Big data analytics can provide the opportunity to learn essential insights about your business, but to many, the mere prospect of it feels overwhelming and scary. Even the name seems daunting.
In case you've already started getting nervous, let's break it down. Big data is simply a compilation of large data sets that, when computed in a certain way, reveals patterns, trends and associations.
Maybe you've thought that big data analytics is just for huge companies with deep IT pockets. (The free Google Analytics package is about all my small or medium-sized business can manage.)
Dismissing big data out of hand, however, may be a mistake. A smart data strategy is one way to understand your customers and their preferences, as well as what you need to do to increase their loyalty and business. Big data analytics can help owners derive instant insights about customer behavior that can change the way you do business in real-time and help you pull ahead of your competition.
Thanks to its computational power, analytics technology can help illuminate relationships between variables that might not be immediately apparent, resulting in better decisions and future predictions—and perhaps some cool stories.
Harnessing the Power of Big Data Analytics
The good news is, it's not nearly as difficult to start leveraging big data analytics as it once was. You might already be employing tools like Salesforce that have basic analytics capabilities, but if not, Hadoop is an open-source project that offers a platform to store and manage big data. Not only does Hadoop have massive storage for multi-structured data like Web server logs, email and social network data, but its framework for processing data, MapReduce, allows users to play with data and move it around quickly.
Your first step to using big data is to start systematically collecting your data. You might, for instance, be getting data from your customer relationship management system (CRM), your website or your e-commerce platform. You may also have data from online and offline partners.
Next, consider looking at the different types of data. Ask yourself why a particular data stream is critical for your customers, how it will help you improve your business, how it impacts revenue and how it will help you decrease costs or enhance productivity.
It's wise to start small—perhaps with one data stream at a time. For example, you might initially look at the main products being purchased in a particular geographic area. You can then use this information to develop targeted marketing offers to specific segments of your customer population.
Effective data governance may be a new world for you, and in that case, it may make sense to hire a data manager or speak with a consultant for assistance with your initial big data strategy and implementation. And most importantly, have fun wherever your big data analytics journey takes you!
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