The Blog: Big Data and Small Data

David's Insight vs Goliath's Data

Throw a stone at a digital marketing blog, and sooner or later it will collide with an article on Big Data. The term has been one of the biggest buzzwords of the last decade. 

The collection and analysis of huge amounts of data using complex computer algorithms maybe technically a very impressive feat, but Big Data insights are not always within the budgets' of SMEs.

This is not the only problem, the modern tendency to focus too much on Big Data can be to the detriment of fully understanding users' experiences and can result in businesses failing to understand the real motivations of their customers. 

Big Data can trap businesses in dead-ended feedback loops, where the most important questions are not being asked. Some of the most important information cannot be found or conveyed with Big Data. 

Focusing too much on Big Data depersonalizes the interactions between businesses and customers, increasing the likelihood of missing out on vital insights gained from directly observing the experiences users have with products and digital marketing channels. 

Martin Lindstrom's New York Times Bestseller ‘Small Data’  touches on this problem. The book's title is a concept that he offers as a solution.
Lindstrom believes that focusing on the small interactions of individual customers with products and businesses can reveal valuable insights into how emotional connections are created. 

These insights are responsible for one of the biggest brand turnarounds in history. 

A Child's Pride

The turn of the millennium was not a good time for the LEGO corporation. Sales were in decline. The Danish block-builder needed to do something.
It was clear that times were changing. LEGO's market research thought that the dominant emerging trend was instant gratification. 

They didn't think that this generation of kids were interested in buying toys that took patience and time to build
In a state of panic, LEGO tried to stay relevant by changing their product. 

They hoped that quicker construction times would broaden LEGO's appeal, increasing the size of their bricks and creating toys which took fewer bricks to construct. The result was a disaster: pushing the companies sales further into decline.

One fated day in 2004 turned the tide. A group of LEGO researchers paid a visit to an 11-year-old boy's house; Big Data hadn't worked, so they were looking for a new way to understand the appeal of their products by speaking to the product's biggest fans. 

They asked the boy what he was most proud of. 

He paused for a moment... and then pointed to a pair of old sneakers with worn-down sides.

At first, the researchers were confused but then it all fell into place: the young boy was an avid skateboarder. He was more proud of the wear and tear on his sneakers than anything else, because it was evidence to the other kids in his neighbourhood, that he could do a difficult skateboarding trick. 

Those battered old shoes were a status symbol. The boy's sneakers showed that kids still valued the status gained from demonstrating skill;  Big Data had been completely wrong about instant gratification being the only trend. Children were still looking for challenges, LEGO didn't need to simplify they needed to make new challenges relevant for this generation. 

So the first thing LEGO did was revert back to making bricks in the original smaller sizes, then they created even smaller and more complicated designs with links to trends like Harry Potter. The result was an astounding success and they have never looked back. By paying attention to the smaller details they had turned their company around.  

Using Small Data on Your Website

Mistakes like this occur in digital marketing all of the time: businesses fail to see the forest for the trees. For example, a company spends thousands of dollars on a new website redesign because analytics tell them that people are not spending enough time on their current design, without once ever sitting down with a user and understanding their experience.

Perhaps the reasons why users don't stay long is because the font is too small and hard to read, or maybe there is not enough space between the lines of text so users' eyes get tired quickly.  

Another testable problem could be that this website doesn't display very well on mobile devices or certain internet browsers. Alternatively, the website could take too long to load for first time users.

All of these solutions do not require a new website. Paying attention to the actual user experience can find answers to problems you were never even looking for.
This is because one of the best ways to understand the effectiveness of your website is to get someone with fresh eyes and a clear cache to visit it.

Get them to test the user experience for as many different technical configurations as possible: with smartphones, desktops and Macs, in each case with many different internet browsers: Mozilla, Safari, Chrome, and Internet Explorer. 

Taking the time to do this will uncover all kinds of incites about your website's usability and accessibility that were right under your nose.

Small Data & Keywords

The idea of small data can also play a role in finding the right keywords. Tools like rankingCoach show you how valuable and competitive search terms are. 

Talking to others about how they look up businesses like yours can provide a valuable fresh perspective. They can also provide good extra feedback on the appeal of your descriptions and meta tags. 

A classic example of online businesses following the crowd and failing to make the most of the incites of small data, can be found in a previous article for this blog on keywords and picking the right rival, in which it was shown that far more food places optimize for the word restaurant and miss out on  the term restaurants, failing to think about what users actually type in when they look for 'restaurants online', 

Sometimes the most important things are the tiny details, not the Big Data sets: that's the lesson of Small data. Hopefully, you have picked up a few things for your website.

If you need help making your website successful, rankingCoach is an all-in-one digital marketing solution that can do just that. 
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