On Small Business Saturday: What could small businesses learn from data?

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On Small Business Saturday: What could small businesses learn from data?

This Small Business Saturday businesses in Essex are being encouraged to make better use of data in a bid to become more competitive.

Small Business Saturday takes place on 3 December 2016 and is a national campaign encouraging people to support small and local businesses. In 2015 the campaign saw £623m spent at small businesses across the country. Campaigns like this are welcome news for such businesses however experts from the Business and Local Government Data Research Centre (BLGDRC), based at the University of Essex, believe that these organisations could also be doing more to improve their own competitiveness.

Professor Vania Sena of Essex Business School is Director of the BLGDRC. She said, “On Small Business Saturday we are so pleased that local people are using the opportunity to get behind their local shops, restaurants, manufacturers, farmers and all other small businesses. We understand it can be difficult for smaller organisations to compete with much larger firms, yet our researchers know how much local people rely on these firms and how vital they are to supporting local economic growth.

“At the Business and Local Government Data Research Centre we can help small businesses improve their efficiency, reduce their costs and increase competitiveness by helping them to make better use of data they collect every day as well as many other available data sources. Our researchers could work alongside a small business to investigate the issues which matter to them or we can provide training webinars, seminars and courses to help organisations to embrace data analytics.”

Alex Beaumont, Outreach and Engagement Coordinator, talks about the benefits big data can have for businesses

The work of the Centre also extends to considering the future prospects of not just small retailers but the whole of the High Street. Professor Sena has been working alongside the University’s Department of Mathematical Sciences to develop a model to understand what drives the profitability of the High Street.

Professor Sena added, “We have focussed the development of our model on Colchester in Essex and have modelled the footfall in the High Street based on the mix of shops, the preferences of the consumers and the existing infrastructure.

“The model suggests that the existing infrastructure and the mix of shops are important drivers of profitability. Diversity of the offer on the High Street makes the area more resilient to economic shock as it can cater for different tastes and different types of consumers. The model also highlights the importance of having the right infrastructure, such as public transport and car parks, to facilitate access to the High Street.

“In the future we hope to work alongside local government to use their knowledge and data relating to their High Streets within our model in order to predict factors which could secure their success into the future. This has the potential to benefit not just hundreds of small, medium and large businesses but also the residents and visitors of towns and cities across the county.”

The BLGDRC is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and is part of phase 2 of the Big Data Network. Find out how the Centre may be able to support your business by calling 01206 873859.

Read our blog posts by Fola and Alex which also relate to Small Business Saturday.

Published 1 December 2016