But what are people using that data for, exactly?
In 2016 alone there were 2.4 million searches generated on Google every minute, 700,000 Facebook logins, and over $200,000 worth of sales made on Amazon, to name a few. Experts have estimated that 90% of all the data in the world today was produced in the last few years.
Depending on your industry and end goals, there are plenty of practical applications for data to help power your business and set you apart in your marketplace. Here are a few of the biggest ways that web data can do that.
Product and Price Comparison
In the world of retail, web data helps you understand your customers and improve your advertising. One of the main uses of data for eCommerce companies is to monitor the movements of direct competitors to improve their own shopping experience.
You can use web scrapers to extract product data from other eCommerce stores for their prices, descriptions, images, and customer reviews, for example, and analyze that data for either affiliation or comparison. You can track the stock availability and prices of products to ensure that you’re carrying something that your rivals are not.
You could even create your own web crawler to extract product feeds, images, prices, and other details from multiple sites at once to create your own price comparison site. Or you could use that information to predict the best products for your own shoppers.
Amazon, for instance, uses web crawlers to extract product information from competing online marketplaces to identify brands that are listing products elsewhere, but not on Amazon. They then use this data to reach out to those brands and encourage them to list the products on Amazon’s marketplace as well.
But you don’t have to be in retail to take advantage of data for price comparison. Many travel companies will track prices from other airlines’ websites in real time to give consumers the best fare options. Expedia uses web scraping to pull information from Global Distribution Services and then gives that data directly to their customers for comparison.
Web data can also be used for things like comparing shipping times, number of sellers, availability, or identical products for price matching. These insights can help any business create actionable steps to better serve their customers.
And pricing and product optimization techniques are good for the bottom line, as even a 5% reduction in variable costs can improve gross profit margins by 30% or more.
Online Reputation Management
Web data can do more than give you transactional insights. You can also observe intentions by monitoring customer values and opinions about your business.
Companies from any industry can use web data to monitor their online reputation and presence using behavioral data. You can track customer-generated reviews as well as things like user reaction on social media channels.
Online reviews can be a powerful tool for growth in particular. One study found that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and 72% of consumers say positive reviews make them trust businesses more. Millennials especially trust user-generated content 50% more than other media. It’s essential that companies stay on top of their online reviews in order to target those customer segments.
Through web scraping, you could crawl various sites to compile and analyze reviews, ratings, and comments for better insight into what customers really think about your business. Web data could also reveal trending topics and demographic facts about your users that you might otherwise miss, like gender, age group, or geolocation.
If you can understand customers on a more individual level, you can segment and target customers more accurately. You can better understand their preferences, needs, and current priorities.
But in order to do that, you need access to their online behavior, shopping history, social conversations to know whether or not your marketing is effective. Focused targeting needs specific predictive models built through web data extraction.
By using data to narrow in on customer needs, you can launch products that are different than others being sold, explore new markets, and understand gaps in the current marketplace.
This enables you to stay ahead of the competition and give customers a more personalized experience and creates brand loyalty. You can quickly set yourself apart as a company who understands what they want better than anyone else by including customer behavior toward and beliefs about your company and your competitors in your product development.
Once you have an understanding of what your customers really want, you can use that data to create targeted ads, improve your SEO, and generate leads.
Many marketing teams use data to chase leads on their own, but often that data comes from stale lists that don’t always reflect real-time information. In fact, one CSO Insight study reported that 42% of sales reps feel they don’t have the right information before making a call, and another study found that 35% of those surveyed said the biggest barrier to lead generation success is the lack of quality data.
SearchCRM site editor Tim Ehrens notes that using poor data can affect sales:
“Customer data management often falls to the bottom of the priority list. Organizations get bogged down with more pressing issues, such as cutting costs or keeping daily operations running. But relying on poor-quality customer data almost always frustrates customers — and many of them take their business elsewhere.”
Compiling high-quality prospect lists using web data, on the other hand, can help businesses deliver campaigns directed at more qualified leads, which can turn users into buyers. This process can be especially time-consuming to do by hand. Instead, you could simply scrape leads from the online directory of your industry trade organization and use that data to proactively reach out to potential prospects.
You can also use data to improve how you appear on search engines, generating leads through a boost in organic traffic. Using data markups, you could index your content in such a way that gives users a better chance of finding you.
Kissmetrics explains it this way:
“[The markup] tells the search engine what that content means. For example, let’s say the word “Neil Patel” appears on an article. The search engine sees this, and produces a SERP entry with “Neil Patel.” However, if I put the right schema markup around the name ‘Neil Patel,’ I’ve just told that search engine that ‘Neil Patel’ is the author of the article, not just a couple random words. The search engine then provides results that display better information for the user who was searching for ‘Neil Patel.’”
By using web data to define who you are as a company and better understand your customers, you can improve your advertising efforts and your ability to be found in ways that automatically set you apart from the competition.
With the power of the Internet, and the continued growth of data, business leaders looking to propel their business forward will need to better understand their market and their customers.
As more data is generated, the higher the need will be for companies to collect that data quickly and use it to better serve their audience.
As data-innovator Arthur Nielsen once said, “The price of light is less than the cost of darkness.” In short, data impacts your bottom line. If you can find a way to use it to power your business, you will set yourself apart in the market and gain the edge over the competition.