Big Data Services That Yield Big Benefits for Small Businesses

Big data services let small-business owners analyze massive amounts of data to make better business decisions without a hefty price tag. Here's how.

Data services

Big data services — or, programs that analyze large data sets to reveal patterns and trends — may seem like something reserved for big businesses with big budgets. But these kinds of analytics services are becoming more accessible and user-friendly for small businesses, too. With it, they can provide insights that may help you improve your marketing, customer service or even your company's offerings.

Here's a look at some of the key performance indicators that they track:

Customer Loyalty

It requires less time and effort to serve repeat customers well than to acquire new ones. But until recently, measuring customer loyalty was tricky for small and medium-sized businesses.

Now, data analytics programs offer valuable insights into your customer interactions and how often the same people interact with your business. Programs like Kissmetrics can track your key growth segments and help create campaigns with targeted emails, while options such as Tableau can create visualizations from data you input into the software to help uncover patterns and insights. This information can help you better understand which customers remain loyal and what might be bringing them in.

Social Media Effectiveness

By analyzing the data generated by your posts, pins, tweets or pics, you'll see which ones best resonate with your followers. A vibrant social media feed may help you bring in more customers, and more social media likes and shares may also provide valuable feedback on your offerings, events or promotions.

These services are often available right from the social media platform you're monitoring. For example, to track your Facebook follower growth, simply go to your business's Facebook page, click "Insights" and then "Likes." Visit your Twitter account page and click on "Twitter Analytics" for details on tweet impressions, profile visits, mentions and followers. On Pinterest, you similarly click on "Analytics" to see your Pinterest profile data, your audience data and even your website pinning data. Your Instagram insights are free with a business profile, and show you last week's total impressions, reach, profile views and website clicks.

Performance Against the Competition

How does your business compare to others in your sector? How are you performing in areas such as sales or operations? Data services like ClearStory Data can combine your business's internal data and compare it with publicly available information. That way, you can benchmark your business against others in your field — ClearStory includes data on industries like retail, restaurants, manufacturing, and media, for example.

The more you know about your business and your industry, the better your decisions can be. Some big data services are a big investment for a small company, but others are relatively low-cost. Explore some of the tools out there, and you may be able to make surprising discoveries that can help your business.