Small ecommerce businesses may have the impression that big data is only for major industry players with multi-million dollar budgets. Think Amazon, with its recent acquisition of Whole Foods that created new opportunities to use big data to target savvy shoppers looking for a revolutionized e-grocery store experience.
There aren’t many Amazons out there with treasure troves of big data to match – and fortunately for smaller ecommerce businesses, you don’t need that level of data to compete. Don’t let imposter syndrome hold you back from harnessing data, or assume it’s outside of your budget. There are plenty of ways ecommerce stores of all sizes can tap into big data without spending big bucks.
In reality, using big data could end up adding even more profit to your bottom line. There are plenty of statistics to back this up. A team study led by the MIT Center for Digital Business found that “Companies in the top third of their industry in the use of data-driven decision making were, on average, 5% more productive and 6% more profitable than their competitors.”
There is unlimited opportunity when it comes to the world of big data. Increasing both your profitability and productivity are just a few of the benefits.
Here’s how any ecommerce store can leverage big data, and what it can do for your bottom line – even if you’re not a big business.
Track the Buyer Journey
Online retailer and styling service Stitch Fix used big data to their advantage, and it paid off: they built an entire company around the buyer journey model to the tune of $730 million. Stitch Fix’s business model thrives on collecting big data and leveraging it to send personalized boxes of clothing straight to its customers’ front doors, partnering data science with expert human styling. They track the buyer journey from start to finish, and keep close track of what customers are saying about the company online.
Scrape your own data on your customers starting from the moment they first opt-in, to all subsequent activities and conversations. Email marketing software like Convert Kit can offer data on what your subscribers are doing, like opening your content or clicking on specific promotions.
Think with Google also offers its own tools, like Shopping Insights, which gauges trends by city, region and search volume data for over 6,000 products, to give you more industry insight to apply to your own ecommerce business. A consumer barometer and display benchmarks also help track display campaigns so you’re spending money in the right places and seeing what’s working to entice buyers.
Go Deep Into Segmentation
Marketing to all of your customers in the exact same way leaves money on the table. Your customers are all at different stages in the buying journey – first-time buyers, casual shoppers or dedicated fans with repeat orders. Those customers spending a few hundred dollars each month will be more likely to respond to high-end offerings and flash sales than someone who buys from you once a quarter. Segment your list until you’re looking at each group under a microscope, and cater to their specific geography, gender, interests, income, and spending habits – even the social channels they use the most.
Google Analytics also offers insights on where your customers are coming from and what they’re doing. Ecommerce store owners can quickly integrate Google Analytics directly into their Shopify website to define goals and funnels, and further segment their audience. Once store owners know that their highest sales are coming from Instagram or Facebook, they can plan their marketing segmentation and campaigns around those channels.
Offer Over-the-Top Customer Service
Almost 67% of U.S. consumers turn to social media for customer service, and they expect a prompt response or their satisfaction level plummets. Yet, there are other ways to turn lukewarm customers into loyal ones on social media besides rapid-fire responses.
Ecommerce eyewear retailer Warby Parker offers a ‘Home Try On’ program so customers can sample eyeglasses before buying them. But they also do something most ecommerce retailers haven’t tapped into yet: truly personalized support. When customers tweet with the hashtag #HomeTryOn, Warby Parker will offer tips on how to choose.
You can also get your executives in on the social media service game. Boloco Burritos CEO John Pepper personally responded to a tweet from Metis Communications about multiple wrong orders that were delivered to their office. Pepper made sure the issue was corrected, and gave the entire team a free burrito lunch the following week.
You may not be able to bring free lunches to an entire office to smooth things over with disgruntled customers, but you can show up to their workplace to replace that spilled coffee they mentioned on Twitter, add a handwritten note to their next order, include a favorite treat, or send a free sample and make a follow-up call. Simply paying attention to the data collected from your customers’ social media channels, purchase orders and email activity can go a long way in helping you tailor your customer service to their needs.
Use Location Based Marketing
Facebook ads are an effective way to narrow down the locations of your ecommerce customers, their income brackets, the ages of their children and even their favorite hobbies. Once you have the data collected and ready to go, it’s relatively simple to target those customers and entice them to order from your store. Simply placing a Facebook pixel on your website also helps track down interested consumers and target them in future Facebook ads.
Ecommerce stores with a brick-and-mortar counterpart can use the Facebook ads technique, but would also benefit from using proximity marketing and beacons to see what their customers are doing right inside their store. Use the data collected from the beacons to better shape your email marketing, online sales and overall customer experience. When a customer comes into the store or even passes by, the beacons can directly target them for flash sales, advertisements and highly-targeted content.
Optimize Your Pricing
In the world of ecommerce, pricing can make or break your business as you struggle to earn loyal customers. Use web scraping to pull together your competitors’ prices to see how to optimize your own. Think about how real estate agents generate up-to-date comps on similar houses in a nearby radius to figure out appropriate pricing. Ecommerce stores can take a similar approach and use their own comparables to set prices for their store based on what their competition is doing.
RepZio is one company that uses scraped data for everything from pricing to latest product and inventory information to supply to their ecommerce partners. It helps their reps make real-time sales in the field without worrying if the inventory, images or product details are up to date. Not only does this technique help with competitive pricing, but it also saves RepZio time in the long run.
Keeping up with ongoing changes in your own business is challenging enough, let alone keeping up with changes to your competitors’ prices or manufacturing sites. Trying to monitor the changes manually isn’t scalable, and it’s time-consuming and potentially inaccurate. It’s also an expensive process. Either you’re allocating your time to manual monitoring, or hiring someone to do it for you.
You can skip the headaches of doing it all yourself and use Import.io’s Change Reports to tap into big data. The tool automatically keeps tabs on changes to your competitors’ or manufacturers’ products, pricing and other information. Instead of doing it all manually, an email automatically reminds you when new reports are ready for download. Once you have the data in hand, you can use it to make adjustments to your own products and pricing to stay competitive and ahead of the curve.
Get In On Social Listening
Eavesdropping on what your customers are saying on social media helps you figure out a better customer service strategy, see what they like about your products, and collect insights on what your competitors are doing right and wrong. It’s an easy and effective way to be part of the conversation with customers without them even knowing it.
Scrape data from your e-commerce store’s most-trafficked channels like Twitter to collect data on what your customers are saying. There are many ways to accomplish this, but HootSuite Insights offers a low-cost way to identify and collect more information on social data. The tool can also help identify when customers are talking about your company the most, and track overall mentions.
Image: HootSuite Insights
Make note of common themes, whether it’s a wishlist for a new product or buzz about a competitor’s flash sale. You can also use their pain points to develop better copy for your products and sales pages, as well as to fine-tune your communication efforts.
Use the Right Tools
Big data provides unlimited opportunities to improve your e-commerce store, but it can be messy to sort through. Choose the right data tools to help manage and clean your data once you’ve settled on your favorite technique for tapping into it. A tool like DataCleaner recognizes that data manipulation is a long and drawn out task. It transforms unsightly and complicated data sets into readable, visual information that your company can actually read.
Talend is an open-source option with services like Master Data Management (MDM) to combine real-time data, applications and process integration with embedded data quality. Talend is also perfect for small ecommerce businesses on a budget. It’s free and saves time and money on building and maintaining your data.
Today’s ecommerce industry is changing rapidly, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep up with the trends and customer demands. Lean on big data to help build a thriving business – whether it’s through competitive pricing or detailed tracking of the buyer’s journey. Even small business owners have low-cost and free tools readily available to start data collecting. The only question is what you will do with that data to build a better business.