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Real time analytics in eCommerce

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Traditional retailers and store owners have always grappled with the difficulties of customer retention and loyalty and have been the foremost adopters of methods that help them understand their customers better. After working three years in one of the world’s largest retailers (where we called our customers as ‘guests’), I have seen large teams focused on analyzing every single data that affects the customer experience. Every decision on store planning, product merchandizing, logistics, etc was taken on the basis of how it would affect customer experience. The physical nature of brick and mortar store, however, limited the kind of insights we could generate at that point.

It all changed with the entry of internet and eCommerce. With the capability to collect data and analyze customer behavior, buying patterns, eCommerce store monitoring and logistics in a continuous manner, marketers have moved very close to the ‘Universal Customer Profile’ – the Holy Grail in marketing. This has been possible due to massive advancements in data technologies and computation capabilities. Does this mean that every problem has been solved? Not really, there are still plenty of challenges to overcome.

Challenges in eCommerce

Consider a very frequent challenge that eCommerce companies face – How to engage better with a prospective customer who has a clear intent to purchase but leaves the online store and moves away? This could happen due to several reasons ranging from loss of interest, availability of additional information (competitors’ website offering better value), performance issue with the infrastructure (website performance, server performance issues) and others.

By the time the business managers today come to know that a customer is losing interest, analyze the root cause and take corrective action, it is likely that the customer has already been lost. A brick and mortar store owner could possible provide answers to the customer’s queries, engage the customer in a conversation and avoid losing the customer to competitors (which are typically a few hours away). But with eCommerce, it only takes a few seconds for a customer to move to a competitor.

How do we solve this problem?

The time is now

The short story ‘Three Questions’ by Leo Tolstoy comes to mind when tackling this challenge. The first question in the story was “What is the right time to begin/act?”. As the hermit indicated at the end of the story – “Now”.

If eCommerce businesses draw inspiration from this story, they are possibly headed towards a satisfactory result. Broadly speaking one would require two main components to actually implement that.
1. Real-time knowledge: Getting to know that you have a visitor who is genuinely interested in purchasing a product at that very instance.
2. Real-time action: Take the right action to help the customer make the leap from being an interested visitor to a buyer. More importantly do it while s/he is still engaged with the online store.

The Beginning…

Whether or not Tolstoy had foresight of eCommerce when he narrated his story a century ago, the principle of real-time absolutely holds true for them today. Technology to achieve this in massive scale was not widely available till a few years ago, but with plenty of options today, it is more a question of “How can we best use real-time data?”.

This post (the first in a series of 3) just touches upon the importance of real-time knowledge and action for the eCommerce industry. I will dive a little deeper into the possibilities that can be achieved by an e-commerce company and compare multiple options that one has to achieve this.
Watch this space for more!
Read the second part of the post here: https://www.iqlect.com/blog/real-time-analytics-e-commerce/

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