Yet the truth is that the large sets of data collected on you - and everyone else that has a presence on the internet - isn’t for some nefarious purpose. When it comes to e-commerce, for example, the use of big data can have an enriching effect on your ability to find the things you need, easier and more quickly.
Here are the non-creepy advantages of big data when it comes to e-commerce.
Data Results in Personalization
Big data can be disconcerting when it’s used to serve up targeted ads when you’re not actively shopping. However, when you are looking for a specific product or service, it’s beneficial for e-commerce sites to have as much data on your internet habits as possible, as this means it will take a lot less time to find what you’re looking for by personalizing your search results. This is in your best interest — customers that find what they need are happy customers — as well as in the best interest of the site.
Tailoring results to what an e-commerce site thinks you’re looking for can be hit or miss, of course. If there’s not enough data, it’s harder to extrapolate — but a well-tuned algorithm, working with lots of data points, can be incredibly accurate. Instead of spending half an hour scrolling listlessly through an e-commerce site for what you need, you can find it in just a few minutes with big data algorithms feeding you targeted search results instead. Amazon is probably the leading e-commerce site when it comes to using big data for products’ recommendations. Its “customer who bought this item also bought…” feature has proven to be extremely effective and highly appreciated by the users over the years.
Simply put, big data means personalization, and that means a better overall shopping experience.
It’s no coincidence that nearly every e-commerce site out there, from Amazon to Zappos, encourages customers to provide detailed feedback on their purchases. Sometimes this feedback just tells you how satisfied a customer was by offering a rating — something that has garnered 4.5 stars is likely better than one that’s only gotten 3 stars, for instance. But it often goes much further than that, as customers often leave detailed reviews to tell prospective shoppers the specific benefits and drawbacks of a particular product.
This is, of course, a form of big data — hundreds, if not thousands of reviews, collated and analyzed in aggregate, in order to find an overall rating. Appropriately enough when it comes to user reviews, the bigger the data set, the better; a single one-star review might be a fluke, but dozens could indicate that the product you’re looking at isn’t going to be a good buy. Without big data crunching the numbers for you and presenting it to you in an easily understood format, you wouldn’t have the ability to weed out bad products before you buy them.
E-commerce is already a great way to save money while shopping. Whether it’s clothes, electronics, childcare items, pet supplies, or anything else you can think of, shopping online provides access to lower prices overall. Even the only downside to online shopping — the wait to receive your order — has been cut down considerably, thanks to expedited shipping options like Amazon Prime’s guaranteed 2-day delivery.
Meanwhile, applying big data analytics to e-commerce means that you can find even more opportunities for savings. You can’t be expected to check dozens or even hundreds of sites yourself for the best deals on a single item, but big data analytics can do the job for you. Some popular tricks I use for that matter are Honey, a chrome app with millions of users intended to apply coupon codes to your purchase, and deal aggregator Best Deals Today, that provides access to discounts from around the web.
The More, the Merrier
The more information you can provide for big data-driven analytics, the better these e-commerce sites can serve you and your needs. You can’t get that from a brick-and-mortar store, and that's one of the reasons brick-and-mortar shops are struggling to last in the online era.