Big Data And Cloud For SMBs Starts With Engagement

Word Cloud with Customer Engagement related tags
Word Cloud with Customer Engagement related tags

With so much confusing talk around Cloud, Big Data and Analytics it’s no wonder that many small and midsize businesses still feel like only enterprises are utilizing these tools. After attending IBM Insight in Las Vegas this week, it’s clear that this trend is changing. By thinking of these components as a “system of insight,” IBM is simplifying the discussion and focusing on what could be the most important element: engagement.

System of Insight allows SMBs to create new customer experiences

Engagement has been a popular topic in social media, marketing and HR but seldom is it part of the technology or data conversation. As businesses start to understand Cloud and BDA they’re often limited by time and resources as they move to proactively plan for the future. For businesses to create new customer experiences they must first understand their customer and build relationships with their community. These conversations and engagements are happening every minute, within every company, in all industries. By listening to these conversations and engaging with customers, small business have all the data they need to make strategic, product, services and business decisions. When combined with analytics, this data will ultimately provide key insights needed to drive business decisions.

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On the ground at IBM Insight, I spoke with partners and customers who shared their stories and experiences ranging from transforming how a teacher engaged with her students to leveraging data from machinery to predict inventory needs. I also heard from a solopreneur who was utilizing social media to listen and understand the conversations among her target demographic and incorporating those trends in her marketing and sales campaigns.

In Twitter and Watson: Little Data Gets Big Validation” Daniel Newman states, “In the future our physical, social and digital lives won’t exist in a vacuum,” and that couldn’t be more true in what ended up being my favorite user story at IBM Insight. I spoke with two partners who recently went through a rebranding to pivot their 30 person small business to embrace technology. What stood out was how surprised they were to learn just how much customer data became available when they started to engage their customers. They explained that by eliminat

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ing registers at their stores and replacing them with mobile devices, they were able to gain insights into customer and employee behavior that were previously hidden. The move into mobile was intended to eliminate registers and reveal which employees were selling the most products. What they did not expect, was the ability to combine that data with sensors throughout the store and customers shopping data to build a comprehensive customer and store profile. With these profiles they not only found an entirely new customer demographic to target, but also were able to better understand the type of employees they needed to hire and the skill sets and knowledge they should posses.

It’s clear that cloud and big data/analytics is no longer a tool for enterprise only. For small businesses to embrace these tools, they will have to engage and understand their customers and be prepared to make strategic businesses decisions based on data insights. Those decisions have the power to optimize both internal and external processes and provide a significant competitive advantage that will define the businesses of tomorrow.

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