Big Data & Business Intelligence

Big Data, Small Firms – Analytics Tools for SMEs

Large corporations make their decisions using analytics data. Many people are unaware that solutions suitable for other users, especially small and medium sized businesses, are now also available.

08 Jan. 2016 Diego Wyllie

The various analytics solutions that have arisen in the post-PC era provide companies with valuable insights into key aspects of their business. The best known is perhaps Google Analytics, which unfortunately only covers a portion of the demand. In fact, value insights into the success of a website, app or marketing campaign, an improved understanding of customers and early indicators of new sales potentials can often be more effectively achieved with other tools.

We've compiled a list for you of tools that are suitable for small and medium-sized companies. Visit the SME Campus ("Campus Mittelstand") in Hall 5 at CeBIT to learn more about products tailored to SMEs.

Modern analysis tool are of increasing importance. Some examples are Mixpanel and Kissmetrics, which put the user front and center, social analytics tools such as SocialBench, which specializes in customer dialog on social networks, and applications like Chartbeat, which focuses on real-time data.

Focus on the Customer

Companies can measure more than just revenues and conversion rates when they consistently deploy analytics solutions. They can also quantify how visitors are using the website or app, how they arrived there and how they can be converted into regular customers. While traditional systems concentrate on page views, visitor counts and other aggregated statistics, a growing number of startups are interested in putting the user front and center — referred to as "Customer Analytics."

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Logging user events in real time: Mixpanel is considered one of the best Consumer Analytics solutions on the market.

This includes for example Kissmetrics, a solution from a California-based firm. It shows the persons behind the clicks. The program deploys clever user tracking methods to record the activities of individual customers across various online channels such as Twitter, Facebook and Google Search. All data collected via Kissmetrics is presented in clear and detailed visitor profiles. Users then receive a complete customer history and can generate a variety of flexible reports to track who did what and when on a website.

Woopra is a direct competitor to Kissmetrics. This analytics tool also creates personal customer profiles, but is focused on the needs of sales and marketing teams. One special feature of the software is its tremendous reporting flexibility, which makes it attractive to professional users in particular who are dissatisfied with off-the-shelf reports. Woopra also scores points for its high-quality mobile apps for iOS and Android, providing access to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) while on the go.

Measuring engagement and retention

What product features do customers use most frequently? What kind of retention rates are observed for customers in Germany? How and when does a special customer use my app? Mixpanel is a solution that answers these questions. An easy-to-use Software Development Kit (SDK) lets companies log their own user events in real time.

The user can modify the code to decide on her own which visitor actions Mixpanel should record. The tool then prepares that data graphically in an online dashboard, for further export into a flexible range of reports. The software can also send e-mails or push and in-app notifications to individual users or user groups, either as a manual or automated function.

Mixpanel's roster of investors include the founders of Salesforce and Paypal as well as big-name VC companies such as Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz. As such, this analytics solution from San Francisco is likely to stick around. Mixpanel offers an advanced, powerful platform for web or mobile use that has proven highly popular among Internet startups – and in many cases offers user scenarios far beyond what industry titan Google Analytics can offer.

A less well-known yet highly promising alternative to Mixpanel is Intercom. This SaaS is also based in California and refers to itself as a "Customer Communication Platform," with a focus on smooth customer communication. The integrated analysis tools promote more effective evaluation of user engagement and customer segmentation. This allows companies to address individual users with information of interest at precisely the right point in time. The modular platform is composed of four individual products, each oriented toward the respective needs of Sales, Marketing, Product or Support teams. They can be purchased individually.

Mobile analytics for app providers

Mobile analytics continue to grow in importance, with millions of apps now available in the app stores from Apple, Google and others. To position themselves successfully in this saturated market, providers need more than just a good product. They also need professional marketing.

Beyond the aforementioned solutions that support both web and mobile apps, there are also several services specifically conceived for mobile use. This includes for example a free tool called Flurry Analytics. It supports iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone and mobile web apps.

Once the Flurry class library is installed into the customer's app – an easy process –Flurry begins logging key metrics immediately. This includes for example the number of new and active users, demographic characteristics, conversions, sessions, user origins and dwell time on individual sites. Beyond these general KPIs, Flurry – like Mixpanel – can also be configured to record other desired user actions.

