If you’ve shopped recently (whether in a store or online), you may have been asked for a phone number or email address, or maybe both. Have you ever wondered why you’re being asked for information more often than previous years? The answer is simple—companies are gathering data and watching buying patterns to learn more about consumers as a whole. Even if your information isn’t collected, your transaction is later analyzed to determine when certain items were bought and what to send to that store’s inventory for the following year, as most companies base their performance against last year’s (LY’s) numbers. This data that is collected is referred to as big data, a term that is essentially used to explain the large growth and quick availability of both structured and unstructured data and information (SAS).
Categories of Data
The SAS Institute explains three categories often looked at when analyzing this data: volume, velocity, and variety. While the volume of data being collected is growing higher all the time, storage of the collected data is not as big a problem as it previously was—data storage costs are decreasing. So, with the volume of data being collected at a fast pace, the question becomes how to determine the relevance of the data collected and how to make the data valuable. Data comes in a wide variety of both structured and unstructured formats—everything from structured numeric data (such as data gathered from transactions) to unstructured text documents such as emails or social media activity.
What Can the Analysis of Big Data Change?
In an article with Forbes, we learn from Kurt Abrahamson (CEO of ShareThis) exactly what can be done with data gathered. Data gathered by companies through social media is as simple as clicking a “like” button on something and then “sharing” it on with your friends and family on a social media network. Whether it’s an article, a blog post, a product, a video, or anything else you can think of, once it’s “liked,” analytics companies create a profile which is then given to advertisers. This is how major companies reach out and find new customers.
Once companies have data on potential customers, they must find a way to appeal to new customers while keeping current customers happy. Thinking about this from a content perspective, we must sell products (in a storefront or online) by making them appealing to customers. In a physical store, the story is told with the products themselves, through the way they are organized. However, as Internet Retailer points out, many more consumers are shopping online. This means that insightful content is going to continue to be valued on company websites.
Specific and detailed descriptions of products and services will make a huge difference when it comes to the success or failure of e-stores. Look at some product descriptions on an e-store. Are they clear and concise? Do they give you a reason to want the product? Is there a way for the product to be rated by the consumer? Perhaps they even suggest a use! For example:
- These jeans are made with a stretch denim and come in a variety of sizes to fit everyone.
- Our most-loved, boot-cut jeans feature the classic, 5-pocket design and are made with soft, stretch denim. All are available in sizes 0 to 13!
Which would you buy?
What Does Big Data Tell Us About Consumers?
Essentially, by watching and tracking what is bought and read online, we can learn a lot about consumers. There are some things that are bought a certain seasons, such as school supplies. However, when a family that buys the standard yearly school supplies also buys a new laundry hamper, shower caddy, storage totes, cleaning supplies, and a closet organizer, it’s an indication that they are either moving or their child is going away to college—that’s a major life change worth tracking. According to an article in the New York Times, the most common time of life for buying patterns to change is around the time a child is born. Not during the planning stages, but during the last few weeks leading up to the birth and the first few weeks after, when parents are exhausted and begin weighing options of cost, brand, and reviews. After the baby is born, parents are often hit with a massive flow of offers, deals, coupons, and other things pertaining to their new baby—content and reviews may play a part in which product parents will buy.
Analyzing big data can tell us a variety of things about consumers—what’s going on in their lives, what their favorite brands are, during what time of year they purchase certain items, and so on. Companies are also able to make data-driven decisions about what products to bring out at what part of the year, what products are in a higher demand with consumers, and even in what part of the country certain products sell better. By tracking and gathering data, companies will be able to watch where the traffic is going to better concentrate their marketing and content efforts. ~Holly