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It’s hard to escape the talk about big data nowadays. Companies that are armed with actionable information can more effectively market to customers, design and manufacture products, increase revenue, streamline operations, and better manage inventory to hold the line on related costs.

To successfully compete in today’s marketplace, small businesses need the tools larger companies use. While small businesses don’t have all the resources of an enterprise-level corporation, there are many ways your small business can gather, analyze and make sense of the data you already have. To that end, we’ve put together the following primer on big data, as well as eight big data solutions that work for small businesses.

What is big data?

Big data refers to information too large or complex for traditional data processing methods to analyze. At its core, big data is still data; however, its overwhelming volume and complexity requires specialized tools for analysis. Additionally, big data grows in size exponentially, requiring forward-thinking solutions for managing, storing, parsing and analyzing the information.

Big data is typically associated with the “three V’s”: volume, velocity and variety. These V’s take data beyond the traditional sphere of data analysis to the world of big data.

To better understand this definition, consider the three essential V’s of big data:

  • Volume: Unstructured data received in large amounts, such as Twitter data feeds, can sometimes comprise terabytes or petabytes of storage space. (For comparison, a Word document often takes up no more than a few dozen kilobytes.)
  • Velocity: As internet use grows, businesses receive more data at once, which means they require more processing capacity. As a business gains more users, the amount of data from each user also quickly scales.
  • Variety: Think of the diversity of extensions among the files in your database — MP4, DOC, HTML and more. The more extensions you see, the more varied your data.

As the field of big data continues to mature, the nature of the subject continues to evolve. Oracle, for instance, notes that two other V’s have recently emerged in the field of big data: value, as in what value does this data add to business decisions, and veracity, as in how truthful is the data.

Despite the number of V’s, the core of big data has remained the same: using larger, more complex data sets to allow for the discovery of patterns, trends and other key pieces of information that would not be discoverable through smaller, more traditional data sets.

8 big data solutions and how they work

These are some of today’s most prominent big data solutions:

1. SAS

A business’s size is no longer an obstacle to obtaining market and business intelligence, according to SAS, a leader in business analytics software and services since 1976. SAS transforms your data into insights that help inform decision-making and give a fresh perspective on your business, whether it’s a small, midsize or large organization.

Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) face many of the same challenges as large enterprises. SAS’s easy-to-use analytics, automated forecasting and data mining enable businesses without a lot of resources to accomplish more with less. These analytics help companies overcome challenges to grow and compete. SAS’s message to SMBs is simple: “Identify what’s working and fix what isn’t. Make more intelligent decisions.” Contact SAS for details, pricing and to learn about its free software trials.

2. Alteryx

Analyzing complex business intelligence doesn’t have to be rocket science. Alteryx offers advanced data mining and analytics tools that present information in a simple, understandable way.

Alteryx combines your business’s internal data with publicly available information to help you make better business decisions. These insights allow you to create graphs, storylines and interactive visuals from the dashboard. It also offers collaboration features that enable team discussion.

In addition to business data, Alteryx can provide department-specific data, including marketing, sales, operations and customer analytics. The platform also covers a wide variety of industries, such as retail, food and beverage, media and entertainment, financial services, manufacturing, consumer packaged goods, healthcare, and pharmaceuticals. Contact the company for pricing information.

3. Kissmetrics

Looking to increase your marketing ROI? Kissmetrics enables you to understand, segment and engage your customers based on their behavior.

With Kissmetrics, you can create, manage and automate the delivery of single-shot emails and ongoing email campaigns based on customer behavior. The platform measures campaign impact beyond opens and clicks. The company also has Kissmetrics for E-Commerce, which is designed to increase your Facebook and Instagram ROI, reduce cart abandonment rates, and drive more repeat purchases.

As a Kissmetrics user, you can access web-based training and educational resources to improve your marketing campaigns, including marketing webinars, how-to guides, articles and infographics. As part of your onboarding, you get a dedicated customer success representative for the first 60 days and strategic guidance to help you get the most out of the platform. Plans start at $300 per month.

