What About Small Data?

With all the hubbub about Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT), the value of Small Data has been pushed to the wayside. Big Data analytics teaches us about trends and hidden patterns, but Small Data pulls out the specifics of the current state of business. According to Whatis.com, “Small data is data in a volume and format that makes it accessible, informative and actionable. Small data typically provides information that answers a specific question or addresses a specific problem. Examples of small data include baseball scores, inventory reports, driving records, sales data, biometric measurements, search histories, weather forecasts and usage alerts.”

Why is this short-term thinking helpful?

According to a recent article in Forbes magazine, “Small Data can trigger events based on what is happening now. Those events can be merged with behavioral or trending information derived from machine learning algorithms run against Big Data datasets.”

Small Data underlines what’s going on in the moment, so you can apply actionable strategies to everyday tasks. And, just like anything else in life, accomplishing smaller tasks feels less daunting than a huge mass of data you have to digest all at once. To be clear, Big Data IS valuable—it’s excellent for understanding hidden patterns in customer behavior, recognizing patterns and predicting changes in the long-term. However, the use cases for Small Data should not be overlooked. Here are a few reasons why:

1. There’s no wait time on Small Data.
To reap the benefits of Big Data, you must aggregate the content over time and then analyze how all the pieces fit together. (You also have to decipher what the heck all that data means.) With small data, there’s no wait time. Small Data is generated every second of every day, from social media posts to Google searches and check-ins. The stats and trends are created in real-time, so you can continually tweak your strategies to meet the shifting patterns.

2. Small Data creates a more comprehensive CRM database.
CRM solutions are evolving to be social-centric. Small Data is generated through actions on those social channels. So, if you combine the elements of social data with Web analytics, transactional histories, competitor trends, etc., it fills in the gaps of your customer profiles. With an arsenal of information at your fingertips, you can make better marketing decisions and craft meaningful, personal interactions that speak to what your customers care about in the here-and-now.

3. Small Data is less expensive and easier to come by.
Companies need to pull from a lot of data reserves for Big Data analytics, and oftentimes it requires a monetary investment. Big Data uses high volumes of Terabytes, Petabytes, Exabytes, and Zettabytes — which need expansive server space. Data mining applications and advanced analytics machines add to those costs as well. Small Data, on the other hand, doesn’t need massive amounts of server space or fancy applications. Much of the necessary information can be extracted from the systems most companies already have in place, like CRM’s and ERP’s. That makes Small Data a lot easier to come by and a lot cheaper to utilize.

Big Data and Small Data are both applicable to your business, just in different ways. Big Data is your long-term, big picture, and Small Data is your short-term, current trend. Find a balance between the two and you’ll be on the right path to building a healthy, successful business model.


Danine Midura's picture
Danine Midura
Director of Marketing

Danine is the Director of Marketing for Technology Advisors Inc. She spearheads TAI events, marketing campaigns, and social media efforts. Prior to her work at TAI, Danine was a copywriter in the B2B publishing industry. Her interests include blockbuster disaster movies, tank tops in an array of colors, used book stores, Clint Eastwood, and being surrounded by trees. 

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