Small Businesses And Big Data

By Vafa Saboori, PhD

Businesses refer to the massive amounts of data they collect on their current and target markets as "big data." When first introduced in 2005, many considered it to be nothing more than the new buzzword that we could all disregard. Today, however, if a structure is in place that allows for methodical analysis of all of it, it may be a gold mine of new revenue. Although big data is mainly generated by large corporations such as Google and Amazon, it does not mean that small businesses cannot benefit from its applications. In fact, in certain ways, small businesses are better suited to use big data because they are more flexible and able to respond more quickly to data-driven insights.

The 12-month Masters in Business Analytics Program (MSBA) at Dominican University of California provides business professionals practical training to gain expertise in leveraging big data into strategic decision-making and actionable business insights. In just one year, students in the Masters of Business Analytics program will learn to use quantitative data analytics tools to transform complex data into business decisions and communicate the results effectively.

But first, let’s dive deeper into the top reasons why big data is so important. 

1. Big Data is not Costly Anymore

Small businesses can now unlock even more secrets from data thanks to dropping technology costs and innovative technologies that represent complicated databases in ways that even technophobes can appreciate. The cost of big data analysis tools has steadily decreased over time. Many powerful platforms are available for free or with a free trial period. For small companies, the free model for data management tools is always adequate before they accumulate enough data to justify a paid account.

2. Analytics Services are More Accessible Than Ever

Even big-name analytics services, such as Google Analytics, are no longer out of reach for small businesses. The majority of small businesses are now able to use Google Analytics, and it is a good place to start for website traffic analytics. In fact, for many businesses, which make less than five million impressions per month, the service is free. Although it requires a bit of investment to learn how to use such systems, this is not something that you need to hire a data scientist or computer engineer for. 

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3. Trend Spotting and Forecasting are Commoditized

As the first step, small businesses can start using big data analytics to predict where things are going by spotting and tracking habits and trends, as well as how demand for our goods or services will change over time and what will cause the change. Traditionally, small businesses analyzed trends and performed forecasting mainly based on subjective opinions and foresight. It was close to guesswork to find out why consumers purchased some of their goods but not others. Today, many big data analytics providers, based on market dynamics, seasonal patterns, and other factors, can provide forecasting and pricing advice down to the week.

4. It’s Twitter’s World, We are Just Living in it

Social media specifically has gained a lot of importance as a big data source. Analyzing social network data makes tasks like finding niche markets and analyzing consumer reviews much simpler and less costly. The phenomenal growth of modern social media channels is a treasure trove on its own. There are now over 50 social media services, many of which are located outside of the United States. As a small business, you probably have an account in most of the big social media platforms. Your followers and visitors are interacting with your posts and photos. On the other end of the line, however, you should be keeping track of and evaluate their activities. Many affordable web-based big data services now can crawl social media for likes and mentions of your business and service. 

Business Analytics: Key Takeaway

Small businesses should be prepared to take advantage of the phenomenal opportunity of big data democratization. They now have the ability to use services that collect data from various sources and analyze it for strategic decision-making. Big data tools are now more affordable than ever and have simpler user interfaces. This makes them available to people with only a basic understanding of technology. It is essential for small businesses to invest in this new technology to unlock its benefits. For companies who are in the early stages of growth and might not have the budget to use commercial services, using some of the many open-source resources is a viable option.
 
Learn how Dominican University of California’s Masters in Business Analytics Program (MSBA) provides business professionals the necessary training to remain competitive in a rapidly evolving big data economy.

Vafa Saboori, PhD is the Director of MS in Business Analytics Program at the Barowsky School of Business at Dominican University of California.
 

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