Resource type: Blog

How Big Data is changing the way that businesses operate

Many modern businesses generate vast amounts of data. In the digital age, we are able to capture and store more of that data than ever before. Worldwide, the amount of data that can be used for business analytics is doubling every three years – a trend that shows no sign of slowing down!

Businesses of all sizes have come to realise that the data they hold can be a really valuable asset – if they are able to make sense of all this complexity.

Big Data involves using advanced software and powerful computers to interrogate huge and complex databases of information, in a way that hasn’t been possible until recently. Big Data aims to uncover new patterns in the information and generate new insights, which can help to make businesses more effective and competitive. And this approach is no longer the preserve of the big companies; small businesses are also now using Big Data projects to help give them a competitive edge.

British Airways has used Big Data analytics to create its Know Me customer loyalty programme. The company analysed the online behaviour and purchasing patterns of 20 million of its most regular flyers, over a number of years. It has used this learning to develop highly personalised communications, special offers and rewards for each of these customers, to help drive loyalty for the airline.

Delivery company UPS operates over 100,000 vehicles worldwide and wanted to use Big Data to analyse all the information it gathers from its fleet, in order to improve efficiencies. Using Big Data, the company was able to save time and money by identifying the optimum vehicle routes, reducing engine idle time, and predicting when maintenance would be required. Since implementing this Big Data programme, UPS claim to have saved over 40 million gallons of fuel.

While it was larger companies like these who initially led the trend to Big Data, this is an approach that many smaller businesses are now beginning to exploit. The arrival of Superfast Broadband has made it possible for any business to access the latest software applications via the cloud.

Businesses can now store and process large amounts of data in ‘virtual’ servers without having to invest in new hardware. At the same time, specialist data consultancies have emerged that can offer Big Data as a Service (BDaaS), which is making the entry cost more affordable for smaller businesses as they don’t need to hire additional IT staff.

These are three examples of how small businesses can make use of Big Data:

  • A tourist attraction could analyse historic weather data and visitor numbers in order to forecast the footfall that they will achieve on a particular day and therefore the staff numbers that they will need.
  • A clothing company could analyse social media activity by their customers to identify new trends and new product opportunities.
  • An online retailer could analyse the times of day or days of the week that most sales are made and make time-limited offers, so as to boost sales.

Could Big Data help your business? Start with your business goals and ask yourself: what are the issues facing my business that Big Data might find a solution to? Then review all the data that you hold across the business and how this might be gathered in one place and in a usable form. Plus, what other data would help you better understand your customers and likely trends within your business? You may find you have a precious resource that can give your business a unique advantage.

Big Data is here to stay, so why not take the time to evaluate what it could deliver for your business?

Find out more about Big Data in our guide: Why Big Data is important for all businesses big and small.

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