Big Data Can Be Helpful to Small Businesses

"Big data" is a term many small business owners may hear more often these days, but not necessarily know how the idea can be of help to them. However, a large and growing number of independent companies are starting to take advantage of the opportunities having access to this wealth of information can provide them.

Though larger companies have had access to the wealth of data some firms collect on consumers worldwide, new technologies are now allowing small businesses to harness it as well, and that in turn could open up major potential for expanding for those enterprises, according to a report from Capital One Spark. One of the big hurdles small business owners may have to clear in their attempts to understand how these tools work is making the effort to recognize how simple the concept can be. For instance, Google's AdWords program, which allows companies to have their advertisements appear in the Web browsers of people specifically considered to be within their target audience, is big data at work, but many may not necessarily perceive it to be such.

"Small businesses shouldn't be scared off by big data," Steve King, a partner at Emergent Research and coauthor of a recent report about how big data will help small businesses in the future, told the site. "The growth of the Internet, wireless networks, smartphones, social media, sensors and other digital technology is fueling a big data revolution. Big data was the exclusive domain of statisticians and large corporations but not anymore."

Other programs may allow companies with multiple locations to more easily share information between them, giving owners a more complete picture of not only data related directly to sales, but also how individual locations are performing in terms of workers and accounting, the report said. That, in turn, could help to reduce labor costs significantly, if specific locations are overstaffed without owners having noticed it, for example. The easier it is to view all this information in one place, the more likely it may be that owners have a better understanding of exactly how their business is running, and possibly what they can do to make it more efficient.

Owners may also want to consider the annual cost of their small business insurance policies, as they may be paying more than they have to for workers' compensation or liability insurance coverage. Determining if this is the case can potentially help business owners save significantly going forward.