It’s been reported that 90 percent of all the world’s data has been created in the past two years and total data is expected to double each year.  By 2020 it’s estimated that we would have generated the equivalent of 5,200 GB of data for every human on earth. It’s impossible to comprehend just how much data is produced each and every day – and just how little of it is really put to use.

‘Big data’ is a business buzzword with constantly varying definitions. At, we find it useful to think of big data as a vast collection of data from multiple sources that is too large and unstructured to manage in a standard relational database. And crucially, big data is something that we are constantly striving to make useful.

Big data business man apps

Collecting and analysing data from endless sources including website activity, transactional information, social media accounts, customer service interactions and other communications is daunting – there’s no doubt about that.  However, any amount of analytical data can help to support and inform operational decisions and the direction of your business so start small and build up over time. You don’t have to be doing ‘Big Data’ from day one but you should have a plan to change and adapt your business processes to be data driven. It may well be the ticket to increasing your share of the market and outmanoeuvring your competitors.

Useless data

While some companies have adopted comprehensive and effective big data strategies (think Tesco’s Clubcard and e-commerce giants like Amazon), plenty more have failed to use it to its full potential. Data collection is just one step of the process. You need to sort and analyse it, and then present your findings before your big data project will bring any value to your business. Data isn’t useful until you transform it into information and recommendations, which you can take action on or use to improve business efficiencies or the customer experience.

Big data for small businesses

As an SME with limited IT resources, you’ll need to take a more focused approach to data. By all means collect and store data but also have a strategy in place to ensure that one day you’ll be able to use it effectively to improve the experience for your customers and ultimately the profitability of your business.  For example, in e-commerce you might wish to improve the targeting of your marketing emails. To do this, you’ll need to analyse data about browsing patterns for each user, and how they relate to their purchase history. You can also consider response rates to past marketing emails and which types of layout, content or offers worked best for individual users.

Personalisation is key in any business, and if you operate online, it’s important to treat your customers as the individuals as much as possible.  The concept of using big data effectively can help here but it’s actually more important to have accurate data and be intelligent as to how you use it.  Understand what your customers like to buy and serve them with relevant offers and content.  

Hardware and software

The cost of data storage has plummeted, and the development of cloud technologies mean that SMEs don’t need their own hardware to analyse data on this scale. Instead, all the work can be done by efficient remote technology.

Additionally, as big data becomes integral to almost every business, applications that help you manage data are only going to become more affordable and more user-friendly. It’s still a challenge but is certainly easier for small firms to tackle big data and achieve big results.   Those that start to embrace it now will benefit most in the future.

Here at, we use aggregated data to understand what’s happening in the marketplace,  provide valuable intelligence to our merchants, improve our products and services and give a more personal and tailored experience to our customers.