Big data (opens in new tab) has been a favorite business buzzwords for many years and while the popularity of the term skyrocketed, some were already tired of it by 2014, like Deloitte who insisted the term should simply not be used anymore. Yet, behind the buzzword lies extreme business potential that many companies are only starting to unlock.
Gediminas Rickevičius is Director of Strategic Partnerships at Oxylabs (opens in new tab).
Big data describes large, complex datasets, usually coming from a variety of sources. A decade ago, most of them were internal data (opens in new tab) sources: CRMs (opens in new tab), website (opens in new tab) browsing activity, billing and accounting system logs. Nowadays, data science is increasingly dependent on external or alternative sources of data - they provide additional information that couldn’t have been obtained internally.
The pandemic has earned big data the role as one of the key drivers of recovery and growth in many industries. According to Oxylabs’ recent market survey of the UK finance industry, the majority of surveyed companies have either increased their data department budgets in the past year (38%), or are planning to (43%). These trends are being replicated in other industries. Thus, while other business areas are dealing with budget cuts, spending on big data soars as it is seen as critical for staying ahead of the competition.
Speaking of the competition, it will become increasingly difficult for those who haven’t yet employed big data in their business operations. Thus, if you are among those still hesitating, here are 5 reasons you should start using it now.
1. Competitor research
Big data brings competitor research to another level. Competitor’s website alone can provide information on their value proposition, product assortment, pricing and so on. However, all this information is very difficult to follow manually. Automated web scraping processes come in handy in cases like these.
Automation allows for constant monitoring of many websites at once. In ecommerce (opens in new tab), for example, this would mean that a certain company can find out how their competitors are changing their prices, how long does it take to sell a product, which ones are the most popular and so on. Based on that information, this company can make decisions about its own assortment and pricing strategies.
Another crucial thing to study is the SEO strategy of your competitors. Web scraping will help you find out which keywords (opens in new tab) your competitors are using, as well as which perform well and which don’t. You can use this information to optimize your SEO (opens in new tab) strategy and achieve better rankings.
2. Precision marketing
Data-driven marketing is more efficient, as high-quality data allows you to spot the right opportunities, personalize messages and target precisely. It can help you ensure that only relevant audiences are reached with relevant messaging.
However, while most marketers have been using data for years, the pandemic forced many to rethink their usual strategies. Lockdowns around the world resulted in the unprecedented surge in use of digital channels, showering companies with enormous amounts of data, but not in a way they were used to. It was a challenge for the old data-modeling systems, that simply couldn’t capture the changes in customer behavior at such speed.
This was the time when external data became extremely important. Even such factors as city-by-city lockdown rules or reopening of certain businesses, could make or break marketing efforts. McKinsey & Company calls these trends the big reset in data-driven marketing. Those companies that adapted to the new normal and retrained their data modelling algorithms have been enjoying growth, while others, left behind by the competition, will eventually have to catch up.
3. Supply management
Data can help you manage your supply chain in many different ways. It can help you choose the right products, develop product catalogues, forecast demand, and bring efficiency to many other processes. This is especially important for retail and ecommerce companies.
Using automated public data collection tools, you can find out which categories and products are the most popular right now. Such factors like positive or negative online reviews, media outlets recommendations, or product sentiment will help you get a clear picture.
Finally, data can also help you find your competitive edge. For this you would need to scrape the product catalogue of your competitors - check which products they are selling, how fast they sell out, which segments are they covering. Always look for the gaps - maybe some segment is left uncovered, which provides a great opportunity for you.
4. Brand protection
The internet is full of cheap counterfeit consumer goods that are copies of successful branded products. Other copyright protected content - books, music and videos are also shared illegally online, which is basically stealing revenue from the original owners. Fortunately, big data gathering solutions can help spot the occurrences when your brand name is used illegally.
According to a 2019 OECD report, trade in fake goods stands at 3.3% of global trade. Footwear, clothing, electrical equipment, watches and even medical supplies are being “recreated” as fake cheaper versions, thus hurting the business of the original brand owners.
Web scraping, which is used for collecting large amounts of data, can help find those fake goods online. With the relevant keywords, web scraping tools can scan marketplaces, search engines and ecommerce sites that are known for selling fake goods. Make this process an integral part of your business: yes, new fakes will continue to arise, but web scraping can help you minimize the damage.
5. More efficient business operations
Finally, the end result of using big data, especially if external data is incorporated into the pie, is the more efficient business processes. Data tells you where to channel your efforts for the optimal results, allowing you to reduce costs and often, resources.
For example, analyzing countless reviews on public forums or ecommerce platforms might help identify product improvement opportunities. Combine it with consumer trends also from external data and you will be able to personalize your product for a certain audience.
Planning and forecasting become way more efficient when a variety of data sources are used. Combining historical data with various real-time data points might help foresee future trends, bringing at least some control to the uncertain realities of the continuous pandemic.
Data-driven is the only way forward
A report by the MIT Sloan Management Review found that the most analytically mature organizations use a large variety of data sources. Long seen as a luxury afforded only by the largest corporations, using big data is now the new normal.
The internet is full of public information, which can help you make more efficient decisions. Don’t miss a chance to utilize it in your daily operations and the changes in business results will speak for themselves.
If you're interested in managing data across different systems, see our best data migration tools (opens in new tab).