The Increasing Power of Little Data

We take a look at two of the definitions of 'little data'


The term ‘little data’ seems to have two definitions.

The first is about the value of occasionally overlooked systems like Google Analytics and Microsoft Excel and the misconception that small companies, startups and entrepreneurs can’t make use of data because they don’t have the resources to do so.

The good news is that taking advantage of little data is nowhere near as costly as using systems such as Hadoop. Although Hadoop, the poster child for Big Data, has lowered the cost of storage significantly, it’s still often too expensive for small companies who have need to put money into other fundamentals within their company.

That’s why the ‘little data’ in the systems mentioned at the top of this article can be invaluable - helping small companies to improve their customer care, marketing and sales.

That however isn’t the only use of the term, with many commentators suggesting that ‘little data’ has come to represent something different.

In a time when consumers are uneasy about the amount of data that’s collected about them, a Big Data approach often sees a company continue to aggregate data to improve their position whilst at the same time, paying little attention to user experience.

A little data approach is the opposite. It still revolves around data collection, but it’s concerned with gathering information that enhances consumer experiences, with it not just being used as a way of guaranteeing their own success.

The common is example of this is Netflix, who as a company use data to help their customers find TV shows and films they are likely to enjoy. It’s rare to hear people complain about this because it is something that has value to them.

On the flip side, Nordstrom's tactics were found to be distasteful when they used WiFi signals to track their customers movements around their stores - because for something which was so intrusive, there was little for consumers to gain.

Both are interesting, but the latter definition has a much wider scope to affect the Big Data landscape.

It could see companies redesign their data collection strategies as consumers become more savvy about how their information is being stored. By concentrating on ‘little data’, companies will create trust with their customers and be seen in a better light than their competitors who continue to use data in a selfish manner.

It might be the time to think little, not big.


Read next:

Working At The Boundaries Of Aesthetics And Inference