All posts in “Entrepreneurship”

Engaging in Ethical E-Commerce

Gone are the days when businesses just did business. Now, it’s almost expected that business values and ethics will play a significant and enduring role in a company’s identity.

From the products they sell to the way they treat their employees, businesses are finding that they no longer can separate what they do from what they believe — and customers want to know what the businesses they deal with stand for. Corporate social responsibility, or CSR — the merging of ethics with business — is not simply a buzzword. It’s increasingly becoming a best practice.

“Aligning a business with its social and ethical values has demonstrated positive impact,” said Lauren J. Litton, founder of I.S.P. Consulting.

“For example, it can improve employee retention, boost the company’s reputation, attract both investors and consumers, and further critical environmental and social justice efforts,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

Good Business

A number of e-commerce businesses founded in recent years seek to merge their beliefs in everything from sustainability to social justice with the work of making, marketing, selling and distributing products.

“We want to help people make better choices about their clothing and home textiles, delivering better quality, organic, sustainable products — fairly made and fairly priced,” said Lisa Ingram, cofounder of one such business, LittleLeaf Organic.

“By doing this, we can build a better supply chain that is more ethical, more environmentally conscious, and more rewarding for everybody who participates in that supply chain,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

As a result of having a clear mission aligned with their ethical values, businesses can develop strong relationships with customers, suppliers and other stakeholders.

“It gives you a clearer view of your direction and purpose,” said Ingram. “We have much more in-depth and interesting discussions with customers, which helps to make the business of selling far more rewarding. This also enables us to build deeper and longer-lasting relationships with our customers as there’s so much added value in a brand such as ours.”

The extended ethical network also can benefit from a clear sense of purpose and mission.

“One of the greatest pleasures for us is how this improves the quality of our relationships with our suppliers too,” said Ingram. “For example, we recently visited the factory in India where we make the majority of our products, and our shared interests meant the whole experience was like visiting old friends. All of this leads to a much greater sense of community, which is itself a more rewarding experience personally.”

Having a commitment to social justice issues ideally can raise awareness of those issues among any people who interact with a company. Packed with Purpose, for instance, seeks to raise awareness of social issues by combining its mission with the products it sells.

“We’re transforming the art of gifting by incorporating impact and personal stories into the gift-giving process,” noted Packed with Purpose CEO Leeatt Rothschild.

“We curate high-quality business and personal gifts that create an impact by sourcing products from purpose-driven organizations,” she told the E-Commerce Times. “The result is a unique gift experience that leaves a memorable impression while doing good.”

The company’s social mission finds expression in the products it sells — and the people who make those products.

“Our chocolate-covered pretzels are made by adults with disabilities who are part of a vocational and residential program,” said Rothschild. “Our hand-blown wine stoppers are crafted by teens impacted by gun violence through an art-based trauma recovery program. Our artisanal granola is produced by female survivors of abuse in Washington, D.C., who are on a path to financial and personal independence. Every gift changes lives in communities around us.”

The Power of Authenticity

It’s important for businesses seeking to align their ethics with their commerce to do so with sincerity and not just as a marketing strategy.

“Any effort a corporation takes must be authentic,” said Litton. “While e-commerce companies have seen a competitive advantage from being socially responsible, it is not simple. People are savvy and will see through an approach that is designed to attract consumers, or build or restore a reputation. This can backfire with a business receiving negative attention through social media and ratings.”

Adopting ethical stances simply for business gain can damage the entire community of ethics-oriented businesses and the customers who support them.

“Companies who seek to exploit public interest in ethical and sustainable issues for short-term gain do damage to this public discussion,” said LittleLeaf Organic’s Ingram. “They are directly devaluing those characteristics that we are trying to promote and making it harder to build trust.”

It’s also vital for ethics-oriented businesses to make sure that everyone in their ecosystem supports — or at least does not contradict — their mission.

“It is crucial for companies to ensure that their suppliers’ values align with their own mission,” said Rothschild.

“An important component of our work is making sure we do our thorough research when selecting and vetting our Purposeful Purveyors. We focus on five impact areas: women’s empowerment, the environment, youth development, workforce development, and health and wellness,” she explained. “Beyond ensuring that our purveyors fall into one of these categories, we also require that they meet high standards for product quality, packaging and delivery.”

Businesses also need to recognize that being ethical will require a commitment of resources to sustain their goals over time.

