Not that long ago, business intelligence systems were out of reach for most small-to-medium-sized businesses. For SMBs, analyzing data was not as critical as simply processing it through business applications. From a proprietor’s perspective, any data analysis that Excel couldn’t handle probably was not worth the time and trouble.
That’s all changed. Today, SMBs are awash in data from multiple sources. Beyond their own internal applications, they collect data on visitor activity to their websites. They use data-driven services from critical business services such as Groupon, Google’s AdWords, and Amazon.com’s Associates programs. SMBs are among the fastest growing segment in data-rich online advertising, according to research from iDate.
Instead of drowning in the data they get from these services, many SMBs are swimming with its tide in order to reach new business opportunities. They run free basic analytics apps from Google and others to find trends among their customers and learn how to apply them to their business. Or, they get even richer analytics from fee-based online business intelligence services in the cloud. Some even run commercial packages in their own modest data centers. As a result, SMBs are getting more insights into their business potential from big data.
There are countless ways digging into their data can improve SMB operations and sales. They can get a jump on when to adjust staffing levels based on shifts in sales data. They improve marketing programs by parsing the data in more refined ways than Excel. Inc. magazine reports on how analytics can help SMBs refine their websites to drive more sales.
What I find exciting is that as more SMBs build successful businesses through thoughtful data analysis, analytics will become far more prevalent, perhaps someday becoming as ubiquitous as Excel. Naturally, that is a good thing for my company. But it’s also a true benefit to local and regional economies by helping make local businesses become more efficient and better prepared for growth. And analytics might help propel more than a few SMBs to become major enterprises with a global impact.
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