What is Big Data?
If you think you’ve never heard of big data, it might be that you don’t know it by name, but do understand what it is. Big data is used by all kinds of businesses all over the world in order for them to understand their clients better.
Do you ever do food shopping online, and as you go to the checkout, the shop asks you if you want to add anything else to the basket? This ‘suggested’ list of foods is based on what you’ve bought in the past. The company is using data that they have on you personally to try to get you to spend more money.
It’s very clever, and a very simple idea. If you shop at the same clothes shop on a monthly basis, you might find that you start getting monthly emails around the time you shop — usually near payday — advertising 20% off. The company knows when you choose to shop with them, and will utilise that information to persuade you to spend money.
Why is big data important?
Big data enables businesses to understand the behaviour of their clients, what they’re buying and when they’re buying it. It reveals patterns and trends about human behaviour and, therefore, their interactions online.
If the data is analysed correctly, it can reduce costs of advertising that you don’t need, time trying to reach new customers that may never purchase anything, and new products can be developed based on the information. It means the business can determine the cause of any issues and failures, and therefore fix them.
Every second, people collectively perform 40,000 Google searches. If each of those people is searching something different, and 1 million hits come up for each search, that’s 40 billion web pages that are being scoured, every second. That’s a little bit mind-blowing.
How can SMEs benefit from big data?
So we’ve established that big data is important, but is it possible for smaller businesses to utilise it as well? Bigger companies are big because they already know what their buyers like. It is more advantageous for SMEs to understand their customers.
Start off with manageable data. It would be a waste of money for a small company to spend hundreds of thousands updating their systems to collate more data. Data collection comes slowly and naturally, so be patient. Begin by looking at what data you’ve already got. It might not be much, but it would be a good start. Begin a spreadsheet to track the ages of your customers, what times they choose to shop/visit your website, their location, etc. It would also be good to create a document outlining:
- Your categories of data
- Why you need the data, and how you will use it once you have it
- How you will acquire it and at what cost
- How you will store it and protect it
- How much time you will spend analysing and processing the data
Install a good research and development software. Once you have enough data, it needs to be stored and secured in a software that is tailor-made to your business. Do your research and get the software right first time. If you don’t, you could end up starting from scratch with a new software, which will be a waste of time and money.
General big data statistics
- 29% of businesses say big data has helped to create new revenue.
- 1 zettabyte is equivalent to 152 million years of high-definition film.
- Amazon has 1.3 million servers to handle all its incoming data.
- 36% of businesses will invest or are planning to invest in big data at some point.
How has big data helped your business?