“For a business to become more socially and ethically responsible is definitely an investment,” said Litton. “This is not an easy nor static task. While businesses can take small steps to move toward more social responsibility, there is ongoing monitoring of adherence and impact.”

Dedication to the cause ultimately is a key component of successful ethical commerce.

“Be committed. It must be incredibly tiresome trying to use ethical practice as a short-term marketing ploy — and in the long-term, it won’t work anyway,” said Ingram.

“Also, carry your principles through every part of your business,” she advised. “So for example, we have gone to great lengths and additional costs to ensure that our packaging is as recyclable or compostable as we can make it. Being authentic not only leads to those stronger, long-term relationships with your customers and suppliers, it’s also so much more rewarding in the end.”

Vivian Wagner has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. Her main areas of focus are technology, business, CRM, e-commerce, privacy, security, arts, culture and diversity. She has extensive experience reporting on business and technology for a variety of outlets, including The Atlantic, The Establishment and O, The Oprah Magazine. She holds a PhD in English with a specialty in modern American literature and culture. She received a first-place feature reporting award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists. Email Vivian.

Amazon Goes for the Gold With HD Streaming Music Service

Amazon on Tuesday announced Amazon Music HD, which offers 50 million CD-quality songs — 16 bits at 44.1 kHz. Customers also can stream millions more songs in Ultra HD — better than CD quality — with a bit depth of 24 bits and a sample rate up to 192 kHz.

Amazon Music HD will play the highest quality audio customers’ devices and network conditions will support. It is compatible with a variety of devices, including desktop computers, iOS and Android mobile devices, select Echo devices, Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Fire tablets.

It is also compatible with many third-party devices, including most products from Denon and Marantz with HEOS Built-in, Polk Audio, Definitive Technology, Sonos, McIntosh and Sennheiser.

Subscriptions begin at US$12.99 a month for Prime members, $5 a month for current subscribers to Amazon Music, whether they are on the Individual or Family Plans, and $14.99 a month for Amazon customers who are not subscribers.

Amazon Music HD is now available to stream in the United States, UK, Germany and Japan.

New subscribers to Amazon music can get a 90-day free trial. Current subscribers can try the HD service at no additional charge for 90 days. After the trial period, the subscription renews automatically at the appropriate price.

The launch of HD Music might pose a problem, suggested Russ Crupnick, managing partner at Musicwatch.

“I do worry that there are too many Amazon streaming offerings, ranging from Prime to Echo to free with Alexa,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “The multitude of options has become very confusing to consumers.”

Streaming Bitrate Claims Are Tricky

Amazon claims HD Music offers more than double the bitrate of standard streaming services.

However, Tidal for some time has offered lossless CD quality with its FLAC-based Tidal HiFi service.

CD-quality FLAC 16-bit 44.1 kHz streaming music has been available for some time from Qobuz and Deezer. Further, Qobuz was the first music service to offer FLAC 24-bit up to 192 kHz streaming files with its Hi-Res service.

That said, Amazon is the first of the major players to offer CD-quality streaming audio.

Apple streams music at 256 bits, while Spotify and Google Play stream music at 320 bitrates.

A high-fidelity service is not a big differentiator, Spotify VP Paul Vogel suggested.

“I don’t think core Spotify or Apple users will switch over en masse,” Musicwatch’s Crupnick said. “They like their services and most think the quality is good enough.”

Still, competitors will offer better sound quality “sooner rather than later,” he predicted.

Going for the Money

“Amazon is making the bet that its older, higher-income customers are more concerned about sound quality than the average streaming user,” remarked Mark Mulligan, music analyst at Midia Research.

“Amazon’s installed base of Prime subscribers represent one of the most valuable consumer groups in the entire digital ecosystem. and Amazon has identified that there is demand for spending more on higher-quality music,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

MusicWatch has done “a lot of testing on the concept of high-res ‘good as recording studio’ audio,” Crupnick said. It found that about one quarter of streamers “are passionate about sound quality, listen a lot on mobile devices and don’t think the quality is good enough, and are willing to pay to get something better.”

Streaming music accounted for 80 percent of the United States recorded music industry market’s revenues, the Recording Industry Association of America reported.

Total revenues at retail grew 18 percent to $5.4 billion, and streaming music revenues accounted for $4.3 billion of that — up 26 percent, driven by paid subscriptions, which hit a new height of 61 million.

Possible Markets for HD Streaming Audio

Most current devices cannot stream CD quality music, and Amazon is widely expected to announce new, CD quality-capable devices at an upcoming event Sept. 25.

