Big data is fundamentally changing the way businesses operate by opening up exciting opportunities for businesses at all stages of the value chain. Ongoing innovations are driving a fast growing number of entrepreneurs to global trade through e-commerce platforms.
Optimizing the value chain
One of the key issues SMEs face today is supply chain optimization and management, including controlling inventory flows, raw materials, labor etc. The use of big data and analytic tools can help SMEs manage everything from sourcing raw materials to selecting logistics providers – in fact, big data solutions historically accessible only to large companies with sophisticated tools and workflows are now within reach of SMEs. Data analysis methods have advanced to a point where forecasting, controlling inventories and applying ‘lean supply chain’ methods is now the domain of essentially any business with access to a computer.
One clear case of this is the rise of the “integrated supply chains” and “commercial ecosystems”. For instance, Alibaba collects vast amounts of data about suppliers and buyers operating within its ecosystem, and leverages this to give them information about their trade records, quality and performance, logistics records etc. By collating and analyzing this data on a massive scale, Alibaba can tailor their ecosystem to best facilitate SMEs trading globally.
Developing sound strategies
With the use of data-powered tools, the entire scope of business activities can be monitored and optimized – allowing business owners to respond faster than ever before, make real-time decisions and assess and adjust strategies as needed.
Businesses can also better define their buyers’ personas and understand customers’ behavior with the intelligent application of data analytics, so that they can target the right customers, create value for them, and develop effective cross-selling strategies.
Big data is also driving innovation in areas such as product development, services and business models. While the traditional offline business model prevailed, manufacturers had to first sell directly to distributors who would then resell to their customers. In recent years, businesses of all types of models from classic B2C to the emergent C2B, can find valuable applications for data – from mapping out their production to investigation consumer behaviour to R&D and sales pipelines.
Offering unique insights
Finally, by using big data analytics tools, SMEs can gain considerable competitive edge through gathering real-time insights on the market and the competition, and have more resources available to focus on core capabilities. As big data solutions become as commonplace as the Internet has in recent decades, SMEs will be well-poised to capitalize on the rapidly growing world of e-commerce opportunities.