Many businesses assume that big data doesn’t apply to them. Maybe they don’t see its value, or maybe they don’t generate much data. The reality is, big data impacts almost any business. These changes are already affecting businesses, and will continue to do so in the near future. Learn why you can’t ignore big data, and a few ways it will change your business
Is big data nothing more than a big buzzword? Will it even affect your business?
Many businesses don’t believe big data applies to them. They just don’t generate enough data for it to matter.
But, is that accurate? As outlined in this article, businesses have access to more data than they realize.
The fact is, businesses of all sizes can take advantage of this data influx. The good news: We’re starting to see more and more businesses recognize the value that big data provides. As these businesses capitalize on this data, they gain a competitive edge. Sooner or later, every business will have to jump on board, or risk becoming irrelevant.
Big data holds different opportunities for different companies, but some areas span all industries. In what ways will big data impact most every business? Here are four important areas:
It will improve business efficiency
Everything is quickly becoming a data point. From your comments on social media, to your office building’s energy usage to your server log files (and everything in between), we have access to a growing amount of usable data.
What does this mean to you? When captured and analyzed, this data provides massive efficiency gains for your business.
You’ll find a couple of great examples in this recent webinar. One example highlights the value found in log file data. The other example explores the advantages of hardware monitoring. Check out the webinar to learn how companies have capitalized on this data.
Here’s another example: Other businesses are using data to improve the efficiency of their physical office buildings. As sensors and ‘smart’ devices make their way into homes and businesses, they let you track and optimize energy usage, activity, and more.
Those are just a few examples, but we could write many articles on ways data will improve business efficiency. That being said, it’s completely useless if you’re not capturing that data. Even if you’re not to the point where you can analyze it, you can begin storing it in Hadoop. Then, you’ll have plenty of data to work with once you’re ready to analyze it.
It will help you provide better customer support
What if you could predict what your customers wanted before they asked? What if you could identify and solve pain points before they complained? What if you could deliver personalized service to every customer? In the near future, these are the types of changes that big data will bring.
“Big data helps educate businesses about their customers so they can better address their customer’s needs,” says Richard Lombardi, EVP/GM of Data Solutions at RealtyTrac. “For example, businesses can adjust their offerings in response to new insights, allowing them to stay aligned with their customers rather than drifting in a different direction and losing revenue as a result. These changes may include tweaking a website user experience so that it is tailored to the customer in real-time, and it also could include targeting certain customers at certain times using public record data such as home sales, mortgages (or lack thereof), and property characteristics that are not real-time but are still extremely valuable for understanding customer behavior and identifying new customers. Bottom line is that more information helps businesses make better decisions.”
Practically speaking, how will big data impact customer service?
Consider a typical interaction with a customer. When they contact your support line, how much information does your staff see? In some cases, they just have access to basic data, like account data, name, etc… In other companies, they might see a little bit more.
Now, what happens if they can see a complete view of the customer, like social profiles, usage of your product, data from your CRM system, payment history, and more? Do you think that sort of data would help your business provide a personalized experience? Of course!
Here’s a great example from this article about Morton’s — The Steakhouse. When a customer jokingly tweeted the steakhouse and requested that dinner be sent to Newark airport, they didn’t ignore it. Instead, they analyzed their data. They discovered he was a frequent customer with a big social media presence. They pulled data on what he typically ordered, and sent a tuxedo-clad delivery person to serve him dinner at Newark airport.
Now, would they do that for every customer? Of course not! But, because they had the necessary data, they recognized an opportunity immediately. This stunt went viral, driving free brand awareness.
Of course, this example doesn’t apply to every business, but it makes a great point: Personalized customer service will be the way of the future. With so much data floating around, businesses have an amazing opportunity to customize every customer interaction.
Perhaps even more importantly: Customers will come to expect this level of service. Businesses will have no choice but to capitalize on big data in their customer interactions.
It will improve your sales process
In most businesses, the sales process is quite inefficient. For example, did you know that salespeople spend 25% of their time searching for information for their sales calls? Or, did you realize that 89% of salespeople report missing opportunities because of information overload?
In other words, some don’t have enough data, while others have too much. The key to sales process improvements lies in your ability to capture data and convert it into actionable analytics. As explained below, this approach can have a significant impact on your sales.
“Our marketing team conducts detailed analytic assessments of our website’s traffic and carefully monitors engagement with the content that we share,” says Maddie Koerber, Marketing & Communications Manager at AVF Consulting, Inc. “This information is then organized into comprehensive reports that are fed to our sales team. Using this intelligence, our sales team has been able to streamline their efforts – they can be more strategic in their follow ups as a result of the data made available to them, and dedicate time to building and nurturing relationships with qualified leads. From an operations perspective, our COO is also able to use this intelligence in making important business decisions. It has helped us gain new clients, make things better for unhappy clients and respond to client needs before they even let us know.”
What types of companies should take a data-driven sales approach? Is this just for large businesses? No! What’s more, small businesses have more to gain. With fewer resources than the large businesses, taking a data-driven sales approach provides a competitive edge.
“Working at a small business it is imperative that we take advantage of the resources – and data – that are available to us in order to remain competitive,” says Koerber. “As big data continues to become readily accessible, I believe that we will continue to see an improvement in the operational efficiency of businesses, both large and small.”
Now, this concept doesn’t just apply to companies with a dedicated sales staff. It’s just as useful to those who sell products online, directly to their customers. As explained below, a good understanding of your customer’s purchasing habits opens the door to revenue opportunities.
“If you understand which complementary products are/aren’t bought together, a company can make better recommendations and benefit immediately,” says D. Keith Casey, Jr., Director, Product at Clarify.io.
The best example of this concept is Amazon, and their recommended purchases. When you buy anything on Amazon, they show you a list of products others have purchased with the product you’re buying. How well does it work? It works so well, Amazon’s recommendations are said to drive most of their growth.
It will change your company’s decision-making process
We hear all about the growing concept of a “data-driven culture.” But, what does that mean?
Take a look at a company like Google. Even the smallest change to their algorithm goes through a mandatory experimentation process. There’s no room for decisions made on ‘gut instinct’, as many businesses operated in the past.
Now, very few companies deal with the amount of data that Google handles. But, this concept applies to businesses of all sizes. We have access to so much data these days, there’s little need for decisions that aren’t based on data and experimentation.
For instance, consider your website or web applications. In the past, changing a design element on a page might be subject to debate. After all, design is subjective. What looks good to the manager might not look good to the developer.
Now, that shouldn’t even be an issue. Before making changes to your web sites or web applications, you can now run A/B tests. These tests let you determine which change is most effective, before actually rolling it out. Imagine if your company could perform that level of testing in all areas of your business? That reality is fast approaching.
These are just a few ways big data will impact almost any business, but there are plenty more.
Joe Stangarone is the President of MRC (UK) Ltd, developers of m-Power, a leading agile development tool for website development and Business Intelligence.