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Everyday Uses of Big Data

Posted on 6.30.2013

Big data has the potential to revolutionize the business world by providing companies with access to massive amounts of actionable information that they never would have been able to get their hands on in the past.

At present, companies that have been able to leverage the power of big data analytics successfully are large enterprises that have massive dedicated IT departments and plenty of resources to throw at the virtual wall of data to mine it for actionable information that can be used to guide business and marketing decisions. Even still, companies have mostly used big data to predict consumer purchase intent and to guide customers through conversion funnels more efficiently. These are practical uses, but don't begin to scratch the surface of how companies can and will harness big data to grow in the future.

Leveraging Big Data for Big Dollars

At the end of the day, success depends on how much money a business brings in. It’s no surprise, then, that the first thing most companies try to do with big data is to leverage the information to increase sales without spending more money.

Online printing company NextDayFlyers found itself trying to manage more than 100,000 customer records and decided to turn to big data analysis to help “make informed strategic decisions,” with SAS and Micro Strategy being its preferred big data management tools.

“Because a large portion of our sales are in the B2B arena, it’s quite useful for us to segment the data based on firmographics,” explains Next- DayFlyers CEO and Founder David Handmaker. “This shows us the primary industries we’re serving. When we see purchase patterns, it helps us to determine what new products and services we should be offering. We also analyze the recency, frequency and monetary (RFM) data and look for product affinities, which will help us identify products to cross-sell.”

Handmaker also added that “using the data to identify behavioral transaction information allows us to optimize that customer’s experience with relevant messaging and Web treatments.”

Service providers are also finding ways to introduce big data into their own products in order to help businesses increase sales. One of these is NetSuite. The popular Web-based business software provider integrates big data into its SuiteCommerce product (specifically its Upsell Manager and Demand Planning capabilities). “Upsell Manager looks at the sales correlations between different items and uses it to recommend other products to similar shoppers,” said Baruch Goldwasser, NetSuite’s director of ecommerce.

“Demand Planning looks at sales and fulfillment history by store and warehouse to determine how much inventory should be kept in stock at each store and warehouse, recommend reorder points and preferred stock levels and automatically create purchase orders with the appropriate workflow processes.”

Big Data and the Future

In addition to improving sales metrics, big data application in the modern marketplace is using information to assess the current state of the organization, as well as predict, identify and fix any inefficiencies.

“With big data and prescriptive analytics, Place2Give can predict potential pitfalls far enough in advance that charities now have enough lead time to either create a solution to the issue, or avoid the pitfall altogether,” said Gena Rotstein, the founder and CEO of Place2Give, a charity search engine. “An example of prescriptive analytics at work is the organizational assessment, which looks at issues, such as HR, financial process, volunteerism, governance, etc. When organizational assessments from an entire sector of charities are compared, ‘holes’ in the sector begin to emerge and become apparent. Depending on the stage of the charity’s evolution, we can use these common holes to predict and help the charity as they grow.”

As with sales processes, many B2B companies are finding ways to insert big data into their products to help make them more predictive, and thus more valuable, to their enterprise customers. Brad Wilkening, a business development engineer at DevMynd Software, explains that most of the applications they build for their customers integrate with KISSmetrics or MixPanl for pipeline tracking.

“We also use Optimizely very often to do simple variant tests,” said Wilkening. “Although this requires a larger sample, it can still shed light on what is working and what is not working in your customer pipeline.”

Big Data’s Usability

As you can see, big data is already becoming a focal point for both B2C and B2B organizations. The next step is trying to make big data easier to handle, so it is less intimidating and more accessible to companies of all sizes.

Chartio is already doing this. This business dashboard provides a way for companies, which so far includes everyone from Rackspace to PumpOne, to plug their data sources (like Oracle, Amazon RDS, Rackspace Cloud Databases, Google Analytics, Salesforce and more) into the Chartio platform, so they can easily visualize all their data.

Ultimately, this is a much quicker way to set up and explore important metrics, allowing companies to make smarter decisions faster. Innovations like these are going to be what inevitably helps big data fulfill its true potential.

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