the most interest? What time of year do you get the greatest return on investment? Do you sell more of X when it’s hot, or when it’s cold? Which regions perform better? Does time of day make a difference?
Big data’s second meaning is about all you can do with this data. All of these new insights combine to create huge results for your campaigns.
Now that you understand the benefits of big data, it’s time to understand how to make it work for you.
Big Data: Where to Begin
There are three main components to big data: the data sources themselves, the platforms you use to capture the data, and the tools you use to analyze it. You goal is harnessing all of this information to take full advantage of it.
Data sources include all the ways your organization connects with potential and current customers. This is your social media, Web-based campaigns, email campaigns, operational systems, and more.
Data platforms and analytics tools are what you use to convert captured data into insights and, hopefully, conversions. These tools allow you to create model scenarios to help you build those highly focused campaigns.
Taking Advantage of the Cloud
The cloud offers numerous technology solutions that are perfect for small business owners. The cost is lower, thanks to paying a monthly fee instead of software licensing for each user. You also have reduced storage needs, another hardware savings opportunity.
Of course, all that is meaningless if cloud offerings don’t meet your needs. Luckily, app developers have been busy creating some truly robust products, and some of them meet multiple needs, or even fulfill all three components of the big data machine. This makes it easy to find a cloud solution that compiles your data, stores it, and then analyzes it, creating the optimum system for you to take action.
One final benefit of cloud solutions is ease, and low expense, with which software upgrades and updates occur. Every time your vendor performs an upgrade, you do as well.
How Do Different Industries Use Big Data?
With so much information out there, you may be wondering; what’s the best way to take advantage of it, and does it differs by industry.
Companies in every industry use this information to improve profitability and efficiency. The most obvious use of big data is acquiring broad yet detailed information about customers, but potentials extend far beyond that. For example, you can look at the analytics of your supply chain management to discover inefficiencies and determine potential fixes.
You can also use this information to gauge customer behavior, predicting the likelihood one is looking to take its business elsewhere. This allows a proactive approach to customer retention. When it comes time to launch a new campaign, or explore a new opportunity, using data analytics reduces some of the risk, since it allows predictions of success that are more accurate.
Specific industries use big data differently. Retailers use it for better inventory management, to develop a better understanding of staffing needs, and determine ROI on marketing campaigns. Insurers have always used data to determine risk, but today, those capabilities have expanded to allow them to see patterns indicating fraud more easily.
Healthcare also uses patient data and technology in a variety of ways. Sharing medical history (as appropriate) provides comprehensive patient care, while also helping various providers collaborate on treatment.
Preparing Your Team to Use Big Data
One of the biggest roadblocks to using big data is leadership’s reluctance to embrace it and employees without the background or skill to work with it.
You have a couple of options here. One is to sign on with an analytics provider, reducing the need for onsite tech folks to create the framework and architecture necessary. This solution may be ideal for smaller businesses. Check out this list of 50 providers from Predictive Analytics. Here’s another eight providers specifically designed for small businesses, as recommended by Business News Daily.
Of course, having the information isn’t enough. You also need to put it to work. These network solutions help with that, as well, since each includes reporting capabilities and even modeling scenarios. The scenarios are especially effective at helping you determine the efficacy of a campaign without ever spending a dime on said campaign. Once leadership sees these results in action, they should get behind your big data initiative.
The Bottom Line
There is an insane amount of information out there, just waiting for you to tap and use it. You can gain insight into your customers, your campaigns, your organizational efficiencies, and more. All you have to do is use it.