Small Data Beats Big Data for Understanding Consumers | Binary Fountain

July 31, 2019

Why Small Data is Beating Big Data for Understanding Consumer Preferences

By: Kayla Zamary

healthcare data analyticsCan your business ever have too much data? The simple answer is, of course, no.

The more data you have regarding your customers, their preferences, and wider industry trends, the better informed your decision-making will be. Big data has proven its worth in its sheer volume of information, especially when it comes to analyzing past trends.

We can thank the internet for this recent ability to collect such massive amounts of data. In fact, there are approximately 7 billion devices currently connected to the internet, meaning big data will only get bigger.

However, big data has its limits; or, perhaps more accurately, human beings have limits that bar us from using or analyzing much of the data we collect. While you can still gain insights from big data to improve the customer experience and increase revenue by carefully extracting smaller sets of information, less than 0.5% of big data is ever fully utilized. So, while there may be no such thing as too much information, you may want to focus less on big data and more on small data in order to understand consumer preferences and determine your optimal trajectory.

The Relationship Between Data and Reputation

In an era where most consumers look up reviews online before making a decision, your brand’s online reputation is more important than ever. And the only way to truly boost your reputation is by taking your ratings and reviews into account and acting upon them accordingly. However, a blanket number or aggregate star rating will not help you make meaningful changes, just merely indicate on average what people think of your business.

Individual customer reviews, on the other hand, will give you more nuanced data on what you are doing well and what can be improved. In this way, big and small data work together, the former providing the important, micro-level details and the latter offering a broad view of your brand’s standing. The magic happens precisely at this intersection of big and small healthcare data analytics.

Small Data in Action

To get a better idea of what small data is and how it can be used effectively, a real-world example might be useful. In an article for Forbes, Roger Dooley writes about Martin Lindstrom, author of Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends. In the piece, “Small Data: The Next Big Thing,” Dooley outlines some of the significant moments in Lindstrom’s career that led him to realize why collecting small data is just as useful, if not more than, gathering big data.

One of the most potent examples of this occurred when Lindstrom visited the home of an 11-year-old boy, only to realize that the boy cared more about his worn down skate shoes than any other object or toy in his room because it proved his skill. This revelation helped Lindstrom rebrand Lego after it was seeing a major decline in sales, getting the company back on track and even expanding it. 

Dooley argues that “Small Data puts humanity back into marketing.” Indeed, from this example involving Lindstrom and the boy, a small piece of information that could never be extracted from a big data set turned out to be the most valuable catalyst for positive change within the company. While not all small data samples are as influential or meaningful as this one, small data as a whole can give you a deeper glimpse into the wants, needs, and behaviors of your customers and patients.

Small Data, Big Impact

As a healthcare marketer, you care about how and why small data works in the realm of healthcare analytics and improving patient experience. While Dooley’s example regarding Lindstrom might specifically involve a toy manufacturer, the lesson applies to all industries, including healthcare. Your star ratings and large data sets involving customer sentiment can give you a broader idea of how well you are doing, but these ratings derive from individual feedback. It is this feedback that gives you the ground-level information necessary to make operational changes and improve the patient experience.

Of course, whether or not you can make these changes depends upon how attuned you are to these reviews. If you are not aware of the reviews you receive, or you have no way of organizing, managing, and responding to them, these bits of small data become useless. You need proper customer engagement strategies and online review management solutions to read and reply to all feedback so you are aware of the small but significant details, like Lindstrom’s experience with the boy and his skate shoes.

Taking the Next Small Steps:

If you want to improve your healthcare facility, you need to know more about your customers and their preferences. In order to do this, you need small data just as much as big data. One way to start collecting smaller data sets is by investing in online reputation management services. These services can help you locate and organize all customer feedback in a centralized location, where you can respond and gather deep data analytics along the way. 

Understanding your customers requires both a wide and narrow approach. Big data might be all the rage, but do not take small data for granted.


About the Author

Kayla Zamary
Marketing Manager

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