HD audio “is the next logical expansion from video,” noted Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research, “but the car may prove to be the best venue.”

Most people may not notice the difference in music quality on their current devices, but “in the car, HD audio may make a big difference,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Streaming music to automobiles is one of the five trends shaping the music streaming business, because “the car is the primary battleground of the streaming vs. radio standoff, as all of the major streaming services now offer solutions for in-vehicle listening,” noted Midia’s Mulligan.

“Apple has CarPlay, Google has Android Auto, and even Spotify has made its first steps in that space,” he pointed out, “confirming tests of its long-rumored voice-controlled smart assistant for cars.”

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology. Email Richard.

Oracle’s OpenWorld Happening

Q1 in any business is the toughest for generating revenue and Oracle is no exception. In its Q1 earnings call it admitted missing by about US$70 million on a $9.2 billion nut: small but consequential. No need to run for the smelling salts though, Oracle has been here before and it’s got this.

Oracle's OpenWorld Happening

It should be no surprise, though, because in Q4 any self-respecting salesperson or manager works tirelessly to drain the pipeline and maximize earnings, in order to start Q1 with a bare cupboard. For a company like Oracle, that’s a relative concept.

As luck would have it, the company has this little exhibition at the beginning of Q2 that attracts friends and acquaintances from around the world to San Francisco to learn about what it has stocked up on for the year ahead. That’s Oracle OpenWorld, and it’s happening this week in San Francisco’s Moscone Center.

What OOW Delivers

Oracle OpenWorld is a showcase for the latest of everything the company produces. Since it has a soup-to-nuts product list that includes hardware, the autonomous database, cloud offerings, and ways to use the stuff, it’s a daunting list, but since this is a piece on CRM I’ll concentrate there.

As of this writing I have not been briefed on Oracle’s CRM direction. It calls its stuff “CX,” as in “customer experience.” Generally, I expect things that better manipulate data in an effort to get closer to customers, because that’s digital disruption in a nutshell.

For instance, Oracle last year introduced CX Unity, a customer data platform that brings together online, offline and third-party data about customers to feed analysis of their behaviors. The result is better understanding of their needs and intentions, the better to target them with offers and next-best ideas or actions. A tool like this is valuable in all parts of CRM, from sales and marketing to providing customers with the best support options.

Autonomous Database Revolution

Also think about the autonomous database, because it is revolutionizing the industry from CRM to human resources to supply chain and anything in between. The autonomous database is a significant commoditization of IT, not only because it removes much of the administrative labor associated with keeping your databases up, but also because it provides an important hedge against all of the forms of hacking from competitors and other bad guys in industry and international affairs. Parenthetically, I have to ask why the Pentagon turned down this technology in its ongoing and highly litigious $10 billion JEDI procurement process.

OK, back to news. The autonomous database is self-patching, of course, meaning users no longer need to wait a year or more between when a security patch is issued and when they get around to installing it. All of this runs best on Oracle hardware, which enables better encryption and faster database operations, partly because virtually all of a business’ data is in fast memory rather than relatively slow disk drives. So, I expect more news about the hardware-software connection. You can get both by signing up for Oracle’s cloud services, and many businesses are doing this.

The autonomous product set and cloud services aren’t fully built out because they never will be — that’s just the nature of innovation. It’s possible that this year we’ll see some change of focus from new product announcements to introducing more incentive programs that get even more businesses involved with the newest products.

Along that theme of more, I am personally having many meetings with customers who have implemented the new products and lived to say they’re thriving. This includes NetSuite customers, and I’ll be reporting back.

Competition and Cooperation

Also, I wouldn’t rule out some news-stealing, headline-making announcements from competitors — not that it’s never happened before (it has). Some alliance or multi-party product announcement is certainly possible because it’s a big industry. But, hey, this could go either way. In years past people like Marc Benioff have appeared on stage at OpenWorld, and Microsoft and Oracle are developing increasingly close ties supporting interoperability between their platforms, so there’s potential.

That last bit might have legs. If you read this space from time to time, you will recognize my interest in how some of the more recent announcements from the big tech providers are beginning to resemble how an oligopoly-based general-purpose IT utility might form to support changing market demand. So it’s not completely out of the question that intramural competition might give way in a small measure to some announcements of cooperation. Stranger things have happened.

Regardless, it will be three days of drinking from a firehose, and perhaps some parties, and not a moment too soon. Those aforementioned salespeople need something to sell.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry analyst, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can’t Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there. Email Denis.

