Once thought of as merely a buzzword, big data is now here to stay. Indeed, the increasing democratisation of its functions means that more and more businesses are able to utilise the insights that big data brings without having to fork out an arm and a leg for the fancy salaries that some of the top data scientists command.
True, there is a limit to what the small business can at present glean from currently accessible big data tools and technologies – but it’s fair to say that the vast majority of SMEs are yet to start utilising any of these. And so, if you’re a small business and are lucky enough to have stumbled upon this blog post, then the information that is revealed below could very well give you the edge over your competitors if used wisely.
What Is Big Data?
Let’s clear this up before we continue. The concept of big data is nothing particularly special. Indeed, all big data really refers to is lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of data. Lots and lots of it.
That’s all it is – and we can see why it’s still regarded by some as a bit of a buzzword.
In 2016, it is thought that there are nearly as many pieces of digital information floating around the web waves on planet Earth as there are stars in the whole universe.
Put simply, big data refers to the idea that practically every piece of recordable human action – whether off or online – can be quantified and logged in a data bank. And that’s exactly what’s happening. This data bank is growing at an unfathomable rate, and it’s full of insights that can be used to predict – among other things – marketing trends and consumer behaviours.
In short, the more businesses can tap into and make sense of big data, the better they can hope to perform in the marketplace.
So, let’s look at how small businesses can do just that.
How To Use Big Data For Your Small Business
The easiest and most affordable way to start utilising big data is to use what’s already available to you. In this sense, you won’t need to go out and start spending obscene amounts on cutting edge software or over spending your annual budget five-fold by hiring a data scientist, but rather use some free web tools to see what you can learn from your website and social networks.
Google Analytics, of course, is the most obvious place to start, powered, as it is, by the biggest and most relevant search engine out there. It’s simple to use, and you can head over to the site right now and start playing with its features and begin monitoring all sorts of data about your website’s visitors through the use of a plethora of traffic sources and metrics.
You will be able to extract sets of long-term data that will reveal important trends, which will help you to make better informed business decisions going forward.
You will be able to analyse social media traffic, bounce rates, and visits that are made from mobile devices – and the data from all of this and more will help you start to tailor your various marketing campaigns for the future.
Google Trends is another great free tool – and one that is pretty user-friendly to boot. Showcasing accurate trending topics across countries, languages and other constituencies, Google Trends will inform the marketer’s output at any given time.
Other social media tools, such as Twitter Analytics and Pinterest Analytics (available free for business accounts), can also be used to see what type of content is driving traffic and conversions on your site, as well as the data and analytics provided by your content management system (CMS) on your website itself.
Retargeting is one of the most effective uses of big data marketing, is simple to implement, and the results can be fantastic.
Retargeting – which is sometimes known as remarketing – is essentially a mode of advertising that specifically (re)targets people who have shown interest in your content before. Only 2-5% of traffic converts on the first visit, and so retargeting is a big data hack that’s aimed directly at that remaining 95-98% of visitors who come to your site but leave again before making a purchase.
Marketers can get started with this strategy simply by placing a retargeting pixel on the backend of their website, and from there create a retargeting campaign which will be directed at those who didn’t convert.
The strategy works because you’re targeting interested customers who have already heard and interacted with your brand – so, although still at the top of the sales funnel, will be easier to coax a little further down than those who are approaching your brand for the first time from cold. Using the data that your site generates, you can retarget these individuals at a low price point with well-crafted adverts.
It’s also possible to specifically retarget your Facebook followers using the Custom Audiences feature – which is essentially the same thing as a retargeting pixel, only Facebook’s own branded version of it.
Do you show every single visitor the exact same web page on their first, third and twenty-fifth visit? If so, then you’re missing a huge opportunity to use big data to offer your visitors a personalised experience of your website every time they visit.
This is important, for users’ behaviours are different when they return to your site. On the first visit, a user is most likely in the research phase of a buying a new product or service, and so will simply be looking for some educative content on what you have to offer – thusly, it’s wise to use a relatively soft call to action (CTA).
By the third visit, however, we can assume that their interest has been piqued, and they have developed into someone that’s more likely to convert, and so your CTA should be stronger as you go all out for the conversion.
The HubSpot blog shows a great example of this very tactic in action. Citing partner Lynton Web – an inbound marketing agency – the blog shows the generic, default homepage as it displays to all first-time visitors.
Notice how first-time visitors aren’t pushed towards signing up at this stage – the call to action invites them to learn more about the product instead.
However, when the visitor returns to the website as a lead, the CTA changes, this time displaying “Start Your Project Today”.
It’s a subtle change, but reflects where visitors are in the decision-making process and their readiness to convert.
A really great and simple tool that can used for website personalisation is that provided by duda.com, and specifically duda’s inSite feature, which will make your website change itself according to the individual who’s visiting it, as well as by time of day, date, the device used, location, how many previous visits, and lots more besides. A brilliant use of big data for marketers to supercharge the visitor experience.