Big Data Shapes E-Commerce

A successful e-commerce business doesn’t start at the storefront; it starts at the backend where all orders are processed. Even if you have the best loyalty programs, personalized shopping experiences, and advanced customer relationship management techniques, it won’t make sense if you don’t deliver orders on time.

That’s the major reason why operations management plays a crucial role in e-commerce success. Giants like Amazon and Alibaba picked up on this opportunity, investing millions of dollars in operations on their automation. 

One of the core components of effective operations management is big data. It helps backend processes just as much as it shapes the customer-facing part of e-commerce enterprise. E-commerce developers at Iflexion reveal some of the most relevant and promising applications of big data within the operational framework of e-commerce companies.

Smart Buildings

If you’re a growing e-commerce SME, then operational costs may play a role in your expansion. Every extra penny spent on facilities, warehousing, and office spaces is deducted from the business development budget. That’s why keeping operational costs down is essential.

The concept of smart buildings is not new. The basic idea is similar to that of smart houses. Smart buildings control the environment within your office, warehouse, or manufacturing space.

Without big data, the real applications of this concept can’t be called smart. Smart buildings collect tons of information about how utilities and other services are used within them. This information is then applied to optimize usage, like turning off heating at specific times or dimming lights in certain areas of a warehouse. Such an optimization leads to:

  • Lower electricity usage
  • Lower HVAC usage
  • Lower maintenance costs associated with more efficient downtimes

Many solutions offer smart building implementations for SMEs. Most of them are also compatible with other digital services, such as IoT platforms, to further increase the efficiency of such an integrated system. Among such services are:

  • Riptide Software
  • Schneider Electric
  • CopperTree Analytics

Smart building technologies are constantly evolving and, consequently, getting more accessible for the businesses of all sizes.

Demand Forecasting

When you have items in stock that don’t generate sales, you’re losing money for multiple reasons. First, these slow movers take up space in your warehouse and waste time of your staff who still need to account for them in the inventory. Second, they can expire over time or become unfashionable in case you’re selling items that depend on fashion and trends.

With the help of demand forecasting, it’s possible to predict which items are going to be in demand so you could stock them up properly. This way, products won’t stick to the shelves. What’s more, there will be fewer chances to run out of stock for high-demand items unless there’s a problem with the manufacturer or supplier.

Big data is integral to demand forecasting even if you’re not using advanced analytics or AI-based algorithms to forecast sales. Just running through the numbers, you can make basic stock availability predictions and look for answers to questions such as why you might have run out of certain items.

Fortunately, there are a number of services that can assist you with sales forecasting. Small businesses are more than welcome to experiment with this high-yield area of big data applications:

  • Demand Solutions
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Solver Global

Human Capital Management

An e-commerce business consists of multiple components where staff is probably one of the most crucial ones. Your employees are engaged in each and every part of your business. They run your store, design its look, generate marketing results, maintain your premises functional, and address any arising need of your customers.

Bad hiring decisions may directly affect your operational efficiency and your profit. Smaller businesses feel the effect of employee performance in a more intense way, as there aren’t many options for ‘filling the gap’ if an employee underperforms.

Big data is vital to many current HR functions, such as:

  • Performance tracking and evaluation
  • Employee satisfaction tracking
  • Team goal management
  • Recruiting and onboarding management

Many of these processes haven’t even been tracked up until recently. Today you have access to a number of HR solutions that can track employee performance right from the start.

Additionally, you can manage employee retention if you want to keep your team intact—a crucial aspect of a growing ecommerce business. There are plenty of human resource management solutions out there that vary in functionality, but the majority of them exploit big data you have on your employees to improve and maintain the latter’s performance. Some notable solutions for SMEs in this area are:

  • BambooHR
  • Trakstar
  • WebHR
  • ClearCompany

There’s also a particular niche of employee engagement solutions that track employees’ happiness and engagement with their employers. It can be an additional layer of big data on your team’s desires, blockers, and other performance issues. In this segment, we vote for OfficeVibe and Teamphoria for their excellent integration of big data in the performance evaluation process.

Product Research

In order to maximize returns and minimize losses with your stock, you need to set the prices which are adequate to the popularity of your products. There are various ways to do that, from manual online research to competitive intelligence.

One more effective method is to leverage big data out of the largest pool of available sources—through APIs of huge online marketplaces, such as Amazon and eBay.

Instead of spending time on data mining directly in these marketplaces, social media, and Google Trends, you can use services such as Prisync or TrendHunter, which are specifically designed to track product performance and give you the right direction for planning your stocks and product line-up.

Supply Chain Management

Modern supply management wouldn’t be possible without big data, as this is what supports complex interactions between all the parties and assets involved: products, delivery dates, and resources.

Big data is crucial for ecommerce businesses operating in the global market, as their supply chain gets stretched in time and complexity. Some great big data solutions for managing such supply chains include:

  • WiseTech
  • Infor
  • JDA Software

These solutions can store and connect multiple big data sources within your supply chain so you can manage and predict the behavior of all connected data sources.

To Sum It Up

Big data is the bloodline of any modern e-commerce company as it makes its operational activities smooth and highly efficient. As a result, operational effectiveness creates additional business opportunities, removes blockers such as out-of-stock items, and minimizes downtimes and damage to business reputation by preventing unfulfilled orders. Big data is the glue that holds these processes together, from stock insights to employee performance and workplace sustainability.

So in addition to exploring the customer-facing side of your business as the perfect target for experiments with big data, consider delving into the operational nuances and learning how big data can help you grow your business and drive positive changes from within.

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Darya Efimova

Darya Efimova

Darya Efimova is a Digital Transformation Observer at Iflexion. With MA in Creative and Media Enterprises, Darya is an accomplished writer and industry insider helping IT leaders make sense of today’s tech disruptions and new market imperatives.

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