Amazon Rewrites the Conquest Advertising Textbook

You’ve just come home from the gym and discovered that your teenager cleaned out your stash of energy bars. Drat. You grab a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to ease the hunger pangs, then decide to avoid future deprivation by ordering a new supply of bars online.

You usually buy Clif Bars, so you type the brand name into Amazon search and start to place an order — but just as you’re about to click the “Buy Now” button, you notice an ad for Quest Nutrition bars at the top of the search page, tempting you with a compelling alternative. The bars look appetizing, they get multiple-star customer reviews and — best of all — you can get them at a bargain price. One click later, Quest has acquired your business from the folks over at Clif Bar.

In a dynamic marketplace like Amazon, where an astonishing 50 percent of all e-commerce transactions now occur, this type of last-minute product switch is there for the taking. Amazon gives advertisers the ability to offer real-time promotions, targeted discounts, and highlighted customer reviews that can be highly effective in persuading shoppers to choose alternative products at the last phase of the purchase funnel.

Snatching a sale directly away from the competition is every marketer’s dream. If the buyer goes on to make a long-term switch to the new brand, the company has pulled off a marketing coup. Multiply that by thousands of customers, and the result is a shift in actual market share.

This is what commonly is known as “conquest advertising.” Amazon has developed uniquely powerful tools that brands can use toward that end — and not just when customers are about to buy a particular product. These real-time advertising vehicles can encourage dramatic shifts toward established brands or aggressive newcomers alike. It all depends on who best takes advantage of Amazon’s powerful ad capabilities.

Rising to the Top

Some customers go to Amazon in search of a familiar brand while remaining open to other possibilities. A bigger proportion of shoppers are even more open to persuasion, since they increasingly use the marketplace to research and compare prices by category, searching for terms like “garden hose,” rather than brand.

More than 46 percent of consumers begin their online product searches on Amazon, compared with 34 percent who start with Google, according to eMarketer. Brands can configure their Amazon ads to appear when customers search for similar products. More broadly, they can set their ads to appear when people search within a given category for any product.

For example, when users search Amazon for “laptop computers on sale,” they find not only images of the familiar and relatively expensive Apple machines, but also listings for Lenovo and HP models that get strong customer reviews and can be ordered for less than half the Apple price.

Type “women’s jeans size 10” into the Amazon search engine, and Levi’s Signature jeans appear at the top of the organic results. Right above them, consumers see an across-the-screen “sponsored brand” ad for “comfortable and stylish stretch jeans” sold by Pajama Jeans — including a competitive price and hundreds of positive reviews from consumers. Even a loyal Levi’s customer may be tempted to try them on for size.

For popular unbranded terms in competitive categories, like women’s apparel, these top of the page “sponsored brands” units are highly competitive because they expose users to relevant brands or products right at the top of the page — before even organic results. This is incredibly useful for newer brands or established ones looking to defend their turf.

A Last-Minute Redirect

For marketers, there’s nothing more rewarding than luring a customer away from a competitor at the last minute. Amazon makes this strategy possible by giving the option of running targeted ads that offer customers a glimpse of an alternative product just before they check out.

For example, a customer about to take the final steps toward buying a Little Tikes toy kitchen set might see an ad for Melissa & Doug’s “Chef’s Pretend Play Toy Kitchen” appear on the same page. A well-timed ad promoting an option with 4.5-star reviews and a lower price can shift the sale in less time than it takes to click a mouse, one of the reasons Melissa & Doug’s popularity has soared in recent years among parents eager to find a low-tech way to fire their children’s imaginations.

Most shoppers don’t come to Amazon committed to a particular brand. Eighty percent of respondents use Amazon to discover new products or brands, according to Bobby Agarwal, Amazon Advertising’s product lead. These customers aren’t just open to alternatives; they are actively seeking items that are cheaper or better quality than the ones they find in brick-and-mortar stores or other online destinations.

Many Amazon customers keep their options open until the moment they are about to purchase. That’s why they begin on Amazon rather than on a brand’s proprietary website. It’s also why conquest advertising is a particularly fruitful strategy on Amazon.

Even if shoppers find what they want on a brand’s site, an astounding 90 percent of them compare prices with a visit to Amazon, according to a BloomReach survey quoted by CNBC. It’s never too late for a good deal — especially one that beckons at the last moment.

