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Big Data for Small Business: 3 Ways to Use Customer Data


You’ve probably heard and read a lot about “big data” in the past year, and you’re going to hear a lot more in the coming year. But if you feel like big data is only for big businesses, you’re not alone.

Companies like Amazon and Netflix use complicated algorithms to decipher what customers want based on past online actions and preferences, then serve up real-time discounts, deals and suggestions. But in one recent survey of small businesses, entrepreneurs asked to describe big data said things like “No clue,” “Data that’s too big for us,” “More than I can comprehend,” and “Too much data to deal with.”

Are you ready to give up on big data? Don’t. The same survey found that although few businesses use big data tools for marketing and sales, nearly 80 percent of them use “small data.”

Small data is activity-oriented information that small business owners have immediate access to and that can be used to generate immediate results. Examples include website analytics or email marketing reports.

What types of small data do most small businesses rely on? When it comes to marketing:

  • Email marketing reports (83 percent)
  • Website analytics (64 percent)
  • Social media analytics (52 percent)
  • Sales trends (48 percent)
  • Sales receipts (43 percent)
  • POS records (33 percent)
  • Inventory tracking (33 percent)
  • Current customer data (44 percent)
  • Prospective customer data (22 percent)

Here are just a few ways you can use this data to find new customers and retain existing ones.

  1. Segment your marketing lists to develop more personalized marketing campaigns.
  2. Use website analytics to see which products and services get the most visits and clicks so you can focus on items that sell and cut back on those with less interest.
  3. Use POS records to staff your store or business appropriately for the times when most customers are likely to visit.

If you were ready to give up on big data, don’t—use the small data you’ve got, and you’ll see big results.


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