Big Data for Small Businesses

Matt Uncategorized

As an accountant and a general number’s person, I love data.  When I talk about data I often go into far too much detail about the process I went through to come to my conclusions.  I have gotten the weird looks from people when I tell them how I parse through and interrupt data (although they love talking to me around fantasy football draft time!).

For the past several years, one of the business world’s hottest catchphrases has been “big data”.  I am an avid reader of articles that the Harvard Business Review puts out and they like to write fairly often about big data.  As a small business owner, I am often frustrated about how the articles and literature that is written on the topic, in general, is geared towards Fortune 1000 type companies.

At Monkey Bizness, we use our own version of Big Data.  I think this is unique because system-wide our sales are less than $5 million and we employ right around 85 people.  By every measure or standard, we are a small business.  For us, we have two distinct phases in collecting data to make business decisions; Collection and Analysis.

Many small business owners I talk with don’t believe they have the systems in place to collect data they could use to make decisions.  I often think they are discounting some of the systems they are using every day.  At Monkey Bizness, we have a few different systems that most businesses also have that we use to collect data.  The most obvious one that is available to every business is their point of sale system (“POS”).  Their POS stores all sorts of information about transactions and customers that most owner’s don’t utilize.  We utilize Square’s POS which also collects data about our customers, just by when they swipe their credit card.  We are then able to determine things like average ticket size and how often a customer visits for analysis.

Another system we use is our loyalty system, Return Visit.  At Monkey Bizness, we decided to embark on creating our own loyalty system two years ago.  When we looked around at available options, we thought we should develop our own was the best decision for us.  However, there are a lot of great “off the shelf”, cloud-based solutions out there that will work as well.  While our system is not too complicated, it does collect information such as zip code, kids ages, number of visits, dates for visits, etc.  This basic information can start to answer questions for us:

  • How old are our average customers?
  • How far do our customers come from?
  • How much does the average customer visit?

This just scratches the surface but you can begin to see how it helps us determine how we should design our marketing and demographics of our customers among other things.

Lastly, we can utilize basic services like Mail Chimp, Facebook, Google Analytics, Google Adwords, and other platforms to get data about our customers.  Did you know Facebook will provide a breakdown of who likes your business?  This is great demographic data.  With Mail Chimp you can design your campaigns so that you can see what is working, who is opening your emails, and who is redeeming certain offers.  Google Analytics tells us who is visiting our website, at what times, and what pages they are leaving our website from. We can start to alter the design of our website and marketing based on these results.

All of these tools are available for most (and some for free) and a lot of business owners are already utilizing these systems.  The next step most business owners need to take is to figure out the proper way to analyze this data for their business.  Some of these tools do the analysis for you.  At that point, its up to you to determine how to use it.  At Monkey Bizness, we are constantly working with our owners to provide them insights from the data we are reviewing.  This can be extremely powerful to shape our marketing and business strategy going forward.