The Cat’s Out Of The Bag: How Real-Time e-Commerce Data Has Become Essential For Holistic Retail Solutions

A conversation with Tim Lam, National Technology Director at Advantage Solutions, on what it takes to power one of the most popular e-commerce solutions on the market, and why it’s so critical for online retailers today.
5 min read
How real-time e-commerce data has become essential for omnichannel retail solutions

With e-commerce competition at an all-time high, online retailers need to move extremely fast. In order to outpace their competitors, it has become essential for these companies to rely on real-time data, which can inform their understanding of the market as well as their most important business decisions on a day-to-day basis.

Last year, e-commerce sales increased 32.4% year over year; that number is likely destined to continue growing. This fast growth process, catalyzed by the pandemic lockdowns, brought plenty of new challenges to retail companies, which have had to address quick strategy pivots and an accelerated competition.

Through holistic retail, retailers can access and manage all existing channels in one single platform, ensuring a far better experience for customers than with the previous, now obsolete model — multichannel retail. However, that is not enough. Many e-commerce companies have also started relying on data-fueled tools that help them gain full control over their digital shelf to monitor products, customer sentiment and the general market landscape. These solutions heavily rely on the scraping of e-commerce-related data — including product ratings and reviews, search data (to monitor the position of their products), and product data (to ensure that all product names, descriptions and images are uniformly displayed).

We sat down with Tim Lam, National Technology Director at Advantage Solutions — where he manages an all-in-one eCommerce monitoring platform powered by Advantage Solutions — to discuss how his company uses Bright Data’s technology to fulfill its data collection needs for an optimal omnichannel solution.

What emerged from our conversation with Tim is that, thanks to Bright Data’s technology, his company is able to access so much of the right kinds of reliable online data that it can provide its customers with fully customized insights, specially tailored to each specific client’s needs — something that sets it apart from any other omnichannel solution out there today.

Can you tell us about Advantage Solutions?

Advantage Solutions is a leading business solutions provider offering data and technology-enabled omnichannel solutions for consumer goods manufacturers and retailers. We have offices throughout North America, and we service multinational, regional, and local manufacturers across the world. I am the Director of Technology for one of our brands, Canopy. We aggregate data to give our clients a better idea of what the retail and e-commerce landscapes look like for them, including customer reviews. Often retailers have their own portal, but we aggregate the data across multiple retail portals, so that they have a one-stop shop where they can access all the information they need.

How did the pandemic affect your business?

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, everyone started shopping online, so our business significantly grew. When brands were seeing only 1-3% of their revenue come from online sales, it wasn’t very valuable for them to spend time and resources on e-commerce; but now they understand that this is a growing market, and that if they invest more in it, they’ll see better results. As online retailers are getting more sales online, they need to make sure that their products are in stock and that they each have good descriptions and images online. Retailers also need to make sure they have enhanced content, displaying their products in the best possible light so they can convert views into sales.

How did you start collecting data with Bright Data?

When our company originally started Canopy, we were trying to gather data for our customers, and we quickly ran into blocks. Most of the time, these blocks were caused by the fact that we had traffic coming from one IP address. So, Canopy started working with a proxy company, but very quickly it used up all of their IP addresses and couldn’t reach the required data again.

About three years ago, we found Luminati Networks, now Bright Data, which has about 72 million IP addresses. There is a lot of availability through the Residential Network and the Data Center Network. Having access to so many IP addresses allowed us to get the data we needed. In late 2020, we also started using the Web Unlocker, which has been great for us.

What has your experience been with Bright Data so far?

My favorite thing about working with Bright Data is the effort they put into trying to figure out which headers we need. Having the ability to reach out and say, “Hey, we need to pass this header,” and having it turned around within a day or two with a custom header, is very valuable to us. Bright Data is not just a proxy network. We work with a team of talented engineers from Bright Data; I don’t know how many emails we’ve exchanged, but it’s been a great partnership. Due to the nature of our working with multiple sources of public data, there is always firefighting and there are always interruptions, and we work on these issues together with Bright Data’s engineers.

Do you plan to continue working with Bright Data in the future?

Looking ahead, we plan to continue finding the data that we believe our customers would be interested in seeing. Sometimes we run through the data, and we think: “Our customers would be interested in knowing this,” or “This is hurting our customers.” That’s what is going to set us apart from our competition that just aggregates data. We have different reports that we’ve put together that are fairly unique in the market and tailored to our customers’ unique needs.

Last week, for example, we were trying to collect 9 million page loads in three days. You cannot achieve that with one, two, or three IP addresses; you need many more. We plan to stick with Bright Data in the future to have access to all the IP addresses we need and, with that, continue to help our customers succeed with the support of the right data.