Big Data For Small Biz

Share via

Every new year over at my USA TODAY column I take a look into my trusty crystal ball and examine the top trends that I see on the horizon for small business. This year’s list turned out to be very interesting, with things like the changing nature of social media, the Uber economy, and online security concerns taking center stage.

But the very first important trend that I talked about this year is what I called “Big data for small business.” Here is how I put it:

The best way to think of big data [for small business] is analytics. Your business produces a lot of information, information that is rich with clues about what is working and what is not. “Big data” in this sense is simply a way to gather, analyze, and utilize your many metrics. For instance, for us, big data may include:

  • Financial analytics
  • Social media metrics
  • Sales data
  • Customer info
  • And so forth

The real trick these days is not generating the data, but capturing it and being able to use it.

And that is the thing, is it not? For the small business, the issue is not creating data (we do plenty of that), it’s being able to analyze and understand that data in an easy and comprehensible way. Indeed, according to the most recent Staples small business survey, more than half of the small businesses surveyed admitted that they do not measure and track business metrics as often as they should.

And the reason for that is because, heretofore, doing so has been confusing and time-consuming, right? So therein lies the rub. We all know we should be analyzing our “big data” better, the question is how?

Well, the good news is that Staples not only has data, it also has a solution. Maybe not surprisingly given their recent survey results, Staples launched a new app that aims to take the pain out of gathering and understanding your metrics.

The Staples Quick Wins app allows small businesses to quickly and easily pull in and sync their most important business metrics, and it then offers, among other things, an easy-to-understand dashboard that reviews those numbers.

Specifically, the app can gather the following info:

  • Twitter, Facebook, and other social media engagement and metrics
  • Website traffic
  • Google Analytics
  • Sales
  • QuickBooks

Now here is where it gets really cool: Once the Quick Wins app has all of this info, it provides you with business specific actionable analytics and information.

First, you can track your growth. Once Quick Wins has done its magic, you will easily be able to access your key business metrics in one mobile place. And, even better, you will get business-specific suggestions on ways to make your metrics grow, based upon what the app sees you doing in your business.

Beyond that, the app allows you to access and interact with a community of small business owners like you. One of the real challenges that I see consistently for many small business owners is that they too often operate in a vacuum; they know what ideas they like – what works and what does not – but there often is not much around in the way of a feedback loop. The Quick Wins app helps alleviate that issue too by giving users the ability to interact with a like-minded small business community based upon one’s metrics.

According to Alison Corcoran, Staples senior vice president North American stores and online,  “We know our customers are so busy running their businesses that they don’t [always] have the time and resources to grow. The Staples Quick Wins app will help by pulling key metrics together in one location.”

In an era where big business big data gets big attention, this is big-time good news for the small business owner.