Leveraging customer data to gain valuable intelligence about your customer base may seem too expensive and complicated to obtain and comprehend, especially if you are a small business owner. But the reality is – big data is not just for the big guys anymore. In fact, affordable and user-friendly applications and analytics tools make data available to businesses of all sizes.

According to Frank Moss, former director of MIT’s Media Lab on MSN.com, “One might assume that the exploitation of Big Data is the province of big companies. But that’s not the case, thanks to several forces that are democratizing Big Data. These include affordable cloud computing storage, open source software for processing large volumes of data, and Big Data sets being made available in the public domain.”

Many small companies are already using tools like Google Analytics to help them identify and analyze traffic and customer trends on their websites, but there are also newer tools available to help access helpful information:

  • SumAll is a free data visualization tool for online retailers.
  • SizeUp is a free online tool that provides information about competitors to aid in benchmarking and competitive analysis.
  • FiveStars is a company which aids local businesses in creating loyalty programs and provides customer analytics.

With data tools like these, small businesses can draw conclusions about customers, like which products they’re purchasing and which ones they’re not, who visits their website and when and other valuable insights.

Big data can also have a positive impact on the entire supply chain. For example, a mom and pop grocer could use data to identify demand trends to help them determine and plan their inventory for the week, month or year.

Additionally, big data can help small businesses better plan and manage their workforce. For example, The Spillers Group, a Dallas-based company which owns and operates three pizza restaurants, was able to cut its labor costs by 10 percent using a smartphone app called Roambi.  Roambi provided managers with a snapshot of point-of-sale information along with labor metrics which empowered them to make better-informed decisions when scheduling labor resources.

With new applications emerging every day, big data is becoming more accessible and affordable for small businesses which could give them the edge they need to compete with big box retailers and larger chains.


Spors, Kelly. “Big Data: Coming Soon to a Small Business Near You”. Openforum.com. 6/17/13.

Paris, Colin J. “Small business advice: How small companies can harness the power of big data”. Washington Post. 6/10/13.