In my last post, I spoke about the need for small business to use big data capabilities. In this post, I want to talk about engaging a partner that can unlock the potential of big data for small businesses that don’t have the scale to build an analytics function in-house.
Big Data is big business today and in a trend that reminds me of the Klondike Gold Rush, it has attracted many companies that now offer Analytics as a Service. The problem for a small business looking to use analytics as a competitive advantage is no longer lack of choice but too much choice. The good news is it’s not hard to pick the ACE from the deck.
Let’s say you have a lemonade stand. You start work at the crack of dawn every morning, when the rest of the world is still dreaming, by mixing just the right amount of lemon juice, sugar, water and ice for the thirsty travellers that would pass by your door that day. It’s a lot of hard work but the satisfied expression on your customers face as they take their first sip makes it all worth it.
The only problem is you never can tell what kind of day you will have. On some days business is so good that you are sold out by noon yet on some other days you have to be at it till evening. If only you could plan better, expand and understand what is it that drives demand other than quality which doesn’t vary.
Lately you have been hearing about the power of big data, analytics and prediction and you are considering engaging an analytics partner to answer some of your questions.
So how do you go about finding that ACE in the data space?
ACE stands for Analyse, Conceptualise, and Empower which are the three things that an ACE analytics partner brings to the table.
Let’s look at each of these one at a time:
An ACE analytics partner should be able to do what you can’t afford to do- step away from the lemonade stand.
To you, the lemonade stand owner, an ACE will tell you that your usual customers are neighbourhood women who stop by as they return back from their yoga classes and they love the freshness of your ingredients. They also find it very convenient that you accept cash and the price is such that they don’t have to do carry much of it. Whenever there is a soccer game in the neighbourhood schools, you get double the usual traffic. Most of these customers would love to be able to order online and pick instead of having to wait in queues. Though your product is very popular today, your key customer segments is increasingly getting conscious about their sugar intake. And by the way, locally, the council is going to start a construction that will restrict entry to your street soon. Also you haven’t been around that long but the demand won’t be as strong in winters as shown by industry trends.
After Analyse, comes Conceptualise. If Analyse is the bird’s eye view, conceptualising is all about identifying the prey and plunging steeply downwards at a high speed to capture it.
|Insight||Revenue Impact||Proposed Action||By When|
|Customer trends around sugar consumption||-25%||Introduce sugar free options||7 days|
|Soccer days bring more traffic||+25%||Put Flyers in school to increase market share||15 days|
|Upcoming Construction||-10%||Research Alternate locations, engage school||30 days|
|Impact of winter season||-50%||Diversification into soup||90 days|
After conceptualise, comes empowerment. An ACE needs to empower you, the business owner, because an ACE knows that they will not stay with you forever.
Gazal Kapoor works full time in Sydney and is a guest blogger for Convergytics.
Big data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it. ~ Dan Ariely
The above quote never fails to generate a smile but I don’t think it holds true. Not for big enterprises. Not anymore. Under the leadership of Chief Data officers, most big companies are bringing together technology, talent and data assets (new and existing) in a way never seen before and Big Data & Analytics is now an integral part of their enterprise strategy.
Small Businesses on the other hand are a different story. Having talked to both new parents and small businesses, here is my analogy:
Big Data for Small Business is like post baby sex- nobody really expects to you to do it, you have convinced yourself it is highly overrated, and while it would be a ‘nice to have’, after a long tiring day, it’s not your priority. ~ Gazal Kapoor
If you are a new parent, you will change your mind.
If on the other hand, you are a small business, I am here to change your mind about Big Data. Whether you own a start-up or a mature localised business, here are my top 5 reasons on why analytics and big data should be your priority.
1. Know your customer: Your customer is more than the wallet that keeps your business running. Your customer is a person that has hopes, dreams, challenges and struggles just like you. Big data analytics will help you know your customer and personalise your offerings.
2. Map your customer experience: Whatever your product offering is, you provide your customer an experience and you need to understand it. Your customer has an opinion of you and they use it to influence. Big data analytics will help you understand why people choose you over your competitors, help you map their experience at different touch points and understand the voice of your customer.
3. Changing customer and macro dynamics: As a small business owner you are most likely busy on the dance floor. The world around you is changing very fast and no matter how much fun dancing is, you need to step on the balcony from time to time. Big data analytics will help you be at the fore front of trends that are changing your industry and help you drive a return based strategy.
4. Know your Competitors: Big data analytics not only means generating information from your own data assets, it also means tapping into sources of information outside your hold to tell you more about who else is competing with you for your customer’s share of wallet. And if your competitors think they are not big enough for big data, big data analytics will help you get ahead of them.
5. Get Social: Big data analytics will help you integrate social media into your marketing to increase the return on your marketing spend.
If you think you are too small a business and don’t even have the data, the truth is, If you have run your business for a couple of years, have a functional website to interact with a customer and a Facebook page, you have a treasure trove of data already that you are doing nothing with. You can start to dip your toe into big data by looking at public domain – Customer Search Trends from Google, Tweets in Twitter and Facebook Public Posts or even Government and Public Data Sources.
Where is the time, you say.
I hear you on that. One of the biggest challenges a small business face is operations consume almost all their time. The other challenge is budget.
The good news is there are many analytics companies that can partner with you and do all of the above on a shoe string budget. A great analytics partner will not only tap into public and social domain, they will help you create a rich repository of data by making small tweaks in your data systems. They will work closely with you to use the right tools to capture and analyse relevant data and make the most of it. In fact, Small Businesses are in a better position than their bigger counterparts to generate returns from Big Data investments because of scale, agility and nimbleness.
Don’t wait. Treat Big Data Analytics as a ‘must have’ for your small business and see the difference it makes.
In my next post, I will talk about how to choose an analytics partner.
Author Profile: Gazal Kapoor is an analytics professional with experience across domains, geographies and industries. She describes a career in analytics as a passionate arranged marriage but that doesn’t prevent her from flirting with writing from time to time.
Gazal Kapoor works full time in Sydney and is a guest blogger for Convergytics.
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