Mystery shoppers are so 2000 and late. Web data is the future of e-commerce.

We sat down with Charmagne Cruz from Shopee, the leading e-commerce platform in Southeast Asia, to discuss how the online conglomerate uses public web data to drive forward the company’s success as well as carve out a large section of the Asian e-commerce market.
8 min read
Web Data powering e-commerce

Shopping in the 21st Century

Public web data has become the essential backbone of every e-commerce operation. And yes, I mean every… single… one of them.

From buyers to sellers to the platforms themselves, it has become evident that everyone relies on data — especially public web data — in some form or another to properly lead their decision-making processes through the intricacies of the ever-expanding online marketplace.

This is because web data is the mainstay for managing an openly free market, and without public web data it is impossible to compete within the current online market landscape.

For buyers, in its simplest form, web data allows consumers to find the best prices, deals, like products, etc.

For sellers, it lends the ability to properly benchmark themselves against their competition, perform price comparisons, discover new products, monitor consumer sentiment, avoid supply chain disruptions, find new marketing opportunities and come up with new innovations that actually address real-time consumer sentiments and demand.

For e-commerce platforms, data helps create the important connection between buyer and seller, as it helps these platforms better understand as well as anticipate market needs and future developments.

Now, with this in mind, it’s important to make the distinction that we have come a long way from the days of hiring mystery shoppers and manually going store to store to compile competitive insights — as companies like Walmart would do in the early 1990s, to ensure the superstore was always offering the best price in the area.

Imagine that process, and all that is involved. Take a moment, I’ll wait.

Now Walmart can do this in seconds, with a push of a button. That’s where we sit today.

Main idea: We have reached a point of full visibility.

E-commerce Butterfly Effect

Maintaining a focus on the evolution of the e-commerce platforms themselves, not only have they become a one-stop shop for online consumers, they have also effectively changed the way we seek out and buy commoditized products. 

This transformation has been decades in the making, and where we sit today is a by-product of long-standing data and public web data strategies that have incrementally improved the overall buying experience from top to bottom over time. 

Without the visibility data provides, e-commerce platforms would essentially be unable to keep up with the ebb and flow of the changes in online consumerism and would be completely disconnected from the full picture. 

Just think, a website that lists products for sale is a great idea and in the 2000s it would do well, but there is a reason Amazon and Shopee are household names, they use web data to strengthen their offerings, as well as their sellers, to meet the demands of the changing consumer.

E-commerce Data

E-commerce web data helps e-commerce platforms formulate insights around products, pricing, sales performance and their customers. 

Retailers and e-commerce platforms alike utilize this vital resource to better understand their market and performance, as well as the parallel actions of their competitors in order to learn how to drive further online sales and keep consumer eyes on their website.

Some of the main public web data points e-commerce platforms keep a focus on include:

  • Product data: Pricing, category, descriptions, seller/brand information, supplier details, keyword search trends, and product reviews.
  • Seller data: Product offerings, seller history, other platforms used, social media presence, brand sentiment and company details.
  • Store data: Web data on e-commerce competitors, such as offerings of like products, like sellers and seller success, product sales history, consumer sentiment, promotional content, and other relevant information.
  • Customer data: Location of purchase; buyer history; deals or promotions utilized; prices paid for products; type of products purchased.

Shopee at a Glance

To take a deeper dive into how public web data powers one of the leading e-commerce platforms in the world, we sat down with one of our customers, Charmagne Cruz, who serves as the head of Reporting & Analytics, Business Technologies, and Pricing at Shopee Philippines Inc., to explain the story of Shopee’s success.

As a background, Shopee is the leading e-commerce platform in Southeast Asia – Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan. 

It is a platform that tailors the buying experience towards the specific regions it serves, providing customers with an easy, secure and fast way to shop online through strong payment and logistical support.

Today, Shopee is used by tens of millions of users across Southeast Asia who visit the platform to list products or shop for deals online in a fun, free, and trusted way.

While Shopee mainly serves as an important connection between buyer and seller, the company aims to continually enhance its platform and become the region’s e-commerce destination of choice. It plans to do this via ongoing product optimization and localized user-centered strategies.

This adds a few layers to its service, helping consumers buy better and helping sellers gain more exposure for their products, both in a manner not seen by the majority of e-commerce platforms out there.

What Made and Still Makes Shopee a Success?

Obviously, we don’t exist in a silo. E-commerce goes far beyond our borders, and public web data provides access to the vital information that supports Shopee’s success.

For Shopee in particular, the company is investing heavily in trying to understand as well as anticipate market needs and future developments.

The company uses web data to learn more about its markets, consumer shopping trends, e-commerce competitors and so on, and it collects this information by leveraging data that is readily available on different public websites.

“Without this public data, we have no other way to access this information besides using inefficient processes, such as manually surveying these web data points, which will probably yield inaccurate data overall,” said Cruz.

“Now, in terms of sales, Shopee is the largest in the region and has created a dominant position in the market,” she added. “The prominence of the marketplace could be attributed to our efforts to really understand our markets, and this set of information has been vital to our success from the beginning.”

To power its analysis, Shopee uses Bright Data’s network to collect web data from e-commerce and public websites all across the globe. Furthermore, as the company continues to aggressively expand its operations into other markets, such as Latin America, it only expects its data needs to grow, and the use of Bright Data’s services to scale with it.

“As we continually expand into other countries, it’s important that we have the support of our data provider to move faster to address the data needs of all Shopee countries and branches,” Cruz explained.

“From my experience, what has been invaluable is the service that Bright Data provides, as it really tries to understand its customers,” she added. “Bright Data has helped us work through ideas of how to collect more web data to meet our growing needs, and through conversations with its support and development staff, we have been able to optimize many of our processes.

“With other data providers, I felt like they just wanted the business, but Bright Data is here to build a long-term relationship,” which has been a determining factor in our success and growth as an organization.

The Future of E-commerce Data

Following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, we saw a clear shift in online consumerism — welcoming a new breed of price-savvy consumers with a large appetite for ultra-convenience. 

Within the new normal, consumer expectations began to shift the way retailers conduct business, forcing companies to turn to innovation to meet the demands of the new consumer.

Now, as e-commerce penetration continues to advance at a steady pace, the need for important web data strategies will only begin to increase and more importantly evolve over time.

We saw first hand that many e-commerce retailers were able to breed success amid the pandemic by anticipating key changes in the market, as well as the momentous shift to the online marketplace, using insights gathered from public web data.

What was relevant a decade ago, and even a year ago, no longer rings true today. The world is changing, and we, as a society, are changing with it, from social structures to economies worldwide.

The question businesses eventually need to ask themselves is: Would you rather lead or follow?

The ones that have technology at their core, have really strong analytic capability, and have the right data will control the situation, lead the way, and leave a lasting mark on the economy.

The ‘old school,’ traditional retailers who rely on buying stock, marking it up, and customers coming to their websites — without any predictive strategy in place — will remain at the mercy and reliant on the innovation of their peers.

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