The big data revolution is no longer just for giant corporations.
While the big companies have been analyzing credit card transactions and customer demographics for years to gain competitive advantage, the advent and proliferation of cloud technology and software as a service (SaaS) has made business analytics more affordable and accessible for small business.
Within the last few years, small- and medium-sized businesses are increasingly adopting business analytics practices that are helping them grow and improve in a variety of ways.
Business analytics and the big data sources that it consumes can help managers increase market share, increase customer profitability, increase traffic and conversion, reduce cost, increase employee productivity and increase customer satisfaction, retention and intimacy.
The challenge for small business owners wanting to leverage business analytics and big data is two-fold: 1) finding sources of relevant data and 2) structuring data properly in order to gain insights.
Lucky for the analytics neophyte, a handful of resources already exist that make leveraging big data relatively easy but offer actionable insights.
• Google Analytics — While Google’s Web analytics software is not new, having access to customers’ search queries, pages visited, time spent per page and click-paths can bring new insights that enable site optimization and higher conversion rates.
Google continues to add features to the free package, and those who crave more analytical power can browse the Google Analytics Application Gallery for additional applications that work with Google Analytics to provide expanded features.
• Facebook Insights — Insights gives Facebook marketers access to key metrics such as lifetime total likes, friends of fans and page consumption. These metrics are helpful for understanding how many people have liked a page, how many people can be reached, and how many people were actually reached.
This information, along with dozens of other data, can be exported as an Excel file from Insights and then analyzed to gain additional perspectives not provided in the Facebook interface.
• WolframAlpha — For those businesses that rely on personal Facebook pages to interact with their customers, WolframAlpha’s Facebook Reports can identify who posts the most on the page and explain how customers access it.
It offers data visualization through charts, graphs and tables. A free version is available atwww.wolframalpha.com.
• Quantum Leap Buzz — Quantum Leap Buzz is a tool that assists in searching social media chatter for coherent themes and discovering sentiment about specific topics.
To do this, it analyzes tweets on Twitter and posts on Facebook. Users can search for specific words. The software is free to download at www.quantumleapbuzz.com.
• QuickBooks — A well-organized and up-to-date QuickBooks company file offers many insights into a small business’ performance beyond the normal financial reports.
In addition to detailed sales reports, QuickBooks can export to Excel just about any set of data contained in the company file. Considering the variety of data that QuickBooks can track (payroll, employee hours, vendors, customers, etc.), there are numerous ways to compare exported data sets in Excel and discover new metrics to aid management.
These are just a few of the low- and no-cost resources that small business owners can use to gain access to business intelligence. While Big Data continues to grow, so do the number of tools making access easier and more affordable for small business.