big data

By Rieva Lesonsky

For the past few years everyone’s been telling small business owners about the power of big data. And, that they need to take advantage of it. But all too many have ignored that advice—perhaps because they were intimidated by the concept itself.

If you ignore big data, however, you are doing your business a disservice. As John Caplan, the CEO of OSP, a network of businesses that empower global trade for small and mid-size businesses, says, big data is just “leveraging data to grow your business.” Caplan was talking to a crowd gathered in the Design & Sourcing Marketplace on the first day of CES.

Caplan believes in the power of big data. He offers a simple formula:


And, he says while many “use gut to make decisions, the more gut you use, the more danger you face.” I realize that’s hard for some entrepreneurs to accept—many of us pride ourselves on our gut. But, what if you use big data to prove—or disprove—your gut feelings, before you spend money or invest a lot of time?

As Caplan explains, “The more informed we are, the more likely we can be successful.” He also says many business owners misunderstand what big data really is. It’s not just about using the data you have about your customers. Rather, “Big data is using all information from other companies” to make more informed decisions.

Utilizing big data, Caplan says, can solve your buyer pain points. It can help you:

  • Learn what your customers want
  • Find the best products to sell
  • Discover the best time to sell them
  • Find the right suppliers of merchandise or best manufacturers
  • Get your goods delivered on time

And, he adds, big data can help you better manage your own data.

Consider an example Caplan used. Let’s say you want to sell sleds. Do you know if there’s even a market for sleds? Do you know when consumers start—and stop buying sleds? Big data can help you find the answers to those questions.

So where can you tap into big data? You can start with’s Insights, where you can find data about specific products and industries. For instance, did you know that the number of “point-and-shoot cameras,” once so popular, fell from 108 million in 2010 to 12 million in 2016, an 88.8% decline? If you were in that industry—or considering a startup—that is crucial information for you to know.

Another great source of data is Google. Caplan says you can check out what terms consumers are using to search for items to see when they’re peaking. There’s generally, he adds, a 13-day lag between when consumers start searching for certain items—and when the sales start kicking in.

Of course, you can ask your customers. Surveying them, using tools from companies, such as Survey Monkey, is inexpensive—and the information you’ll learn is invaluable.

And don’t forget the value of doing business with When you’re searching for a supplier or manufacturer, look for the ones that have been verified by

You can check out the seminar, and other CES activity at’s Facebook page.