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How Can Small Businesses Use Data?

When you hear the buzzword “big data” you probably think of large corporations using complex data analytics to collect massive amounts of information on consumers and market trends. While big data is important to the success of such corporations, often overlooked is how useful it can be to small businesses, too. With the tremendous wealth of information available on consumer behavior and the proliferation of large-scale data analysis services, small businesses can now access big data easily. Insights drawn from these analyses can positively impact most everything about your business, from marketing strategies and product design to the time of day you post to social media.

Interestingly, the implications of modern data analysis are perhaps more applicable to small businesses than large corporations, because small businesses tend to be more flexible and respond quicker to market trends and feedback. Because of this, big data has also become an important part of studying small business management and entrepreneurship. Through programs like Louisiana State University Shreveport’s online Master of Business Administration with an Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise Specialization, candidates have the opportunity to study how big data analysis can be applied to the many facets of business management, positioning them to make the most of their resources and opportunities.

What Is Big Data?

Although the concept of “big data” is generally understood by those who use it, the definitions vary. This may be because the widespread use of big data is a rather recent development. Ten years ago, computers simply did not have the processing power to analyze such a wealth of information, nor was the internet used as extensively as it is today. As digital technologies have grown exponentially, so has the potential for big data use.

Illustrating this, Merriam-Webster defined big data in 2014 as “an accumulation of data that is too large and complex for processing by traditional database management tools.” Yet modern definitions describe big data as entirely usable and informative mass sets of data. Technology research firm Gartner defines it as “high-volume, high-velocity and/or high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing that enable enhanced insight, decision making, and process automation.” That may sound complicated, but is far closer to how big data is currently viewed and used.

How Can Data Be Applied to Small Business?

Through social media sites, cloud-based storage and tracking, web search engines, and most any other internet resource, data can be collected on many measurable human behaviors of interest to a small business owner. What are the demographics of people visiting your website and purchasing your products or services? What sort of ads are most successful in bringing you traffic? What types of social media posts attract the highest level of customer engagement? What time of day do such posts have the greatest impact? You could even analyze what types of weather correlate to customer engagement or purchases. The list goes on and on.

Although the amount of information you can source is nearly endless, what you do with it is what matters. Big data analyses can give you a comprehensive look at customer feedback on your product, allowing you to improve it accordingly. Internal data can help you maximize efficiency in your business structure and resource management. Data can help you tailor your social media and digital marketing campaigns to what has proven most effectual for you or what seems to work for other companies. That is an important point: Big data can provide priceless information on strategies competitors are using successfully or unsuccessfully, giving you insight into how to best develop your competitive advantage in the market.

How Can Small Business Owners Access Data Analyses?

If you would like to make use of big data in your company, there is an abundance of data analysis companies to choose from. Google Analytics is an obvious and free option for studying website traffic. There are also many services which design data analysis programs specifically for the needs of your company, creating a profile focusing on whatever you request and even offering simplified, processed results for the data analysis layperson to understand and incorporate.

With smart analysis, small businesses can use market, customer and internal data to great effect. Small businesses are inherently more agile and responsive than large corporations, which enables them to take advantage of market opportunities as they appear in real time. The drive and creativity of an innovative small business coupled with evidence-based problem-solving and decision-making can greatly aid in a business’s rapid growth and stability in modern, turbulent markets.

Learn more about the LSUS online MBA in entrepreneurship program.


Forbes: Does Big Data Have a Place in Small Business?

Business News Daily: 8 Big Data Solutions for Small Business

Entrepreneur: How Can Small Business Benefit From Big Data

Forbes: 16 Surprising Statistics About Small Businesses

Gartner: IT Glossary: Big Data

McKinsey & Company: Big Data: The Next Frontier for Innovation, Competition, and Productivity

Merriam-Webster: big data

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