• Tom Herman

Use Big Data and Small Data To Deeply Understand Your Customers

Big data is a very familiar term that most have heard and have a general understanding of. While most of us don't dwell on it, we know that virtually everything we do on a computer, tablet, smartphone, or IoT connected device is captured and cataloged, effectively documenting our behaviors and interactions.


The size of the resulting data stream is mind-boggling. According to a 2017 study by IBM, 90% of all of the data stored in the world was created in the prior two years. It's safe to assume that data growth will continue exponentially. And the sheer volume, velocity, and variety of the data guarantee that the vast majority of it is never analyzed at all. But as we know, organizations are dedicating enormous resources to turn big data into value through intensive analytics.


However, for most small and medium-sized businesses, benefiting from big data doesn't entail a staff of Ph.D. data scientists conducting large-scale data analytics projects. In fact, SMEs have a distinct advantage over large enterprises in that the scope of the data to be analyzed is typically more accessible and manageable. The uncovered insights can lead to increased revenues and profits, reduced costs, improved decision-making, and competitive advantage. An essential first application of big data for SMEs is identifying their Apex customers - the organization's most impactful customers that account for the bulk of revenues and profits.


Most SMEs are sitting on a wealth of information that can be a starting point for a big data initiative. Typically available data sources can include:


  • CRM data

  • Sales records/receipts

  • Email marketing reports

  • Social media analytics

  • Website analytics

  • Streaming data from connected devices

  • Publicly available data

  • Data lakes or data warehouses


Small data refers to data collected on a smaller scale through primary research, using quantitative and qualitative research methods, including surveys, focus groups, in-depth interviews, online communities, and others. While not as intriguing as big data, small data is equally as impactful. Small data provides critical insights into customer values, attitudes, perceptions, and motivations - none of which can be accurately gleaned through big data analytics.


Besides the clear difference in the scale of the data, the primary differentiator between big and small data is that big data reveals the who, what, where, when, and how of consumer behavior.


In contrast, small data helps expose the why of consumer behavior.


And clearly, BOTH are necessary for constructing a detailed and well-rounded understanding of our customers.