App store statistics

Yet developers don't just want to know whether users like their app or not. They want to know how they're faring compared to the competition. A popular mobile analytics service called App Annie can help with this. Companies can review comprehensive app store statistics and other helpful tools to define relevant KPIs about both their own apps and those from other producers. Figures such as download counts and app ranks can also be visualized within App Annie as interactive reports. The solution supports the app stores from Apple, Google and Amazon.

AppFigures, offered by a New York-based company, stands in direct competition to App Annie. Neither tool requires integration into program code. After registration, companies simply link it to their iOS or Google Developer account, after which all statistics can be viewed automatically on the online dashboard.

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Those interested in statistics from mobile app stores should check out App Annie.

Social media analytics

As the need for professional systems capable of assessing the success of social marketing campaigns have grown, social media has joined web and mobile as an important area of focus for many analytics providers. These solutions allow companies to systematically track discussions about their brand on social channels for use as decision-making aids.

One simple option is SocialBench from Hamburg. The comprehensive social marketing suite includes a dedicated analytics module. Companies can visit the web dashboard to control all their social media profiles centrally or meet as a team to formulate content strategies. The tool supports all key social networks, including Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. It also includes a practical benchmark mode to allow companies to detect trends early and view their performance in comparison to other pages of relevance to their target audiences.

Yet the Hamburg social media specialists face powerful competition from a number of American alternatives. Sprout Social is one of them. Founded in 2010 in Chicago, this cloud service functions as a holistic social media management dashboard, with various analytics and monitoring functions.

Sprout is especially notable for its predefined reports that present helpful KPIs, such as the "Engagement Report" showing how efficiently the marketing team has reacted to customer queries on social media networks. The "Trends Report" by contrast details what Twitter users have been saying on the networks about special products and services.

Subscription analytics

Web, mobile and social media are the most important analytics channels. Yet with rising demand for cloud solutions on an SaaS model and the creation of new subscription business models in the eCommerce field (such as HelloFresh food boxes or GlossyBox beauty packets), there is now also demand for analytics tools for subscriptions.

Baremetrics is one such provider. The tool integrates seamlessly into the Stripe payment service and creates fully automated reports related to MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue), Churn Rates, Retention and other KPIs of interest to providers and investors.

The company recently turned heads with its " Open Startups " campaign: Baremetrics and other internet companies – including the social publishing service Buffer – released all of their numbers online.

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Specially for SaaS and subscription-based providers: Baremetrics connects seamlessly into the Strip payment service, summarizing major KPIs.

MRR.io is a similar solution conceived exclusively for Stripe, and in direct competition with Baremetrics. The same functions are also offered by MainMetrics for Braintree customers. Those interested in this type of tool but not using Stripe or Braintree as a payment provider should check out ChartMogul. It support not only Stripe and Braintree, but also Recurly, PayPal and other payment services.

DIY business dashboards

Data-driven companies that use multiple analytics tools for different business divisions frequently also use business intelligence solutions to create individual business dashboards. These are helpful for reducing all metrics to a lowest common denominator. This self-service approach is considered one of the key trends in the Business Intelligence field.

Solutions in this area include Geckoboard (UK), Klipfolio (Canada), DataHero and Cyfe (USA) and Datapine (Germany). These solutions are all easy to use, require no special technical expertise and range in price from roughly €20 to €120 a month; this puts them well within the range of professional IT departments as well as department heads.

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Geckoboard allows users to create their own business dashboard in their browser.

It also provides a series of helpful tools for the integration, visualization and analysis of business-critical data, which can be drawn from analytics tools such as Google Analytics, Mixpanel and Chartbeat or from various online services. Companies can also import data directly into the system, either using CSV, Excel or JSON files or directly from their databases. From there all metrics can be visualized in various self-created business dashboards.

Conclusion: Data analysis tailored to startups and SMEs

Up-to-date, reliable data analysis has assumed a critical role in modern business for timely assessment of and reaction to risks and opportunities. Modern analytics tools assist in building a serious strategy for collecting digital data and for harnessing the potential available through modern data analysis.

From the recording of business-relevant metrics to professional analysis and flexible reporting, modern analytics applications cover all processes needed for data-driven corporate management. Power users who prefer to base their decisions on more than just their own gut feeling typically also reach for business intelligence systems. These reduce all KPIs to a lowest common denominator – following the maxim that you have to measure yourself to know where to improve.

And those who believe such solutions are only for big companies are wrong: There are now a variety of products that can help startups and small and medium-sized businesses.

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