What’s the Big Deal About Big Data?

A buzzy word in the tech mainstream these days is big data.

It’s discussed with a sort of reverence—a term that’s hard to wrap your head around but nevertheless promises to be magic bullet solution for all business woes.

Unsure about who your target market is? Use big data.
Need to review user analytics of your site? Trust in big data.
Big data, big data, big data. Blah, blah, blah.

We’re not trying to be snarky about data. We’re fully on board with the idea of website owners using any tool at their disposal to optimize their pages. We just believe it’s important that business owners understand what big data is, what it isn’t, and what they should expect when employing it for business growth.

It can’t do everything for you. But it can help.

Just what is big data?

Talk about a loaded question — across the vast spectrum of internet research, there’s no true consensus on what “big data” actually means. It’s not that surprising, really. The term entered the business lexicon only within the past couple decades.

There’s no precise definition, but let’s take a stab at it. Big data, broadly, refers to collective information taken from traditional and digital sources from which businesses can derive meaningful insights.

Kind of prickly, right? The truth is that the stuffed-shirt Oxford definition of big data doesn’t matter as long as the data-wranglers (and executives) in your organization all agree on what it means. For web development purposes, this means that all the visitation metrics we track, the user behaviors we watch, and the consumer insights we find can be lumped under the umbrella of big data.

Big data truly is everywhere. We’re in the middle of a data explosion. IBM notes that 90 percent of the world’s data was created in the past two years alone. Pretty impressive. But then again, the entire Library of Alexandria can be crammed into a single hard drive, and not even an expensive one. It’s about time we come to terms with the exponential growth of technology, and big data is part of it.

What can big data do for me?

That’s kind of like asking what a hammer can do for you. The answer? Quite a bit – if you know how to use it.

This is the first mistake we see business owners making: Assuming that collecting more data will produce better business outcomes. To be perfectly honest, big data alone won’t do a thing to help you.

This doesn’t mean that big data can’t help at all – quite the contrary. Big data can be leveraged in as many ways as you can imagine:

  • Web page enhancement, including using analytic tracking tools to see how many visitors click-through your landing pages and calls-to-action. Indeed, most webmasters require this type of data to achieve their web development goals.
  • Marketing growth, like checking which Pay-Per-Click ads generate the most exposure and which sites are most profitable for advertisement. Amazon’s product recommendations based on previous items viewed is an example of marketing data put to work.
  • Operational improvements, such as making your staffing more efficient by monitoring which hours of the day are busiest and optimizing your workforce accordingly. This type of data is invaluable for customer service centers and online support businesses that need to predict customer volume.

But to reiterate, data alone won’t do the job. You need minds to make sense of the numbers and derive actual insights from the noise. Consider the following quotation from author and futurist Alvin Toffler on the pitfalls of handling data:

You can use all the quantitative data you can get, but you still have to distrust it and use your own intelligence and judgment.

Basically, you need three things to utilize big data effectively:

  1. Specific goals for its use
  2. Workers capable of looking at the data and seeing how it relates to these goals
  3. A healthy dose of skepticism and personal judgment

Big Data and Your Website

Big data becomes more valuable as it gets bigger – the more data you have, the more insight you can find from it. Unfortunately, this means that big data is most useful for large organizations that have the means to collect and analyze mass quantities of the stuff.

However, smaller websites can (and should) try to utilize data on their own terms. Big data doesn’t always have to be big, after all.

Even something as simple as monitoring customer behaviors on your webpage can be classified as gathering data. To start, use online tools to begin data mining. Even simple tools like Google Analytics can be leveraged to great effect for these goals.

As your site grows and your goals become more complex, you may want to seek out help from third-party analytics providers who can provide more in-depth reviews of your site.

With these insights in your corner, you can work with a web development service provider to expand the reach of your page, customize your site to your audience’s needs, and further accelerate your business growth.

And it’s all thanks to big data.

Well, not all. But it helped.