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Best small business analysis tools for 2023

4-minute read

Business leaders looking at analytics in a meeting
Conor Shilling

Conor Shilling

5 July 2023

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Analysing data and monitoring trends is an important part of running a business.

Tracking data using analytics tools can help you to spot problems that need fixing, as well as opportunities to improve your bottom line.

But where do you start with choosing analytics tools for your business? Read on to find out how analytics can help your business, plus seven of the best analytics tools.

What is an analytical tool for business?

Data analytics is very broad and can cover almost anything to do with a business.

Tools for analysing data can be very complex and in-depth, but they can also be as simple as tracking the number of sales you’re making or monitoring stock levels. The type of analytics tools you need will depend on the sector you work in.

There are four main types of analytics that the tools you use for your business are likely to fall into:

  1. Descriptive analytics – looking at what happened, for example how many sales you made in a certain period.
  2. Predictive analytics – looking at what could happen, for example forecasting how many sales you could make in a certain period using data from the same time last year.
  3. Prescriptive analytics – using data to suggest a next step, for example if the company increases sales by 25 per cent in a specific period, you'll need to hire a new member of staff.
  4. Diagnostic analytics – looking at why something happened using several sets of data, for example was a dip in sales due to spending less on marketing?

How can data analytics help my business?

More than anything, analytics tools can give you an informed view of how your business is performing. You can use analytics to make business decisions based on evidence instead of emotion or impulse.

Some of the specific business areas analytics can help with include:

  • use of resources
  • managing costs
  • measurement of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • budgeting and planning
  • monitoring customer satisfaction
  • measuring productivity
  • tracking sales performance

Thanks to technological advances, there aren’t many parts of a business that you can’t analyse using data.

What is an example of an analytical tool?

A business analytics tool can come in many different forms. It could be a spreadsheet, a data visualisation tool, or a reporting tool.

Businesses can input their raw data (such as number of opens from a marketing email) into an analytics tool.

The tool will then help the business to identify trends or patterns within the data. Using the example of a marketing email, the business can compare performance of several emails to see whether certain messages or offers are more successful than others.

Any trends, patterns, or connections identified by an analytics tool can then be used to make a conclusion or decision. For example, marketing emails that offered 50 per cent off a certain product were most successful, so the business should send them again in the future.

7 of the best analytical tools for business

From basic spreadsheets to complex programming languages, here’s an overview of some of the most popular analytics tools used by businesses.

1. Microsoft Excel

Probably the best-known analytics tool, Excel is part of the Microsoft 365 Suite. As well as spreadsheets with up to one million rows, Excel allows users to create pivot tables and filter data easily.

Excel is likely to be used by most businesses and it’s also a starting point for using other types of analytics tools. Alternatives to Microsoft Excel include Google Sheets and Zoho Sheet.

Microsoft 365 (which includes Excel) has a range of packages for businesses, which cost from £4.90 a month per user to £18.10 a month for each user. You can also buy Excel as part of Office 2021. This is a one-time purchase that costs £120.

2. Looker

Acquired by Google in 2019, Looker has a range of platforms for businesses. By importing all of its data into Looker, a business can analyse almost every aspect of its performance.

From sales and quotes to article views and leads collected, Looker allows users to visualise data in graphs. This makes it easier to understand for all employees and not just those with a background in data analytics.

Looker has a range of different products and licences, ranging from no cost up to $125 a month for each user.

3. Tableau

Tableau aims to make analytics more accessible. You can use the program to create visual representations of your business data, from graphs and dashboards to infographics and maps.

You can also use Tableau to analyse and monitor social media activity, while larger businesses can benefit from its Big Data Analytics program.

Tableau is free for personal use, but you’ll have to pay if you want to use it for your business. Prices start at $15 a user every month, rising to $70 for the complete package.

4. Google Analytics

One of the best known analytics tools, Google Analytics is used to monitor all activity on a website, from page views and time on site to bounce rate (the percentage of website visitors who leave after only viewing one page) and where visitors come from.

In July 2023, Google replaced the original Analytics program with an updated version called GA4.

Both Google Analytics and GA4 are completely free for most users.

5. Python

Python is an open-source programming language used by analysts. It allows businesses to create more bespoke analytics, but you’ll need the help of an industry expert to get this set up.

Python’s analytics frameworks and libraries are completely free to use.

6. SAS

SAS describes itself as “the founder and future of analytics”. The platform is suitable for practically any industry or business size.

As well as visualisation of data and reporting, SAS provides services such as model deployment and monitoring, machine learning, and econometrics.

You can get a free trial of SAS. There are no prices on its website, however in 2022 it launched pay-as-you-go pricing.

7. Splunk

Used by many IT and security businesses, Splunk allows users to monitor and analyse data sets such as servers and sensors.

Businesses use Splunk to identify risks through their data so they can act quickly to resolve problems. It has a range of products, including Splunk Security and Splunk Observability.

Splunk’s has pricing options depending on how much data you put in or how frequently you use it.

What are your go-to business analytics tools? Let us know in the comments below.

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Katleho Seisa/
Conor Shilling

Written by

Conor Shilling

Conor Shilling is a Copywriter at Simply Business with over two years’ experience in the insurance industry. A trained journalist, Conor has worked as a professional writer for 10 years. His previous experience includes writing for several leading online property trade publications. Conor specialises in the buy-to-let market, landlords, and small business finance.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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