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Tips for Starting Your Education in Big Data

A beginner's look at the basics of big data and analytics.

· Big Data Zone

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Data analysis is one of the primary forces in today’s markets. Understanding demographics, trends, and patterns in spending, entertainment, and lifestyle choices helps advertisers to cater marketing campaigns to those most likely to spend money. Having the ability to gather and interpret this information will give any business an advantage. Whether you’re looking to understand Big Data for your own business, or if you’re planning on marketing your services to others, the following tips will help you get started in understanding this complex but necessary part of today’s global economy.

Even consumers are beginning to see the value in analyzing large sets of data, and it has even spilled over into simple phone apps for finding restaurants. They’ll now not only find you a popular restaurant, they’ll use historical data about GPS signals and reviews to tell you what the best place is to get a table at this particular time on any given weekday. If you’re just beginning to see the value of this type of information, and would like to know how Big Data Analytics can help you and your business, keep reading.

It All Starts With Collecting Data

When it comes to data mining to spot trends, more is always better. In any sort of statistical analysis, the larger your sample size, the more accurate your results will be. Following a weeks worth of sales data for your company isn’t going to help you spot trends. 3 months would be better, and 6 months even better than that. Even if you aren’t sure what you are looking for, make sure that your data collection contains as much information as possible. Try to figure out where you’re going to get your best data, and begin collecting it. You can’t analyze data if you don’t have any.

It’s Okay to Start Small

While the most noticeable thing about big data is that it’s supposed to be “big,” sometimes it’s okay for you to start with a smaller subset until you can figure out what it is you’re looking for. If you’ve got a single retail location that’s been open for less than a year, you aren’t going to need a massive IT system in place to help you gather, house, and analyze all of your information. If you’re looking for information on demographics like individuals most likely to purchase your product, there are numerous free resources (think Google Adwords or their free analytics tools) available that can help you get the answers you need. Once you begin to get a feel for how data analysis can benefit you, and what else you hope to gain, you will most certainly want to move on to larger and more reliable methods.

Have a Plan

This doesn’t mean your business plan. This means that before you begin, you should really sit down and consider what you hope to gain from this process. Are you looking to target your customers more specifically, or are you wanting to expand your customer base? Is your goal to help with staffing and scheduling so that you don’t waste man-hours on your slowest periods, while burning them out when things get busy? Understanding what your needs and objectives are is critical, as is identifying what your challenges will be, and how you will determine whether or not you’re meeting your objectives.

Make Sure You Have the Technology You Need

In the event that you do have the ability to collect vast quantities of information for your purposes, you need to make sure that you have both the storage capacity and processing power to run these numbers. You may need to outsource this to another company, or make sure that your own IT Department is able to get things set up correctly. There are also numerous software programs available to help, as well as web-based services and programs that you can access at a cost much lower than trying to do it yourself.

Get Some Help

If you’re new to Big Data, it will probably be easier, and more cost-effective in the long run, to seek out professionals that can help you get started. There are business analysts that have been doing this type of work for years, but the exciting thing is that they now have near-instantaneous and real-time information flowing in to be combed through for trends and patterns. Bumbling around a software program that you don’t understand will waste your time and money; the ROI for getting this type of analysis done well and quickly is worth the initial investment.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Wait Too Long!

The businesses that have already started taking advantage of Big Data and Analytics are already reaping the benefits. Those companies that have invested heavily in this type of information gathering have a competitive edge. Being able to target and hone your marketing to the correct audiences, as well as those within the market that are most likely to spend money can dramatically increase your overall traffic and sales. You can open a web browser and begin analyzing market trends immediately!

Marleen Anderson is part of the team behind Saxons, Australia-based company providing IT support services and IT training. She is a great technology addict with huge interest in entrepreneurship.

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