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9 Big Data Solutions for Small Businesses

9 Big Data Solutions for Small Businesses
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It's hard to escape all the talk about big data. Armed with actionable information, companies can more effectively and efficiently market to customers, design and manufacture products that meet specific needs, increase revenue, streamline operations, forecast more accurately, and even better manage inventory to hold the line on related costs.

But can your business afford to take advantage of it?

To successfully compete in today's marketplace, small businesses need the tools larger companies use. Of course, small businesses don't have all the resources of an enterprise-level corporation, like data scientists, analysts and researchers. However, there are many ways your small business can gather, analyze and make sense of the data you already have, as well as gain additional insights to help level the playing field. To that end, here are nine big data solutions for small businesses.

Being a small business is no longer a limitation to obtaining market and business intelligence, according to SAS, a leader in business analytics software and services since 1976. SAS transforms your data into insights that help inform decision-making and give a fresh perspective on your business, whether your company is a small, midsize or large organization.

Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) face the same challenges as large enterprises. SAS's easy-to-use analytics, automated forecasting and data mining enable businesses without a lot of resources accomplish more with less. These analytics help companies overcome challenges to grow and compete. SAS's message to SMBs is simple: "Identify what's working. Fix what isn't. And discover new opportunities." Contact SAS for more details and pricing and to learn about free software trials.

Analyzing complex business intelligence doesn't have to be rocket science. ClearStory Data offers advanced data mining and analytics tools that also present information in a simple, understandable way.

ClearStory Data works by combining your business's internal data with publicly available information to help you make better business decisions. These insights are displayed using the StoryBoard feature, which allows you to create graphs, storylines and interactive visuals from the dashboard. It also comes with collaboration features that enable team discussion. For instance, you can comment on individual StoryBoards, much like you would on social media.

In addition to business data, ClearStory Data can provide department-specific data, including marketing, sales, operations and customer analytics. The platform also covers a wide variety of industries, such as retail, food and beverage, media and entertainment, financial services, manufacturing, consumer packaged goods, healthcare, and pharmaceuticals. Contact ClearStory Data for pricing information.

Looking to increase your marketing ROI? Kissmetrics is a platform that enables you to understand, segment and engage your customers based on their behavior.

With Kissmetrics, you can create, manage and automate the delivery of single-shot emails and ongoing email campaigns based on customer behavior. The platform measures campaign impact beyond opens and clicks. The company has also launched Kissmetrics for E-commerce, which is designed to increase Facebook and Instagram ROI, reduce cart abandonment rates, and drive more repeat purchases.

Kissmetrics users can access web-based training and educational resources to improve marketing campaigns, including marketing webinars, how-to guides, articles and infographics. As part of onboarding, new users get a dedicated customer success rep for the first 60 days and strategic guidance to learn how to get the most from the platform. Plans start at $500 per month.

With InsightSquared, you don't have to waste time mining your own data and arduously analyzing it with one spreadsheet after another. Instead, InsightSquared connects to popular business solutions you probably already use – such as Salesforce, QuickBooks, Google Analytics and Zendesk – to automatically gather data and extract actionable information.

For instance, using data from CRM software, InsightSquared can provide a wealth of sales intelligence, such as sales and pipeline forecasting, lead generation and tracking, profitability analysis, and activity monitoring. It can also help businesses discover trends, strengths and weaknesses, and sales team wins and losses.

InsightSquared's suite of products also includes marketing, financial, staff and support analytics tools, as well as custom reporting to let you slice and report data from any source in any way you choose. InsightSquared offers a free trial, and its service plans are modular and scalable. Contact InsightSquared for pricing.

Editor's note: Looking for CRM software for your business? If you're looking for information to help you choose the one that’s right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from vendors for free:

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You don't need fancy, expensive software to begin gathering data. It can start with an asset you already have – your website. Google Analytics, Google's free digital analytics platform, gives small businesses the tools to analyze website data from all touchpoints in one place. 

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.

You can also analyze social media traffic, allowing you to make changes to your social media marketing campaigns based on what is and isn't working. Studying mobile visitors can help you extract information about customers browsing your site on their mobile devices so you can provide a better mobile experience. Here's how to sign up for Google Analytics for your website.

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 skills of using complex data mining and analysis systems, automating the process instead. This self-service analytics solution includes a suite of data access, refinement and warehousing services, giving you the tools to prepare and present data yourself in a simple and actionable way to guide decision-making.

Unlike the many analytics solutions that focus on one area of business, Watson Analytics unifies all your data analysis projects into a single platform. You can use it for all types of data analysis, including marketing, 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 drives sales, which deals are likely to close and how to make employees happy. Contact IBM for pricing information.

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 custom. Its purpose is twofold. First, it reveals each customer's standing, such as lifetime value, loyalty and engagement level, purchase history, and email behaviors; this shows which customers are profitable and worth reaching out to. Second, with this information, you 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 is your customers. There's a free trial to try out the service. Contact Canopy Labs for pricing plans.

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 that lack 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 smart business decisions. Moreover, Tranzlogic requires no tech smarts to get started. It's a turnkey program, meaning there is no installation or programming required. You 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 variety of studies and surveys to gain quality insights for data-driven decision-making. Further than that, the company recently announced Qualtrics Experience Management (Qualtrics XM), four applications that allow users to improve and manage the experiences organizations provide to every stakeholder – customers, employees, prospects, users, partners, suppliers, citizens, students and investors.

Qualtrics XM helps organizations measure, prioritize and optimize the experiences they provide across the four foundational experiences of business: customer, employee, brand and product experience. Additionally, Qualtrics offers real-time insights, survey software, advertising testing, concept testing and market research programs. The company can also help conduct employee surveys, exit interviews and reviews. Contact Qualtrics to discuss pricing.

Additional reporting by Sara Angeles.

Pamela Oldham

Based in Austin, Texas, Pamela Oldham writes on technology, healthcare, business and marketing topics. In her previous life as a senior-level marketing executive and continuing as an independent consultant, she's worked with small businesses and many of the world's best known brands in IT and healthcare.