Advertising Across the Internet

If you’ve ever shopped online for a pair of running sneakers during lunch and then noticed ads for Nike and Adidas popping up on almost every site you visit, you’re not alone. While retargeted ads themselves are an established tactic, an increasing number of e-commerce retailers are using this targeted advertising tactic within Amazon, allowing them to reach consumers even before they’ve arrived at the checkout line.

It’s no secret that Amazon owns increasingly large volumes of data on product searches and customer transactions. Advertisers can use that to their advantage by targeting ads to Amazon users who have searched for certain products or who, better yet, previously bought from competitors.

For example, fitness accessory company Yogaland might zero in on Amazon users who have searched for, or once purchased, yoga mats. Or the brand might take that tactic a step further and target shoppers who have purchased or researched products made by its competitor, Gaiam.

Many direct-to-consumer startups have built significant market share, thanks in part to these types of Amazon advertising strategies — approaches that allow them to put their relatively unknown brands in front of customers who are more concerned with value and reviews than name recognition.

Many customers now actively search for products that match their expectations and price points, and they’re no longer afraid to take chances on lesser-known brands. Amazon has helped them find great products in the past, so they continue to trust what they see on the site.

That openness in terms of brand preference will only grow in coming years, especially as Gen Z shoppers — digital natives who have grown up with phones in their hands and the Web as their shopping mall — build careers and buying power.

In an increasingly competitive e-commerce environment, companies that take advantage of Amazon’s tools and data can anticipate when and how to get customers’ attention. This takes both the marketers’ ability to identify trends and opportunities, and a degree of organizational agility to act on them quickly and effectively. Brands that can execute here more often will move to the front of the checkout line, and better position themselves for the future of shopping.

Alasdair McLean-Foreman is CEO of Teikametrics, a leading retail optimization platform (ROP) that empowers third-party sellers with data science and machine learning to maximize profits from Amazon advertising.

Harnessing Data Lakes for E-Commerce Business Growth

There were 5,524 store closures in the United States alone last year. There is no doubt that the retail industry increasingly is moving to e-commerce.

For mid-sized retail companies, this trend can be a major opportunity to gain market share in their local areas and continue to grow in an industry dominated by Amazon and other giant retailers.

However, this growth requires a strong digital transformation strategy, and mid-sized retail companies in general aren’t showing much movement in this area.

Despite talk about the importance of data science, few companies really are pushing new technologies and practices as a way to gain a competitive advantage. Instead, business analysts appear content to generate micro-strategy reports and avoid any major digital transformation.

Luckily, mid-sized e-commerce-only companies appear to be the exception.

Adopting an innovative, software company mindset, those retailers aren’t afraid to revamp their data infrastructure and take advantage of new technology. They are investing heavily in data lakes, machine learning and data analysis to stay ahead of the curve.

Data lakes have been a powerful tool for more technology-focused companies for years, for their ability to store, sort and analyze structured and unstructured data from a variety of sources in a single database.

Data lakes also allow data scientists to run custom queries on the data that would not be possible with more structured data storage and analytics tools. Now, e-commerce companies are taking advantage of the ability to create a richer, more scalable and customizable data infrastructure.

E-Commerce Adopts a Software Company Mindset

In the “retail apocalypse,” most mid-sized retailers find themselves in the same spot. They all feel pressure from the enterprise retailers, they are all relatively cash-strapped, and they all understand the value of data science.

Using data can help retailers with price optimization, inventory management and fraud detection, to start. However, not all companies are moving toward a position where they are able to take advantage of these benefits.

Unlike other retailers, many e-commerce companies are choosing to think like software companies in order to restructure their business and infrastructure. Software companies have a willingness to throw out what isn’t working and restructure their organization and data infrastructure to better take advantage of new technology.

Access to flexible, agile data forms, such as data lakes, can bring serious value to a digital transformation strategy.

Unlike traditional retailers that hold on to their existing mindset when it comes to infrastructure investments, personnel and digital strategy, e-commerce companies are thriving by embracing new technology.

