Procurement 2 October 2018

Three ways you can use your company data to build your business

Data could add up to £241bn to the UK economy by 2020

Alessandra de Paula, director of channel marketing EMEA at Seagate Technology, outlines three ways micro business owners can take control of their company data to drive productivity, culture and sales.

Britain’s small businesses are often under pressure: they’re competing against big established players, and working with thin margins and small teams. Small business owners have to make every customer count, and data is a key way of doing just that.

The UK government is predicting that data will benefit the UK economy by up to £241bn by 2020, and much of that benefit will go to small businesses.

Data is highly valuable, and the amount of data available to businesses is growing all the time: according to Data Age 2025, an IDC whitepaper sponsored by Seagate, by 2025 the global datasphere will grow to 163 zettabytes, over ten times the amount of data generated in 2016.

Despite this huge potential, Britain’s small firms could be doing much more to take advantage of their data. In this post, we’ll cover three essential ways you can use data to help prepare your business for success in the data-driven future.

  1. Understand your customer

It was easier to understand your customers in the old days: you could walk right up and talk to them. In the digital economy, it’s more challenging to understand what your customers really want and how they really behave, as they’re often online, and across many different platforms and countries.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are ready-made solutions out there that can help install analytics on your website. Paired with a proper data storage infrastructure, either on-premise or in the cloud, small businesses are able to understand how their customers are interacting with their website and products in far more nuanced ways, knowing exactly how long they spend on certain pages, or what the most popular time of day is to buy.

  1. Build better products

All those insights on customer behaviour have real use when it comes to designing your products. Whether you sell hand-made clothes or mobile applications, if you’re selling online then you have access to a wealth of data which can help inform how you make, price and market your products.

For example, you might be receiving customer feedback that a certain product is defective, or priced too highly. This feedback is data, and it has value: the question is whether you’re able to put it to use so that it can boost your bottom line. Our research into the data habits of SMEs suggests that Britain’s startups could improve here: we found that only 35% of small businesses store their company data in a central, on-site location, while 23% of SMB employees reported using portable storage solutions such as USB sticks as their primary storage solution. Data centralisation enables staff to record customer interactions more effectively, bringing the voice of the customer into the business and ensuring staff are constantly putting customer needs first.

  1. Make working from home work

It’s a competitive market out there for recruitment, especially for small businesses. A business is built on its people, and it’s important that small businesses find and retain the right staff. Applicants for small firms and startups are increasingly expecting a certain working culture, and one particular benefit is always high up the list: working from home.

Many people find that they’re more productive when they’re working from home, away from all the distractions of the office, but this all depends on whether your business has a data handling policy in place.

Our research found that 49% of small business employees who work remotely reported having difficulty accessing their work files out of the office at least once per month. If you’re leading a small team, you can’t afford to lose staff productivity simply because people working from home don’t have the information they need.

Luckily, small businesses have benefitted from a real levelling of the playing field when it comes to options for data management for small teams. Both cloud storage and on-premises storage have their advantages, and each has a role within a business’ data strategy. Many startups use cloud storage solutions: these are a great entry point for any small business.

Delivered on a monthly subscription model, cloud data storage is flexible, growing and contracting depending on business need. Cloud storage often requires a lower upfront cost and ongoing maintenance from a dedicated IT professional, making it a solid choice for a small but fast-growing business.

Network-attached storage is also a great choice for small companies: this method sees businesses store their data on the premises in specialised NAS hard drives, which are optimised for speed, reliability and security. On-premise NAS drives may be slightly more complex to set up initially, but small firms benefit hugely in the long run from having their data in the office and fully under their control.

Whatever solution you use for your business, the key is to take control of your data. There are huge benefits for small businesses in harnessing data effectively, and the benefits will only increase over time. Data is the future, and companies that learn to take full advantage of it early will be in a great position to be successful in the future.

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