The big data problem and solution

Industry Insight

Data is everywhere these days. Merchants can collect data from almost any source – website traffic, order history, customer demographics, etc. However, having data isn’t always a good thing.

Dane Atkinson, the CEO and co-founder of SumAll, recently told Practical eCommerce that information can be both a problem and a solution. Big Data, or trackable data from the internet, can be detrimental in that 90 percent of the world’s data has been created in the past two years, according to Atkinson. That’s a lot of numbers and information that merchants have at their fingertips – so much in fact that they can miss critical metrics and trends because they are drowning in data.

However, if merchants use the right technologies to sort and crunch the massive amounts of information, retailers are able to make something manageable out of it.

“if merchants use the right technologies to sort and crunch the massive amounts of information, retailers are able to make something manageable out of it.”

Fortunately, this technology – which was previously inaccessible to smaller merchants – is now becoming more widely available. Even the smallest of startups can now utilize data in a way that can help them grow and expand their operations.

“At one point, a small business had it pretty simple,” Atkinson explained. “A customer came to the store; the business would sell to the customer and would record all those variables in the transaction. Now, whether the business is using Magento … or simply just a website with Google Analytics, every interaction the customer has with it is recorded in the cloud. All those guys take special notes of customer profiles, their location, the time they spent on your site, all the things that they’ve done.”

Data is important, regardless of size

Because data was previously so inaccessible, many retailers quickly got the impression that it was only important to larger eCommerce giants. That wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now. Even if businesses only generate $30,000 in sales annually, they are still creating data that can be used to influence practices and grow eCommerce operations.

However, retailers need to use the right eCommerce software that can help them take this information and put it into action. If all they have are basic Excel spreadsheets for keeping notes, then they can’t notice patterns and make use of the information.

The key to successfully leveraging data is identifying correlations amid all the data. There are seldom only a few sources of data. If merchants are running an eCommerce website, that’s one source for customer information. If they sell on Amazon, eBay and elsewhere, those are other avenues to gather data. Retailers are also acquiring information for other platforms as well – if they have social media profiles or email newsletters, that data is also pivotal to success.

While conclusions can be drawn from the individual sources, it’s crucial that retailers consolidate all of this information into a single source. This will allow them to identify trends across channels and better understand all of their different audiences.