Is small data the key to unlocking your big data?

What is small data and how does it help make big data more insightful?
28 September 2018

Is big data really important? Source: Shutterstock

It doesn’t matter if we’re in sales, finance, marketing, or operations — we’ve all become accustomed to finding insights by analyzing data to make better decisions.

The rise of data — or rather ‘big data’ — has created several opportunities for organizations, especially when it comes to understanding customers, boosting efficiencies, and streamlining operations.

However, much of the data used to generate the insights that help achieve these goals is generated, captured, and stored in the public domain. It doesn’t offer any unique insights or provide a sustainable competitive advantage.

But there’s a way to unlock the value in that big data. It’s small data.

The power of small data

Small data, in today’s world, equals old-fashioned primary research.

It doesn’t have to be collected by deploying a team to speak to end users or collaborating with a market research firm — it can be done online using targeted surveys, by requesting a random group of customers to provide feedback on a new function, or in other creative ways.

However, the data that is collected will be specific to your product, solution, service, or brand and will provide unique insights into what consumers really want.

Of course, you’ll need to be careful about how you select the sample set of customers whose opinion you’ll include in your small data.

Getting it right means that you’ll be able to factor in big data to capture deep insights about your customers, understand their needs, and hopefully deliver a product or service that’s more likely to succeed in the competitive marketplace.

Small data may seem like a small idea, but it can help carve big victories when used in conjunction with big data.

The truth about big data

While the idea is simple to grasp, most people seem to have two questions about big data in the context of small data:

  1. Don’t we already have unique big data?
  2. Will we ever have unique big data?

Well, to be honest, no — we don’t already have unique big data. In the real world, capturing unique big data means embedding a sensor in every product, be it a coffee machine or a router and staying connected to it while it’s in use with the customer.

That’s the vision for the internet of things (IoT) and to come to life, needs 5G connectivity. We still don’t live in a connected ecosystem, and hence, collecting unique big data is quite promising but challenging at the moment.

In the digital world, however, we’re well equipped to collect unique big data — but there’s no saying how private and sensitive that data will be. In fact, after the implementation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation and the announcement of the California Consumer Privacy Act, things have become even more challenging.

Therefore, for all intents and purposes, big data today isn’t entirely unique. But this is not to say that big data will never be unique. When laws become more favorable and when the right technology becomes available, collecting unique big data won’t be a problem at all. Until then, you could do well with small data.