4. InsightSquared

With InsightSquared, you don’t have to waste time mining your own data and arduously analyzing it with one spreadsheet after another. , InsightSquared connects to popular business solutions you probably already use — such as Salesforce, QuickBooks, Google Analytics and Zendesk — to automatically gather data and extract actionable information.

For instance, using data from CRM software, InsightSquared can provide a wealth of sales intelligence, such as sales and pipeline forecasting, lead generation and tracking, profitability analysis, and activity monitoring. It can also help you discover trends, strengths and weaknesses, and sales team wins and losses.

InsightSquared’s suite of products also includes marketing, financial, staff and support analytics tools, as well as custom reporting to let you slice and report data from any source in any way you choose. InsightSquared offers a free trial, and its service plans are modular and scalable. Contact InsightSquared for pricing.

5. Google Analytics

You don’t need expensive software to begin gathering data. Start with an asset you already have — your website. Google Analytics, Google’s free digital analytics platform, gives small businesses the tools to analyze website data from all touchpoints in one place.

With Google Analytics, you can extract long-term data to reveal trends and other valuable information to help you make wise, data-driven decisions. For instance, by tracking and analyzing visitor behavior — such as where traffic is coming from, how audiences engage, and how long visitors stay on your website (known as your bounce rate) — you can make better decisions to meet the goals of your website or online store.

You can also analyze social media traffic and make any needed changes to your social media marketing campaigns based on what is and isn’t working. Studying mobile visitors can help you extract information about customers browsing your site on their mobile devices so you can provide a better mobile experience.

6. IBM Cognos Analytics

While many big data solutions are built for extremely knowledgeable data scientists and analysts, IBM’s Cognos Analytics makes advanced and predictive business analytics accessible to small businesses. The platform doesn’t require any skills in using complex data mining and analysis systems; it automates the process for you instead. This self-service analytics solution includes a suite of data access, refinement and warehousing services, giving you the tools to prepare and present data yourself in a simple and actionable way to guide your decisions.

Unlike the many analytics solutions that focus on one area of business, IBM Cognos Analytics unifies all your data analysis projects into a single platform. You can use it for all types of data analysis, including marketing, sales, finance, human resources and other parts of your operations. Its “natural language” technology helps you identify problems, recognize patterns, and gain meaningful insights to answer key questions, like what drives sales, which deals are likely to close, and how to make employees happy. Contact IBM for pricing information.

7. Tranzlogic

It’s no secret that credit card transactions are chock-full of invaluable data. Although access was once limited to companies with significant resources, customer intelligence company Tranzlogic makes this information available to small businesses that lack a big business’s budget.

Tranzlogic works with merchants and payment systems to extract and analyze proprietary data from credit card purchases. You can use this information to measure your sales performance, evaluate your customers and customer segments, improve promotions and loyalty programs, launch more effective marketing campaigns, write better business plans, and perform other tasks that lead to smart business decisions.

Tranzlogic requires no tech smarts to get started. It’s a turnkey program, meaning no installation or programming is necessary. All you need to do is log into your merchant portal. Contact Tranzlogic for pricing information.

8. Qualtrics

If you don’t currently have any rich sources for data, research may be the answer. Qualtrics lets you conduct a wide variety of studies and surveys to gain quality insights for data-driven decisions. Plus, the company offers Qualtrics Experience Management (Qualtrics XM), four applications that allow you to improve and manage the experiences your business provides to every stakeholder — customers, employees, prospects, users, partners, suppliers, citizens, students and investors.

Qualtrics XM helps you measure, prioritize and optimize the experiences you provide across the four foundational experiences of business: customer, employee, brand and product experience. Additionally, Qualtrics offers real-time insights, survey software, advertising testing, concept testing and market research programs. The company can also help you conduct employee surveys, exit interviews and reviews. Contact Qualtrics to discuss pricing.


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