Data from the ONS indicate that e-commerce sales, particularly online sales within the fashion and textile category, have risen significantly YOY, with March 2021 seeing 78% higher online sales compared to March 2
020. Ecommerce Europe recently conducted a survey on the impact of COVID-19 on the e-commerce sector at the end of 2020 and highlighted that over 63% of those surveyed agreed that ‘Europe’s second lockdown benefited retail stores’ online sales’. Moreover, research from Vanson Bourne showed that 55% of shoppers participated in major online discount days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday last year, with figures nearly doubling from 24% the year before.
The more we analyze these figures, the more customers we see shifting online, forcing wholesalers’ business models to shift online too, motivating older retail giants to get on the online bandwagon as well. Today, commerce is predominantly online, opening competition and changing the skin of the e-commerce game. To succeed, e-commerce brands are taking different approaches to their brand outlook. However, what some are failing to do – and where those that have made a big leap in profits are succeeding – is to collect, analyze and learn from their online data. The type of data ranges from the customer, logistics, support, or competitor comparison data.
Unsurprisingly, the collection of publicly available data online has become a crucial part of e-commerce. Not only does it help save overall business costs, but it can also bring in good business if used efficiently. We live in a real-time economy, and data is the new water fueling it. The collection of publicly available online data has become the main resource for fast and high-performance decision-making, profit, and innovation.
Here are some of the best and most powerful ways in which data collection can redefine an aspiring e-commerce business’s strategy, customer journey, and experience, to ultimately increase profit margins.
Establishing the data needed for real-time success
What do consumers want?
This age-old question has mystified retailers for years. It’s clear now that consumers want to pay more for eco-friendlier products; they also want to reduce shipping costs and make sure that their products are ethically and sustainably produced. The bigger question is, how do businesses find this information? The answer is very simple: through near-live online data-gathering. Gaining an on-the-spot market view has translated into the need for almost-live consumption of online data as frequently as possible. This realization has accelerated the perception around data, further establishing it as a must-have commodity. This shift is also visible in the real-time economy that governs our countries, as we now need more real-time data.
To summarize, you need to first establish the type of data needed to re-define a typical consumer journey and bring real-time analysis to the table. And there are a few options to choose from, especially in the open-web public data analysis of customers’ reviews and sentiments. There’s also the type of data used by other companies or even competitors. Businesses also leave a trail of data in their wake, such as customer purchases / transactional data, or bulk buys on items, cars leased, houses put up for rent and others. Once you’ve figured out the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, the rest is up to you to make use of. This means analyzing the data sets and making informed business decisions based on them.
Too much data is too much – a balancing act is needed
A big problem for most retailers and e-commerce businesses is data saturation. The industry perception is that more is better, when in fact the opposite is true. As a sector, we’ve been fascinated with hoarding data sets and less worried about what to do with them once we have them. However, think of it much in the same way you would a city. If the city expands, the roads will get bigger, leading to more traffic, overcrowding, and slowed down traveling time. The same can be said of data. The more you have, the more it costs and the more costs you take on, and the more you will find yourself drowning in it. Without a systematic approach to collecting and managing data, you may end up on the verge of ‘infobesity’. The best rationale is to take the data you need now, validate it, and make sure it serves you well, and only then scale up if needed. Without this approach, you will soon find yourself in a quicksand of information, wasting time and resources, drilling into it for analysis, wasting critical real-time decision-making and market input, and ultimately losing your competitive advantage.
Using the data, the way it was intended
Analyzing data, pouring over every little detail and using them to make decisions is a complex and tedious process. This is why businesses must look towards the advantage that data analysis provides.
A good example of this is e-commerce companies seeking to make intelligent pricing decisions that are based on their competition base. Leveraging automated online data collection allows them to see what their competitors are charging for, say, a pair of black jeans. Then, they can optimize the price they charge based on this data, ensuring that they keep their prices attractive and, consequently, their consumer base loyal to their brand. Another strong example is when companies test a new product or offer to market. Public social media reviews, as well as product reviews, can provide e-commerce brands with a swift measurement of just how positive the offer/product is among their consumer base. Online data collection can also help businesses stock the right products too, and much more.
Such data is based on openly available insights taken from across the web channels and then incorporated into a fast-moving strategy. By observing what is selling out, businesses gain more insights that allow them to stock goods in the right quantities, in the right locations, and at the right time. Data collection encourages healthy market competition, too. As we all know, competition is good for both businesses and consumers. It drives them to continue optimizing their offers for more competitive prices as well as better products.
My final advice is this: for e-commerce businesses that are unsure about taking up data collection, I can tell you this, now is the right time to get started. Start small, focus on your data-defined parameters and requirements, and go from there. With so many businesses rapidly evolving online, every decision counts. And with so much competition out there, data can guide you towards the correct market decision. Laser focus on the data that matters the most and don’t be confused by non-relevant sources of data. While no business or individual can precisely predict the future, with online data collection, you can come very close to doing just that.