Whether you run a small business with just a few employees or you are in charge of a multinational corporation, you can benefit from an effective big data strategy. Thanks to website analytics, geo-location services, data mining, and the constant stream of data flowing to and from us through everyday devices and products, there is more market data available today than at any other time in history.

Not only that, but the amount of data we’re producing is growing at an incredibly rapid rate. In less than five years from today, experts predict that our annual data creation will reach nearly 45 trillion gigabytes. With mind-boggling amounts of data like that available to individuals, corporations, and governments, there is no question that your business needs a big data strategy.

Why? Even the most powerful computers aren’t going to sift aimlessly through multiple trillion gigabytes of information in a timeframe that will work for gathering information on your market and your target audience. Thus, you need a focused, data-driven strategy that will not just aim to collect information but to use that information in the most effective ways possible to help your business overcome obstacles and improve your bottom line.

So, before you dive into big data analytics, you should first ask yourself four questions. These will help guide you as you create an effective strategy that will show significant and tangible improvements for your business.

1. What Is the Biggest Challenge Facing My Business Right Now?

Are you having difficulty standing out from the competition? Is production a problem? Are your branding efforts falling on deaf ears? Are your customers not fully satisfied? Don’t you know your customer well enough? Understanding the biggest challenges facing your company will let you know where to focus your data collection and analysis efforts. If you’re launching a start-up and are trying to identify your ideal customers, you’re going to be looking at different data sets than if you have an established business and you’re launching a new product.

2. What Can I Do to Get to Know My Customers?

Data collection and analysis can do a lot to show you who your customers are, where they live, what kinds of patterns they follow when using your site or purchasing things from you, etc. Consider all of the ways you can get to know your customers to improve efficiency in your company’s website, engage your customers more, and give them an all-around better customer experience.

3. Will Better Insights and Data Analysis Help Me Handle My Business’ Biggest Challenges?

This is almost a trick question because the answer is almost always, “Yes.” If you are trying to increase the average shopping cart value in your ecommerce store, understanding your customers’ shopping patterns and making targeted recommendations can help. If you are trying to gain more exposure through social media, your insights and data analysis of visitor engagement can help a great deal, as well.

4. How Can I Apply Big Data Analytics to Create the Best Possible Strategy?

Look at your goals for your business and how they relate to what you do and don’t know about your customers. With so much data streaming online today, there’s no reason that you should ever make a strategic move that isn’t data-driven. Consider your customers’ browsing, buying, and spending patterns. Look at trending online and social media activity for your target audience. Find out how you can tweak your strategy to help focus it more and make it more customer- and data-driven.

This post originally appeared on RonaldvanLoon.com

image credit: Rajiv Patel

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