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Five Ways Your Business Can Use Open Data to its Advantage

As the amount of open data increases, so too does the evidence of its benefits. The Open Data Initiative, or ODI, reported that UK companies using, producing, or investing in open data have a total turnover of around £92 billion annually, and employ over 500,000 people. Another study found that at least 85% of Americans who own a smartphone use apps that rely on open data.

Clearly, the drive to make more and more data publicly available is having a big impact; and will continue to do so in the future in an even greater way. Research conducted by Capgemini found that by 2020, open data will have helped reduce public administration costs across the EU by €1.7 billion, and reduced energy consumption by 16%.

Ok, so these are pretty grand figures, but even in terms of business on a much smaller scale, the use of open data has definite advantages, and as we'll explore in this article, there are a number of ways you can incorporate it into your company.


What Exactly is Open Data?

The basic definition of open data is data that anyone can access, use and share. Of course, the data is still subject to regulations surrounding national security or personal privacy (for example, in the case of patient confidentiality in the NHS), but the idea is that any member of the public can find the data made open at any time, and usually for free.

In order for it to be considered truly open, the dataset has to be licensed as such and published in a machine-readable format. As is shown in the chart below, there are a large number of types of open data, and ways to use it; everything from mapping and road safety to weather and national statistics.

While it may be most often used by those in the scientific and government sectors, open data has its benefits for any type of business and industry. It's free and becoming more and more readily available; why not make use of it?


Open Data Examples

The UK has been something of a trailblazer when it comes to the open data revolution, and as a result, there are a number of organisations that have made use of the movement. Here are three of the most notable examples:

NHS - The NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre, aka NHS Digital, collates data about health and social care in the UK. It publishes hundreds of statistics-based publications every year, including Official Statistics and National Statistics.

TfL - Transport for London has been releasing large amounts of data for almost a decade. There's now over 80 data feeds available offering real-time data, including timetables, service statuses and details about disruptions to the services. According to research by Deloitte conducted in 2017, this open data brings in around £130 million to the UK economy every year, as well as creating jobs and providing a better customer experience. - The government project was launched in 2010 and provides access to non-personal UK governmental data. As of 2017, it contained 40,000 datasets from a wide range of departments and agencies, including the Cabinet Office, the Department for International Development, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Justice, as well as ordnance survey data.


How Your Business Can Use Open Data

There are several ways that open data can help B2B companies specifically. Here are five ideas to get you started:

1: Qualify Leads

With so much free company data available, it's easier than ever before to weed out those on your mailing list who are unlikely to ever make a purchase from you. Provided you have a good picture of who you need to be targeting, you can use certain criteria to qualify your leads. This could be anything from company size, revenue (to check they have the right type of budget for your product), industry, or location. You can then focus on marketing more to your ideal customers, saving you time and money in the long-term.

2: Perform Due Diligence Checks

Similarly, you could also use freely available data to carry out background checks on potential clients, possible investments, or before entering into other business deals. Check up on the company's financials to ensure everything is running smoothly and they've been honest about the current state of the business, or delve deeper by looking at the company's structure and shareholders.

3: Learn More about your Customers

Gain more insight into your target market in order to establish exactly what they need from your company, and how best to market to them. Don't neglect your current customers, though; look at how you can provide a better customer service experience and therefore better rates of customer retention.

4: Leverage Opportunities

Look for gaps in the market in order to launch a new product or service, or even start a new business entirely. Take the example of CityMapper; the navigation app is built on data published by TfL, and currently has a value of around £250 million.

5: Increase Traffic

Opening your own data can have its advantages too; it can mean a greater number of people visiting your website or app, and therefore increase sales and ad revenue. Amazon and Twitter have introduced similar schemes, and if it's good enough for them...

Bonus: Check up on Your Own Company

Find out what others see when they do a search for your company, and make sure the data is accurate and up to date.


Open Data Sources for Businesses

The easiest way to get hold of data for companies is to do a search on business directory Global Database. The intelligence provider offers a wide range of data such as profit and loss accounts and balance sheets, employee details, group structure, and more; all completely free. The only things you can't access are credit scores and direct contact details for company employees, but these can be unlocked with the paid option if it's something you need.

Other than Global Database, you can also try places like Companies House, annual reports, company websites, or public-sector bodies. The obvious downside with doing it this way though is it will take longer to research and compile all of the information.


In Conclusion...

With more and more open data becoming available every day it seems almost foolish to not make use of it, and even for B2B businesses, there are a number of potential ways to incorporate it into your company. Don't forget that your competitors also have access to all of this information, so don't give them the opportunity to use it to get ahead.