The business case for big data has been clear for quite some time, but in the last few years, we have seen major strides in how companies are putting big data to use to better understand their own processes and how they interact and sell to customers. From a B2B standpoint, big data has already proven to be a driving force in the advancement of e-commerce practices and platforms. It’s paved the way for businesses to not only understand the vast amounts of data they are collecting – but also how to better understand what their customers are looking to get out of the digital channels they are building.
IDC forecasted in a 2017 study with Seagate that by 2025, global data will grow to 163 zettabytes – which is about 326 billion years’ worth of available data. Everything customers do and participate in serves as a source for data – specifically when it comes to how they behave, interact and buy online. As engagements continue to increase online between businesses and their customers, many industries are inundated with data and struggle with a lack of ability to sift through it intelligently.
The infusion of big data has supplied businesses with an intuitive way to discover the actionable insights from within their data sets that will make business efforts, such as e-commerce strategies, more successful. Tapping into big data gives businesses a quick and simplified way to focus on actionable pieces of data – which can then be used to improve customer experience across the entire buying journey, making insightful recommendations and simplifying paths to purchase, while keeping transactions more secure. Stemming from this, here are three key benefits businesses can capitalise on by applying big data to e-commerce strategies.
Increased analysis and discovery of actionable insights
Big data helps break through the overall clutter of customer data that companies are collecting, honing in on the key pieces of information that tell businesses what they need to know about spikes in demand, customer preferences, changes in buyer behaviour and more. Understanding buyer behaviour and their specific preferences when making a purchase is essential for continued sales and overall success.
Businesses can use the key insights from big data analysis to update offerings to better serve customer needs, make meaningful recommendations specific to a particular customer and innovate new products based on customer wants and needs as well as search and purchase data. For example – if a business is able to see that various customers are searching their website for a product or offering they don’t have, it gives them the actionable insights needed to decide whether they should expand on a current product or look into building something new. Businesses can use these insights to better inform their research and development strategies as well as give renewed direction to how they interact with and tap into their partner ecosystems for solutions.
A company may not have a certain offering that customers are searching for in their own product set, but there may be partners within their ecosystem who possess the necessary apps and extensions that do. Big data helps businesses understand what they need to take action on, based on what customers want and are looking for. When analysed in real-time, action can be taken immediately, which can be the difference that makes or breaks a sale.
Improved customer experiences and buyer journeys
In a U.S. study done by Help Scout, it was found that more than half of Americans have abandoned a planned purchase due to poor service. This same study also reported that companies lose more than $62 billion each year because of poor customer service and experience. Clearly, customers are looking for positive experiences and unified buying journeys that take the friction out of purchasing online – prioritising this will be highly valuable to a business’s bottom line. Customers that can find what they need, when they need it are happy customers who become repeat ones – especially when the things they need are all in one place with a clear path to purchase.
Big data uses predictive monitoring to supply businesses with more in-depth ways to track customer journeys and improve customer experience – increasing the ability to personalise a specific buyer’s journey. Using big data helps to tailor customer experiences based on insights from historical transactions, bringing targeted options and recommendations to customers up front, rather than requiring them to scroll through a long list of things they don’t need, or navigate through multiple web pages before finding the right offerings.
Through the use of big data to track various types of customer experiences, businesses can identify potential problems that could arise – resolving risks and issues before customers even get involved in the process.
Easier and more secure ways to discover and pay online
Businesses can use big data for a myriad of improvements in how customers pay online and how these transactions are kept safe. This includes detecting fraud in real-time as well as money laundering scams that appear as though they are legitimate transactions. Since big data integrates different payment functions into one central platform it helps reduce the risk of fraud while also making transactions easier for customers.
Having personal information stored in one place, while a convenience for both a business and its customers, can draw in online fraudsters looking to access this information. Advanced analytics from big data are not only able to discover fraudulent activity in real-time but can also use the data to provide businesses with proactive solutions for how to identify and address future risks. This also opens up more opportunities for companies to figure out the best strategies for cross-selling and upselling through their e-commerce platforms.
Combining and packaging data for more simple, quick and insightful analysis, big data has paved the way for businesses to grow their customer base while also scaling specific strategies, like e-commerce, for increased successes. As both the business and consumer worlds continue to create more data, it’s increasingly important for companies to stay ahead of how they track, analyse and put this data to proper use. For B2B e-commerce to continue growing, it will require moving beyond simply looking at the data available – advanced technologies and analytics strategies will need to be deployed to fully reap the benefits and support long-term success.
Bertram Schulte, Chief Digital Officer, SAP
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