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How big data can help small businesses 

Published: 
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Technology Matters

Every organisation, big or small, has a need for data and the insights it can afford. 

 

This is especially true when it comes to the challenge of understanding your customers' preferences and anticipating their needs. The right data, properly analysed and effectively presented, can help greatly in overcoming this challenge. 

 

So what is Big Data anyway, and what's all the fuss about? Big data refers to the tools and processes of managing and using large datasets. The big data phenomenon was born out of the quest to better understand patterns, trends and preferences hidden in the vast trail of data generated when humans interact with each other and with systems. Big Data allows businesses to use analytics to discover, for example, the most valuable customers and create products, services and experiences that matter most to them. 

 

One example is how the search engine giant Google can predict flu outbreaks before the PAHO does. Using search terms, it can find when many people in one city or country are searching for flu remedies or terms related to flu symptoms. Google can then scan all the search terms in near real-time, tally the occurrences of the indicator words, and then store the location of those searches. It can then process that list of locations, looking for “hotspots” where it comes up often and predict with some certainty that a flu outbreak is imminent. 

 

The good news for small business owners is that the big data boom is not the exclusive preserve of large corporations like Google. Does your company collect information about its customers? Could it be collecting more, especially with the proliferation of mobile devices and popularity of social media?