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Investing in big data can help improve corporate e-commerce initiatives

Richard Jones Archive

While big data has played a significant role in companies' efforts to reform customer service and human resources, perhaps its most notable application has been in e-commerce, where retail companies have used data to examine consumers' spending habits and target them with specifically tailored marketing campaigns. The more information retailers have, the more they can improve the customer experience for shoppers.

Larger corporations are especially well equipped to undertake these efforts. According to BrandChannel, Walmart recently acquired Inkiru, a small big data startup that creates analytical tools for analyzing customer information in real time. By buying the young business, Walmart can improve in several areas.

One is site personalization. Each time a shopper logs onto Walmart's web store, the site can use data from Inkiru to target the individual with deals, discounts and intriguing items he or she will enjoy. The site can also improve its search engine rank by distilling the right results to grab the shopper's attention. There's also a fraud-protection angle - by examining shopping histories for irregularities, companies can root out purchases that might not be genuine.

It will also help with mobile commerce. Gibu Thomas, global head of Walmart's mobile division, said in a recent speech that more data will lead to more user-friendliness in mobile shopping.

"Our goal is to create shopping tools that become second nature to the customer, providing assistance with every part of the retail experience from pre-store planning to in-store shopping and decision making to checking out," Thomas said. "The future of retail is the history of retailing. It's about a personalized experience for each shopper delivered through the smartphone."

Mobile is the future
It's important to note that according to recent sales trends, mobile shopping is the future of commerce worldwide. Mashable recently reported on Forrester survey data reflecting this evolution - in 2012, sales made on smartphones accounted for $8 billion in the United States, just 3 percent of all retail. Over the next five years, however, that figure will rapidly grow, and in 2017, mobile will account for $31 billion, or 9 percent of sales. This trend can't be ignored.

The companies who make the most of this growth in the mobile realm will be the ones that gather more data and work hard to maintain data quality. Retail corporations are striving to better understand their customers every day, and those who gather the most accurate information possible will have a clear advantage.