If you’ve been a web-surfer these past few years, then it’s highly unlikely that you haven’t encountered big data before. From shopping to social media, this recent phenomenon has come to dominate the sphere of digital marketing in a very short time – even if many people are unaware of the impact it has on their online lives.
Think of big data as an enormous digital sponge, accumulating information on countless websites from their customers and visitors. Personal details, browsing habits, biggest “likes”; all these things and more are unwittingly handed over by the customer, broken down into numbers and absorbed into the huge digital snowball that is “big data”. Essentially, it’s customer analytics on autopilot.
Though it may sound unnerving, to the average consumer big data is an entirely harmless suggestion-machine. To businesses, on the other hand, it is becoming an increasingly-critical lynchpin across multiple departments and industries.
Why is it so critical?
Big data still has yet to define marketing as we know it, but its effects on the industry cannot be understated. For the first time, a huge chunk of your advertising power can essentially be automated, with human intervention only necessary to turn the findings into plans.
Big data also allows for a much broader analysis of your service, and how well-received it is by the customer. The behaviours and trends of your visitors can be boiled down to manageable and even predictable numbers, and a skilled analyst can use it to work out where sales are strongest and weakest, with which market they are most or least popular with and more
This is where you turn the autopilot off, as the data is designed to assist company strategists rather than automate the entire process. What you find will often address major concerns for SME’s – how to keep customers on your website, how to generate repeat business and other, more intricate strategies to improve your business as a whole.
How can SME’s benefit?
When people try to picture big data, they imagine huge banks of computer servers in a company warehouse, endlessly crunching a torrent of digital numbers. While this may be true for some of the largest businesses, it can be just as easy for a small company to collect and process big data with something as simple as a spreadsheet or an electronic notebook from IDBS.
For SME’s, this is crucial – not only can it eliminate the need for more costly advertising campaigns, but clever use will give you a much-needed advantage in a competitive market for a surprisingly low cost. Even when working in a niche market, starting early with big data can mean a much greater rate of customer retention further down the line, upon which many SME’s survive.
How do I get started?
The first and best start would be an e-mail subscription service targeted towards your customers, requiring their name, e-mail address and location to receive updates. Options such as date of birth entry – possibly coupled with some kind of birthday incentive, if you can offer one – can give you insights on the average age range of your customers.
Added to this method of data-gathering should be free tools like Google Analytics, which tracks how many visits you receive per day and whether they are returning, as well as tidbits about their gender, age, location and even some general interests.
Collect this information on a spreadsheet, and soon you will begin to form a database. Exciting as it is, at this stage you should avoid trying to accrue too much info – overly-intensive efforts may drive customers away, and spending money on expensive software to essentially data-farm your visitors can lead to disaster.
Instead, take your time collecting data as a natural part of your day-to-day operations. Once things start getting crowded, put some time and effort into researching the right tools for the job. Research and development software, alongside borderline-necessary data storage tools, is the key tool to getting the best results.