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SME data scientists: what is Big Data?

You don’t need to be a large corporation to make use of Big Data. SMEs are well positioned to put insights to powerful use.

When anyone explores the internet they create a trail of information that describes their preferences and habits. When all that data is combined, it’s called ‘Big Data’, and it’s by no means a modest definition. According to IBM, 2.5 billion gigabytes of data was generated every day in 2012, and by 2020 an anticipated 75 billion internet-ready devices will increase that data production exponentially.


But getting to grips with heaps of consumer data is almost certain to be low on the priority list. But SMEs can analyse small data sets, that won’t eat up valuable resources and time, to make sure they’re operating intelligently and responding to consumer needs. Here are some simple tips – looking at free platforms and tools – to get you started.

Email marketing

If you keep in touch with consumers using email you’re already onto a winner because it’s a key communication tool that’s capturing Big Data.

If not, have no fear – it can be quick and simple to explore. Free platforms, such as MailChimp, will reveal helpful information about your subscribers’ behaviour, such as open rate and click-through.

The average email campaign stats are pretty healthy for a smaller companies (achieving 22.11% open rate with a 3.06% click rate), but the overview metrics are just the start of the story; if one of your subscribers loyally opens emails and frequently clicks on lots of links, there’s an opportunity to convert their interest into a sale.

Mailchimp can process the rest of your mailing list to spot similar activity, so you can create a mailing list that exclusively contains hot leads. You may want to send them targeted conversion emails, with a special offer or VIP access to a service.

Social media channels

Social data isn’t always rooted in numbers, so while pre-packaged metrics – such as likes, or shares – may give you a confidence boost, it doesn’t always give practical insights. For example, if you own a cafe and want to attract a new parent and family market you can look to forums or look for conversations on social media, to find and target your desired audience.

For example, Mumsnet – a parenting advice site with upwards of 70 million page views and over 14 million visits per month – could be used to investigate the family-friendly catering market near you. To search the forum for your specific needs, go to Google and use the shortcut below, followed by the subject you’d like to investigate: family coffee stroud

It’s full to burst with real life Big Data experiences of parents, revealing where they go presently, what keeps them buying (price points, service or quality), and any pains they have to overcome (room for pushchairs). Look for patterns, and use their experiences to inform a problem-solving strategy so you can sing your sell points from the rooftops on every channel. Social media data will help you manoeuvre into new business opportunities you wouldn’t have spotted from behind a counter.

SMEs shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by Big Data, and instead take advantage of its insights to discover more about current customers and target new business.

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