E-commerce intelligence: understanding what the world buys

E-commerce intelligence helps firms predict what sells when, where, and at what price. It could also support discovery-based shopping online.
5 September 2023

E-commerce intelligence: global shopping data in the bag.

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There are plenty of headlines on the web proclaiming how generative AI is going to change e-commerce forever. But what does e-commerce intelligence have to say about it? For example, Grips – a data firm providing transaction insights – reports that product descriptions are the second most important consideration after images in driving sales conversions. And given how important those words are to online success, would you give that task to generative AI?

What’s more, product descriptions don’t just convince shoppers that they’ve found the ideal item, those words also influence search rankings. And data analytics can pinpoint which terms to include. It’s another example of how e-commerce intelligence can help brands, retailers, and online marketplaces to make decisions that are right for their businesses.

What can brands and retailers learn from e-commerce intelligence?

E-commerce intelligence platforms provide users with multiple benchmarks – for example, stakeholders can compare changes in cost-per-click (CPC), click-through-rate (CTR), return-on-ad-spend (ROAS), and average daily spend in the product categories that matter to them.

Rising CPC rates suggest that the market for goods in that area is becoming more competitive, whereas changes in CTR could reflect trends in the use of brand-sponsored content on marketplaces, and the introduction of other product advertising features.

Also, as top-performing sites become saturated, brands have to spend more to maintain their visibility, which can hit ROAS figures. There are other factors too. For example, marketplaces can make changes to their algorithms that may lift average daily spend. But those changes may help some product categories more than others.

Product price changes offer information on the demand for items, stock levels, and other factors at play in the market. E-commerce intelligence platforms can automatically track product prices across thousands of sites, including which items are showing as being out of stock.

For example, Chilean firm Qmatch claims to monitor more than 5 million products and more than 10 million prices on its e-commerce intelligence site. And there are other pricing data providers out there too, such as Competera, EcommerceIQ, Prisync, and Productsup – to give just a few examples.

E-commerce intelligence analytics lets marketplaces dive into how brands are growing over time and how that performance compares across product categories. Retail data platforms also help users visualize which keywords resonate most prominently with brands and their products.

Online shopping puts lots of data out in the open, and e-commerce intelligence providers have become experts at mining this information for insights. Consumer tastes can change quickly and keeping on top of rising and falling trends is critical for product makers and marketplaces.

One of the most popular sources of data are the millions of product reviews available online, including posts on social media channels. And machine learning methods such as sentiment analysis have long been used to decipher how customers feel about the items that they’ve purchased.

Personalization is emerging as a hugely important strategy for retailers to grow the amount of time that visitors spend on their e-commerce portals. It is also a significant factor in driving up conversion rates – in other words, capitalizing on that growth in browsing behavior by turning clicks into sales.

List of e-commerce intelligence platforms

Search engines have worked hard to make their results more appealing to shoppers, realizing that consumers were starting their product searches directly on leading marketplaces such as Amazon. And e-commerce intelligence gives firms a better idea of how this shift in product discovery is progressing.

When it comes to testing website designs for online shopping, data providers can point users to best behavior and page experiences that optimize results for retailers. Brands need to know their competition and stand out while adopting cart mechanics that are familiar to online shoppers and don’t jeopardize sales.

The future of online shopping

Connie Chan, General Partner at Silicon Valley Venture Capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), believes that the next generation of marketplace winners will be brands that can bring the offline shopping experience online.

Chan points out that, today, products become purchases through search-based online commerce. Online shoppers are focused on what they want. But in the world of bricks and mortar stores, purchases can appeal in the moment. Customers can find themselves selecting items that they didn’t even know they needed.

The challenge for e-commerce sites is to recreate that discovery process and delight shoppers with relevant products they weren’t necessarily looking for, but – importantly – might want to buy. Again, having accurate and timely data is going to be critical. And you can bet that commerce platforms leading the way in discovery-based shopping will be the ones with e-commerce intelligence supporting their operations.