Big Data is Reshaping Commerce, as eBay Inc. Innovates

eBay Inc. Staff

Big Data is big news. New tools for mining and analyzing data are helping companies of all sizes yield better insights into customer needs and improve personalization online and offline. The result is a dramatic shift in commerce and customer-centricity.

How dramatically are cutting-edge Big Data technologies impacting commerce and business? As GigaOM has reported, “Somewhere, somehow, everyone surfing the web or using a mobile app is benefiting from Big Data.  Big Data and data science are already being rolled into many web and mobile applications, from deciding which products to buy to figuring out your long lost relatives.”

Google is famous for leveraging its MapReduce technology for processing large data sets to yield efficient online search results.  Meanwhile, the open source Hadoop software framework is another spin on how MapReduce works, and is helping companies like eBay Inc. and Amazon yield insights and efficiencies from very large data sets.

“Conventional database management tools such as Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) do not have the capability to manage surging volumes of unstructured data,” noted a July report from Transparency Market Research. “This has led to the development of various tools and technologies to manage Big Data.” 

Online commerce companies and retailers now collect far more information than ever before, and a new breed of data-centric experts is helping them manage product and customer data. For example, in April eBay announced that it hired Zoher Karu as its first Vice President of Customer Optimization and Data. 

Karu’s appointment signified “the company’s efforts to drive data-driven innovation, delivering a personalized and intuitive omnichannel shopping experience to customers around the world,” said Marketplaces President Devin Wenig.

eBay Inc. has steadily increased its focus on cutting-edge data crunching and search tools in recent years, and the effort is paying off.  For example, the company has delivered a completely overhauled search engine on, dubbed Cassini, which Wired magazine called a ”new engine for a new identity.”

“More than 90 percent of [eBay] sales start with a search on the site,” Wenig noted in a Wired magazine report on the company’s new Cassini search technology. 

Traditional retailers are also increasingly leveraging Big Data tools. “A retailer using Big Data to the full could increase its operating margin by more than 60 percent,” McKinsey & Company reported, referring to Big Data as “the next frontier for innovation, competition and productivity.”

The United States government, too, grasps the relationship between new data analysis tools and a healthy business environment. In May, the White House announced a plan to make government data more accessible to businesses and individuals. “Starting today, we’re making even more government data available online, which will help launch even more new startups,” President Obama said in the announcement.

In the future, “combining data from multiple sources will yield fresh insights,” The Economist recently noted. Over the next several years, Big Data technologies and analytics trends will forever change the commerce landscape, online and offline.