Top tips for using data in your business

By 2020, there will be 44 trillion gigabytes of information, which is 10 times the amount of data that’s available today. Large corporations are already accessing this vast amount of information to benefit their businesses, but are small businesses and SMEs being left behind?

One of the challenges of utilising data for smaller businesses is that Big Data is often seen as too complex and costly for them to take on. But with the cost of technology decreasing and the increasingly digitally connected environment, more and more data can be accessed for a fraction of the cost. Using data more intelligently in your business can make the difference between surviving and thriving. Here are our top 5 tips to make the most of data.

1. Work out what kind of data you need

If you know what problem you’re trying to address, it makes it easier to know what kind of data would help you solve it. Are you looking to better target your customers, get more hits on your website or increase occupancy to your bed & breakfast? Once you know what kind of data you need, you can do a bit of research to find out where and who can provide the software, or you may find you already have the information you need.

Beyond Pricing is a small data company that helps Airbnb and HomeAway hosts maximise their revenues with data-driven pricing. The clever software automatically updates rates daily to capture demand peaks and this helps them win last-minute bookings.

2. If in doubt, start small

There’s a tonne of data out there, but not all businesses know how best to interpret the results. The key is to start out small by doing a trial analysis. This helps you define if your problem can be solved without investing too much time and money.

3. Act on it

One of the advantages of being a small business is the agility and flexibility to act quickly, instead of having to go through corporate red tape each time you want to change a product or strategy. Using data intelligently is about moving fast and acting on the information analysed. And using those insights to improve your product or service.

For example, game company Mediatonic analyses their user data; such as when, where and how long they play and which parts of the game they find difficult or easy. This allows them to understand their customer base better and test out different versions of a game, tweaking them in response to real-time data received.

4. Social media is key

Communicating to your customers through social media platforms is relatively cost effective and it’s also a great way to listen to what customers are saying as well. But making sense of data from these platforms can be confusing and time-consuming. A range of apps and software programmes now let you analyse comments from websites, spot trends and learn what your customers are saying about your products and services.

Accor Hospitality used social media analytics firm Synthesio to examine more than 5,000 customer opinions on travel websites worldwide. This helped them identify customer dissatisfaction and start correcting the problems at their source, which in turn had a major effect on their business.

5. Utilise data analytics tools

Small business owners often wear many hats and have little time to spare, so taking the time to think about data can be a challenge. However, data can help give you a broader view of the business landscape and learn more about what your competitors are doing. Now there’s plenty of technology out there that gives small businesses cost-effective tools to analyse data. Google AdWords is a really helpful app that offers market insight for small businesses to help in decision-making and improve bottom lines.

Simply exploring these sites and making some simple changes can have a major impact on your business. Data really can be a tremendous business partner.