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How big data can improve mobile e-commerce

Rachel Wheeler Archive

Consumers have been shopping online for over a decade now, and they're more than confident about spending their money on the web. E-commerce is a fixture in society, and billions of dollars pass through online vendors every year. Mobile commerce, however, is still a relatively new area that merchants are trying to explore.

According to CIO, companies are still unsure about how to optimize the mobile shopping experience for their customers. The news source noted that according to survey data from Accenture Interactive, mobile devices are a mainstay with the younger crowd - 72 percent of consumers between ages 20 and 40 use their gadgets to comparison shop while in retail stores. Plenty more use their tablets and smartphones to log onto retail websites and make purchases.

The tougher question, though, is what benefit companies are getting from shopping apps themselves. Customers are making plenty of purchases with assistance from a mobile device, but they aren't often through apps directly. Marketers are looking to bolster their mobile app engagement by encouraging shoppers to turn to their apps as Plan A.

CIO reported that one company looking to improve the mobile experience is BloomReach, a mobile analytics firm that uses data-driven technologies to target consumers by marketing specific products they're known to like. For instance, if a customer recently used a mobile app to search a clothing store for green floral dresses, the app can remember that information, and the next time the customer looks at dresses, green floral ones will rise to the top of that user's search results.

When using strategies like this, there's a fine line between useful and invasive. Companies can try to implement targeted marketing strategies, but if they go too far, shoppers will begin to feel like their privacy is being violated. Joelle Kaufman, BloomReach's head of marketing, explained this risk to CIO.

"When you give somebody what they want, they appreciate it," Kaufman said. "When you try to infer what they want based on who they are, they're offended. Who says I'm shopping for me? Intent is everything. And the problem is that it's hard to discern. You have to understand language and behavior."

The other problem is with data quality. When retailers gather information on shoppers, they need to be confident that it's accurate, as misinformation may lead to misinformed shopping recommendations that alienate consumers. Data has the potential to transform the mobile commerce experience, but only if it's done right.