Following are several tools e-commerce companies that adopt this mindset can use to harness data lakes effectively for business growth:

  • Advanced Machine Learning and Data Analysis: E-commerce companies have large and diverse data sets to pull from for machine learning and data analysis. Data lakes allow them to draw data from wider data sets and queries in new ways for deeper analysis and more artificial intelligence applications. With these storage and processing environments, e-commerce IT teams have access to machine learning, ETL (extract, transform, load), schema-on-read querying capabilities, and more analysis tools to provide a competitive advantage.
  • Flexible Data Models: The e-commerce companies seeing the most benefit from data lakes are those with the resources necessary to build data models to suit their specific needs. Data lakes allow data scientists to innovate and write schema with very few restrictions on what can be done. Combining data and running models that can’t be found in traditional data analysis tools is where companies draw significant benefit. Even more important, these models can be built and customized for each department and use case. Sharing models across departments and providing teams with the tools necessary to rework and modify models to suit each specific case is crucial.
  • Scalable Data Science: Data lakes make it extremely easy for growing e-commerce companies to scale up their data storage and processing needs quickly as they grow. Choosing a cloud-based data lake solution makes it even more efficient to immediately scale to fit the business needs.

Data Lakes Challenges for E-Commerce

Clearly, many e-commerce businesses understand the benefits available with data lakes. Unfortunately, not all companies are seeing these benefits. The biggest reason for this is that taking advantage of data analytics and data lakes can’t happen in an IT vacuum. It requires a complete data transformation across the entire organization where everyone buys into the goals and value of data science.

The other main reason is many companies take the wrong approach when building a data lake strategy.

There are three challenges e-commerce companies must overcome to reap the benefits of data lakes.

1. Need for Departmental Silos

One of the benefits of data lakes is the ability to store data in an unstructured way, which allows everyone in the organization to access data from any source across departments and job functions. However, this complete lack of structure can turn your data lake into a data swamp that no department is able to make valuable use of, because it is simply too difficult to run queries and find the data most relevant to them.

The fact is, most centralized data lake initiatives fail because they are centralized. Most of the departments that need access to this data don’t have the technical knowledge or ability to sort through it. The answer lies in the technology of Software as a Service models that would enable them to build a network of mini-data lakes (also called “data pools”) to support this multitude of data teams, without having to move data or force everybody into the same standards.

These multicloud, interconnected mini-data lakes provide the benefits of a traditional data lake while allowing each branch and department to create their own data models that fit their specific needs and draw from the data most important to them.

While wide data availability is a benefit of traditional data lakes, data pools provide the same availability with siloes to make it more efficient to access the data most relevant to that specific department. This added silo works to provide a more efficient, stable and fast data environment.

2. Lack of Clear Use Cases

Big data has endless potential to help improve retail. From using machine learning for product recommendations and assortment optimization to personalized marketing and inventory management, the use cases span across the entire organization.

However, building a data lake doesn’t unlock all of these great initiatives automatically. Seeing data lakes as a silver bullet can lead to failure if you build a powerful engine that has nothing to support it.

E-commerce companies that succeed with data lakes go into the project with a clear understanding of what they want the data lake to achieve for their organization. This helps structure and build the data lakes and data pools to suit those specific needs. Your IT team can prioritize specific queries and schema based on these goals and ensure they work with existing technology in the organization.

Make sure your organization isn’t approaching digital transformation purely to seem like an innovative software company. You need to be working toward specific goals that will have a real impact on your company and the direction you plan to head. Then a data lake strategy can be used to support that overall data strategy.

3. Demand for Technical Expertise

Another major barrier to e-commerce companies seeing the benefits of data lakes is the cost and expertise required to build a data lake infrastructure. Creating a data lake and building the custom schema required to benefit fully does require specialized knowledge that many companies don’t have access to — no matter how much they adopt the software company mindset.

Data Lake as a Service solutions have emerged to answer this need and provide a simplified, cloud-based data lake option. These Infrastructure as a Service options provide not only a less expensive and time-intensive option for setting up a data lake, but also much more scalability and flexibility in deployment options.

These solutions also provide more tools for branches and departments to leverage mini-data lakes without relying on data engineers to build custom data models. Giving more power to each department allows each individual branch to operate based on its own intel and needs. Rather than relying on a centralized data science team that doesn’t have a full understanding of the specific demands of marketing, operations, etc., each team is able to steer its own data lake strategy.

No matter what industry you are in, data teams are software teams. By changing your thinking and allowing your e-commerce company to structure its personnel and its mindset to look more like a software company, you open up endless opportunities to take more advantage of your data.

It can be difficult to make major changes to a company that has been around for decades or more. Hiring data scientists and making the IT department a more significant part of your organization could be jarring. However, that’s what digital transformation requires.

The e-commerce companies that are willing to change and adopt a more agile, data-driven strategy will thrive in the new digital landscape.

Alex Bordei is the VP of product and engineering at Lentiq, offering a multicloud, production-scale Data Lake as a Service platform.