From healthcare to insurance, small to big, every company across all industries are impacted by today’s digital landscape and access to enormous amounts of big data. If used strategically, big data provides businesses the opportunity to better understand their customers, target current and prospective clients, and design products and services that meet customers’ needs.
However, having access to big data isn’t enough. In order to get ahead of the competition, businesses must understand how to best leverage and apply the data. According to Forbes, “big data is not all about having unlimited amounts of information—it’s more about receiving high-quality information in a timely manner that is specific to your business. Big data is also about knowing the right questions to ask for how to make your business better and how to have the ability to predict future trends” (Forbes). Armed with this information, businesses are better positioned to make informed decisions, that can drive improved performance.
To learn more about big data, why it matters, and how you can apply it your business, continue reading more on this topic below.
What is Big Data?
The concept “Big Data” may sound scary, but the good news is that it’s not as scary as it sounds, and is a concept that has the potential to help your organization. At its core, the term “big data” is simple, and something that should be embraced by all executive leaders.
In short, big data is a collection of data from sources (internal and external) that is used to gather and analyze information to draw insights. The benefits to using big data are vast, including the detailed analysis it can provide leadership teams, who “can measure, and hence know, radically more about their businesses, and directly translate that knowledge into improved decision making and performance” (Harvard Business Review).
Where Can I Access Big Data?
The amount of big data available today is immense and continuously growing, with “hundreds (if not thousands) of free data sets available, ready to be used and analyzed by anyone willing to look for them” (Forbes). If you’re unsure on where to begin, consider the following examples that are open to the public for free.
- Facebook: The big data available via this dominant social media platform is vast and especially beneficial to marketers and advertisers at your organization. For example, Facebook’s data enables companies to run campaigns that are highly targeted to specific demographics, so that you can target an audience based on variables ranging from if they are a small business owner to being a new parent, and even by specific behaviors and interests like technology, sports and outdoors, etc.
- Google Trends: Based on Google Search, Google Trends “shows how often a particular search-term is entered relative to the total search-volume across various regions of the world, and in various languages”—a cool function for a company wanting to know the popularity of a particular topic or area of interest (Wikipedia)
- Data.gov: According to Big Data News, Data.gov “is the home of the U.S. government’s open data. You can find data, tools, and resources here to conduct research, data visualization, etc.” which can be helpful when analyzing things like your customer database or a new product/service line.
Note that the above are just a small sampling of data sources, and that there are also a significant number of paid big data sources available. In addition, there are resources like, Hadoop, that is an open source software program and is a too that is “designed to handle big data” meaning that it works “to interpret or parse the results of big data searches through specific proprietary algorithms and methods” (Techopedia).
Why Big Data Matters
In today’s digital world, big data is more critical than ever, especially if a business wants to maintain a competitive advantage, increase profit, and cultivate happy customers. It is especially important to get ahead of the curve, because the number of businesses who are using big data is growing everyday, with 53% of companies in 2017 using big data, a significant jump “up from 17% in 2015, with telecom and financial services leading early adoption” (Forbes).
While the application of big data is rapidly rising, so is the amount of data available—and anyone who uses the internet is contributing. For example, anytime that you sign up for a new service or add a post to your Facebook timeline, you are generating data. In fact, IBM estimates that “2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day” (IBM).
How Businesses Use Big Data
Businesses ranging from startups to large corporations, can use big data to gain valuable insights, and if applied correctly, can positively impact various areas of a business. Supporting this idea are the findings from a 2017 big data survey conducted by NewVantage, a big data and business strategy consulting group, that claims “the top reasons for big data initiatives include decreasing expenses, exploring innovation opportunities, and launching new products and services” (SmartInsights).
The following are a few additional examples of how companies can use big data to their advantage.
- Improve Customer Service
- Elevate Positive Brand Awareness
- Decrease Expenses
- Boost Sales
- Test a New Product or Service
To demonstrate, below is a real-world example from American Express, who use big data to predict consumer behavior:
“By looking at historical transactions and incorporating more than 100 variables, the company employs sophisticated predictive models in place of traditional business intelligence-based hindsight reporting. This allows a more accurate forecast of potential churn and customer loyalty. In fact, American Express has claimed that, in their Australian market, they are able to predict 24% of accounts that will close within four months.” – ICAS