The world of ecommerce isn’t static.
The skills of an information or data architect can provide you with the essential insights you need to create and maintain a competitive advantage.
Here we explore the value a data architect can add to your business and why ensuring that your ecommerce agency can offer you this support could be critical.
Why you need an information or data architect
You wouldn’t want to build a new house without the expert skills of an architect. You would want to know that building standards are met, that it will provide the home that you want and that it can be delivered within your budget.
The same is true for your business data strategy. You will want to know that best practice is followed, that your databases will meet your requirements and that your solution can be delivered on time and within budget.
What a data architect does
A data architect will create a vision for how to use your data to meet your business needs.
A good data architect will have great communication skills and will be able to work effectively across your organization. They will have expert knowledge of technical requirements but will also understand your organization’s culture and structure. They will make complex technical information easy to understand.
It’s a data architect’s job to analyze and organize data to create valuable insights that inform decisions. They will work closely with your team to build agreement and to challenge assumptions so that your project starts on solid foundations.
They can use a range of analytical techniques and will be up to date with advances in digital analytics tools and data manipulation methods.
They can work with you to translate business problems into data designs and processes that will meet user needs, deliver organisational objectives and satisfy system requirements.
Strategic thinking - a data architect can give you an overall perspective on business issues, events and activities, to help you understand their wider implications and long-term impact. They can help you to see patterns within your data so that standards, policies, and roadmaps are based on reliable information.
Simplifying the complex - one of the biggest business challenges is how to create useful and actionable insights out of a wide range of data. A data architect will not only know how to mine this rich resource for you, they will also know how to convert what they find into compelling stories that are relevant to your business goals.
Innovating and creating - the efficiency and effectiveness of your business processes can be transformed with the help of a data architect. They can create and compare different data models to understand what will work best for you. They can also reverse-engineer a data model from your live systems to create industry-recognized data-modelling patterns and standards.
Meaningful metadata management - information about information, or metadata, is a challenging idea for most people. A data architect can design, catalog and maintain metadata libraries so that you can fully appreciate and use the valuable data assets that you hold.
Data governance - to both use and protect your data effective data governance policies and procedures are important. In many cases these will be essential to show that you are meeting industry and government standards, as well as maintaining accuracy and security.
Realizing improved ecommerce outcomes
Data captured across all touchpoints with your customers can deliver value to your business. Understanding and organizing this data can help you to leverage the most out of every step along the way.
Whether your ecommerce system is based on an out-of-the-box solution or developed to meet specific requirements by an in-house team, designing databases for ecommerce environments will involve:
- handling multimedia content and semi-structured information
- translating the product catalog into a standard format for online use
- creating user interface information at the database level, such as navigation, site layout, and hyperlinks
- merging and managing information from multiple catalogs, product categories, new products, or sold-out products
- tools to update changes to speciﬁcations, product descriptions, naming, pricing and metadata
- capturing data for customization and personalization.
In many cases, ecommerce systems are divided into multiple databases, with the product catalog separated from the order processing database, for example. This is important for stability, maintenance, load balancing, and security. However, it also means that information must then be shared between databases. Without a clear understanding of the requirements and limitations, this could slow down performance and result in missed opportunities. This is where the expertise of a data architect can make a significant difference.
Valuable data for improved online experiences
Once customers have been attracted to your ecommerce site you must convert their initial interest into sales. Once an order has been placed delivery must be effectively managed and customer service standards must be high.
To achieve this the supporting databases must be based on a full understanding of each business process. This can include:
- user accounts
- user sessions
- customer proﬁles
- login details
- demographic data
- buying history
- total purchase values
- product returns
- user subgroups such as buyers, sellers, or afﬁliates, depending on your business.
The business and customer experience benefits of having this comprehensive view of available data include:
Marketing - marketing campaigns can be refined based on information about click-through rates and uptake of discount codes. The performance of specific promotions can be associated with specific user sessions to understand date, time and seasonal variations.
Customer feedback - feedback data for each user and order can be associated with the type of purchase, their status, or the customer service responses they received.
Shopping cart - items placed in the shopping cart can be monitored, whether or not they are eventually purchased, helping you to optimize conversion rates.
Invoice and payment - keeping track of actual orders, items, discounts, sale prices, commissions, taxes, and cancellations will add to your understanding of buyer behavior.
Shipping - shipping address, shipping methods and charges can help to refine preferences and identify potential savings.
Once key categories of information have been identified and correlated many time-consuming processes can be automated to generate predictions and to monitor performance, as well as to generate up-selling and cross-selling opportunities, personalization, and marketing campaigns.
By understanding the future requirements of the business, flexibility can be planned from the outset to make developments much easier to implement.
Machine learning and predictive analytics
Optimizing the use of the data you capture with every online interaction can improve your business performance. You can:
- capture information on device types and test product metadata approaches for different screen sizes, including product descriptions, image tags, and categories
- streamline search results with intelligent automated suggestions or common synonyms
- deliver individual product suggestions based on the preferences of users with similar characteristics.
Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, you can show individual shoppers relevant products based on the probability or likelihood that they will buy certain items.
Next-generation big data architecture will take personalization to a new level with real-time user profiling, analyzing what other buyers are looking for rather than historical data.
Apache Spark can already use huge volumes of user data to create real-time personalization that will customize search results, catalogs, and product recommendations on ecommerce sites.
All that is needed to achieve this level of sophistication is clarity about the data you have, the data you need and how it can be used to improve your customer’s online experiences.
Our data architects work closely with our clients to create stable, efficient and forward-looking ecommerce solutions that are fit for purpose and ready for the future.