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Grow Your Business Technology

6 Big Data Solutions for Small Businesses

6 Big Data Solutions for Small Businesses
Big Data isn't just for big businesses — here's how to mine and analyze Big Data as a small business. / Credit: Magnifying glass image via Shutterstock

Big Data isn't just for big businesses with even bigger budgets. Today, small business, too, can reap the benefits of the massive amounts of online and offline information to make wise, data-driven decisions to grow their businesses. Although most Big Data discussions concern enterprises that have all the resources to hire data scientists and research firms, if you know where to look, there are several ways that your small business can gather, analyze and make sense of data you already have. Here are five Big Data solutions for small businesses.

While many Big Data solutions are built for extremely knowledgeable data scientists and analysts, IBM's Watson Analytics makes advanced and predictive business analytics easily accessible to small businesses. The platform doesn't require any requisite skills of using complex data mining and analysis systems, but automates the process instead. This self-service analytics solution includes a suite of data access, data refinement and data warehousing services, giving you all the tools you need to prepare and present data yourself in a simple and actionable way to guide decision-making.

Unlike other analytics solutions that focus on one area of business, Watson Analytics unifies all your data analysis projects into a single platform — it can be used for all types of data analysis, from marketing to sales, finance, human resources and other parts of your operations. Its "natural language" technology helps businesses identify problems, recognize patterns and gain meaningful insights to answer key questions like what ultimately drive sales, which deals are likely to close, how to make employees happy and more. The service is currently in beta and a freemium version will be launched in November. [Cloud, Mobile & Analytics: IBM Exec's Advice for Small Business ]

You don't need fancy, expensive software to begin gathering data. It can start from an asset you already have — your website. Google Analytics, Google's free Web-traffic-monitoring tool, provides all types of data about website visitors, using a multitude of metrics and traffic sources.

With Google Analytics, you can extract long-term data to reveal trends and other valuable information, so you can make wise, data-driven decisions. For instance, by tracking and analyzing visitor behavior — such as where traffic is coming from, how audiences engage and how long visitors stay on a website (known as bounce rates) — you can make better decisions when striving to meet your website's or online store's goals. Another example is analyzing social media traffic, which will allow you to make changes to your social media marketing campaigns based on what is and isn't working. Studying mobile visitors can also help you extract information about customers browsing your site using their mobile devices, so you can provide a better mobile experience. Here's how to sign up for Google Analytics.

The tools you already use provide another rich source of data. This doesn't mean you have to waste time mining your own data and arduously analyzing it using one spreadsheet after another. Instead, InsightSquared connects to popular business solutions you probably already use — such as Salesforce, QuickBooks, ShoreTel Sky, Google Analytics, Zendesk and more — to automatically gather data and extract actionable information.

For instance, using data from customer relationship management (CRM) software, InsightSquared can provide a wealth of small business sales intelligence, such as pipeline forecasting, lead generation and tracking, profitability analysis, and activity monitoring. It can also help businesses discover trends, strengths and weaknesses, sales team wins and losses, and more. In addition to sales tools, InsightSquared's suite of products also includes marketing, financial, staffing and support analytics tools. InsightSquared starts at $65 per user per month.

Big Data won't just help you make better business decisions; it can help you predict the future, too. Canopy Labs, a customer analytics platform, uses customer behavior, sales trends and predictive behavioral models to extract valuable information for future marketing campaigns and to help you discover the most opportune product recommendations.

One of Canopy Labs' standout features is the 360-degree Customer View, which shows comprehensive data about each individual customer. Its purpose is two-fold: first, it reveals each customers' standing, such as lifetime value, loyalty and engagement level, as well as purchase histories, email behaviors and other metrics — and this shows which customers are profitable and worth reaching out to. Second, with this information, businesses can better create personalized offers, track customer responses and launch improved outreach campaigns. Canopy Labs handles the complex, technical side of Big Data, so all you have to focus on are your customers. The service is free for up to 5,000 customers. Paid plans for additional customers start at $250 a month.

[For a side-by-side comparison of the best CRM software visit our sister site Top Ten Reviews.]

It's no secret that credit card transactions are chock full of invaluable data. Although access was once limited to companies with significant resources, customer intelligence company Tranzlogic makes this information available to small businesses — without the big business budget.

Tranzlogic works with merchants and payment systems to extract and analyze proprietary data from credit card purchases. This information can then be used to measure sales performance, evaluate customers and customer segments, improve promotions and loyalty programs, launch more-effective marketing campaigns, write better business plans, and perform other tasks that lead to smarter business decisions. Moreover, Tranzlogic requires no tech smarts to get started — it is a turnkey program, meaning there is no installation or programming required. Simply log in to access your merchant portal. Contact Tranzlogic for pricing information.

If you don't currently have any rich sources for data, conducting research may be the answer. Qualtrics lets businesses conduct a wide range of studies and surveys to gain quality insights to guide data-driven decision making.

Qualtrics offers three types of real-time insights: customer, market and employee insights. To gain customer insight, use Qualtrics' survey software for customer satisfaction, customer experience and website feedback surveys. To study the market, Qualtrics also offers advertising testing, concept testing and market research programs. And when it comes to your team, Qualtrics can help conduct employee surveys, exit interviews and reviews. Other options include online samples, academic research and mobile surveys. Contact Qualtrics to request pricing.

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Sara Angeles
Sara Angeles

Sara is a tech writer with a background in business and marketing. After graduating from UC Irvine, she worked as a copywriter and blogger for nonprofit organizations, tech labs and lifestyle companies. She started freelancing in 2009 and joined Business News Daily in 2013. Follow Sara Angeles on Twitter @sara_angeles.