Big Data Examples: 6 Ways Big Data Can Change Your Business

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn more about big data and discover how it can change your business by exploring six key examples. Then, get tips for building a more data-driven work culture in your business.

[Featured image] A couple uses GPS navigation, a big data example, on their smartphones to get around a city.

Across industries, big data plays an important role in business growth and success. Using big data can change your business in a variety of ways. Below, you’ll learn how you can use it to make better decisions, improve your customer service, enhance your supply chain management, lower your costs, and more. But first, let’s define big data and identify some of its key characteristics. 

What is big data?

The term "big data" refers to large amounts of data that people can't analyze, process, or store it using traditional methods and tools. Fortunately, modern methods and tools can help companies evaluate big data and use it to improve business. To better understand big data, let’s look at its characteristics. 

Five characteristics of big data

Five characteristics separate big data from traditional data. For easy recall, all five start with the letter V.

  1. Volume: Big data refers to large data sets, usually containing a million rows of data or more.

  2. Value: The term "big" also refers to the value data provides to an organization.

  3. Veracity: Data has value to organizations only when it has a high degree of quality and comes from reliable sources.

  4. Variety: Big data contains a wide array of data types from varied sources.

  5. Velocity: Big data processes quickly so companies can use it when they need it.

6 ways big data can change your business

Big data provides numerous benefits to businesses. Here are six ways it might change yours:

1. Better decision-making

Traditionally, people in executive positions or high-paid consultants drove business decisions based on experience and intuition. These days, data plays a role in decision-making. Company heads use big data analytics to examine past business performance or patterns to make better decisions about the future. 

2. Greater operational efficiency

Big data allows companies to examine sales, market trends, employee performance, and more. This type of tracking boosts operational efficiency because it helps companies improve sales strategies and it helps managers know how many employees and how much inventory to have. Big data also helps companies track work processes, enabling better, more efficient workflows. 

3. Greater customer satisfaction

When customers shop online, write product reviews, or share buying experiences on social media, they allow companies to gather data. Gathering and analyzing customer data can help your company better target customers to deliver more enjoyable buying experiences and better products. By evaluating customer feedback, you can also learn which customers buy the most products or services based on age, gender, or geographical location. 

4. Better supply chain management

Customers return to companies that deliver quality products at good prices on time. You need good supply chain management to get a quality product to your customer on time. 

Big data helps ensure good supply chain management by:

  • Using inventory management methods to ensure product availability

  • Tracking sales to identify what times of the week, month, or year sales increase or decrease

  • Using maintenance prediction analytics to keep manufacturing equipment working properly

  • Using GPS to identify the most efficient delivery routes

  • Analyzing GPS systems to reroute impeded delivery routes

  • Identifying the exact location of shipped products to ensure accurate delivery times 

5. Lower costs

Good supply chain management offers a key example of how companies lower costs using big data. Factors that improve the supply chain, like predictive maintenance and optimized delivery routes, save companies money. Companies also reduce costs when they can predict how much inventory to have on hand and when they need to produce or buy more. 

Some additional ways companies can lower costs with big data include:

  • Data-driven decisions can reduce the amount of money spent on unsuccessful business strategies. 

  • Data analysis helps single out job candidates that fit the company well and might stay longer.

  • Big data provides automation for simple tasks in the workplace, allowing employees to concentrate on more complex work.

  • Big data allows automatic shipment logging so employees can instantly locate products in the warehouse.

  • Digitized documents, reports, contracts, and other important records lower paper costs and allow quick and centralized access for company employees.

6. Fraud detection

If you own a bank or credit card company, you can use big data to detect fraudulent charges with the help of machine learning algorithms, which analyze patterns in customer accounts for unusual activity. This process proves so accurate that you can occasionally detect a fraudulent charge before a customer knows about it.

If you own a retail company or provide services, you can use this same type of big data to detect fraud by tracking customer buying patterns and noting when they appear unusual or when customers make purchases from new devices. Credit or debit card charge-backs for purchases can create a serious financial threat for any company selling products or services.

Tips for building a more data-driven work culture

With so much access to data, it's hard for companies to compete without using it. To build a more data-driven work culture in your business, take advantage of these tips:

  • Make data literacy a priority in your company and provide employee training if needed.

  • Hire employees who can think critically, have curiosity, and aren't afraid to voice ideas.

  • Incorporate modern technology like AI bots, augmented analytics, and team collaboration platforms. 

  • Define what you want to learn from data before you collect it.

  • Identify your data sources and set clear-cut data goals.

  • Assemble a data team that can help accomplish your goals.

  • Ensure consistency with standardized data processes.

  • Create and follow best practices to ensure proper data compliance.

Next steps on Coursera

To learn more about big data and how it can help your business, consider taking the Big Data Specialization on Coursera offered by the University of California San Diego. This intensive, six-course series will provide a strong foundation in big data and allow you to get hands-on experience using big data systems and tools. By investing 10 hours per week, you can finish the course in about three months, but course flexibility allows you to learn at your own pace. When you've completed the specialization, you'll receive a shareable Professional Certificate.

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