How Can Your Business Leverage Data Analytics to Stay Ahead of the Competition Without Breaking the Bank?
Big Data has been a big topic of the past one and a half decade in marketing and analytics and while the verdict is still out if some trends will go as quickly as they came, it looks like Big Data is here to stay and will only get bigger. But how can Small Businesses with limited budgets get in on the fun?:
Data analytics is not a new concept. Governments started using statistics as a tool to help with strategic decisions such as taxation and urban planning as far back as the 18th century. Though the term wasn’t used back then, Big Data had a great contribution to the invention and development of the computer . Then in the 20th century with the advent of computers as we know them today, came the computerized processing of data and thus data analytics as a separate ..
So what is Big Data? Ask anyone on the internet and they will tell you that Big Data is data that is so big or so complex that it cannot be processed by conventional data-processing software and is characterized by the 3 (or 5) V’s – volume, velocity, variety, veracity and value. If you ask someone in tech, they will tell you that generally we are talking about petabytes upon petabytes  of data that is coming in daily, hourly or even by the minute. So can your small business with all of its operations amass this kind of data? No, not really… maybe. But the definition of Big Data is more nuanced than that. Everyone in tech will screech from what I’m about to say, but if you ask me, considering a small to medium business, for all intents and purposes any data that is too big, too fast or too varied to be processed by the tools your run of the mill marketing specialist or business analyst uses can be considered Big Data. Tools like Tableau  , Power BI  , RapidMiner  or Domo  can handle data only on the scale of megabytes up to a few gigs. Your favorite all-in-one tool, Excel  can only handle tens of thousands of rows of data, which is nowhere near the millions of rows we are talking about.
Is Data Analytics for You?
Ok, so we cleared the terminology up a bit, now on to why you should care. Big players in every industry use data analytics to outcompete the little ones. Giants like Amazon  or Google  are infamous for crushing competitors using the millions of terabytes of data they hoard from all over the world, but ever since tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel have become widely available, small and medium-sized businesses can also capitalize on these assets. According to Built With, more than half of top sites use some kind of analytics tracker . So if you are still contemplating whether you should collect and process data and still aren’t sure how to use data to your advantage, you’re already late to the party. The perfect time for joining was way before yesterday, so the faster you start, the easier it will be to catch up to or even outcompete your competitors..
Isn’t it too late to start just now?
No! Although the field is always changing and the big players will always  try to restrict and monopolize the data market under the guise of data privacy protection , Big Data and analytics is here to stay! Also, Google and Facebook aren’t the only places you can gather data from, most of the time the more variables you track, the more accurate the picture you get from it. So if you’re still not in on it, now’s the time.
How can Data Analytics help your business?
The main purpose of data analytics is to find out what’s important and what isn’t. Just by looking at the numbers most people could tell if your business is doing well or poorly, data analytics can help you answer why. If your sales volume suddenly decreases or you stop getting new subscribers to your website, your ads stop converting to purchases or ad budget has to increase at greater rate that you can handle, through data analytics you can find out what causes these problems. For a data analyst looking at your analytics data is like when your doctor looks at your blood test result or an X-ray. It may be just numbers in tables for you, but a professional will see little fractures or plaque formations that can cause you trouble in the long run.
Looking at analytics can also help you find pain points in your customer journey or sales pipeline. Discover new markets or give you insights that can help you with R&D. As the (in)famous saying goes, “The customer is always right”, so why not find out what the customer is thinking? Data can help you with researching your market and your audience, and finding out how your customers are using your product. All of these processes can be sped up and optimized by a data analyst.
Let me tell you something even better, using predictive models and technologies like Machine Learning, a Data Scientist will be able to estimate metrics not only retrospectively but how they will behave in the future. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could test every campaign until you found the correct budget and audience for the most optimized conversion strategy? Well, if you have infinite amounts of money and time to test every possibility, then go ahead. If you’re one of the Small Businesses that cannot afford this and would like to forecast results and estimate not only your costs but your revenue too, you will probably need the help of a Data Scientist. Whereas analyzing data will help you find the whys of things, through predictive modeling you can anticipate change.
Okay, I’m in. What should I do now?
I’m glad we’re on the same page. First things first, you’ll have to develop a data strategy. What this means is that you’ll have to look at your general business goals and plan out how you want to use your data to meet those goals. You’ll have to look at what kinds of data you want to gather, what you want to find out about your business and how you’ll have to process it. You will probably have to design a data pipeline and also look at infrastructural and human resource needs. Then you’ll have to implement your plan.
There’s one step that you could take in a matter of minutes that doesn’t require a whole lot of planning or technical knowledge, which is setting up these tracking software if you haven’t already. You should almost always set up Facebook Pixel if a part of your visitors come from social media and consider using a service like Mailchimp for your newsletter if email is your thing. If customers find you through search engines or PPC ads Google Analytics is a must.