Google’s list of products is extensive (Chrome, Maps, Analytics, etc.). Many of the services on that list are offered, at least to some extent, totally free. A lot of us use these every day without even thinking about what’s going on here. We love the convenience and free is always fantastic. What else is there to consider?
What Google is doing, though, isn’t simply about throwing us a bone. It’s about feeding paid media, the most profitable sector of its business. Paid media is obviously most effective and attractive when applied in conjunction with having an immense amount of information on the customer. So Google has used free to become a massive data company that paid media is reliant on using for effectiveness.
Now, what does this have to do with your e-commerce company? I mean, this is Google, you’re just trying to find a way to get off the ground. But it’s time to examine the Google playbook and determine what you must do to attain that all-important customer data. Your goal as an e-commerce company is to know as much about your customers as you possibly can. And if that’s not currently your goal, it needs to be. To get this done, it’s essential to start thinking like a data company.
For an example, let’s look at what beauty brand Skin Inc does with its “Skin Identity” feature. Skin Inc uses this to invite customers to build their own personalized profile around who they are and what products they want. Anyone can understand this helps a customer feel valued and is a great tool for building toward a greater customer lifetime value.
But this also allows Skin Inc to gain first-party data on its consumers, which is incredibly important to the long-term success of the brand. The brand can take that information and use it to build products for each customer now and etch out a place within their regular beauty collection. The full scope of all the data attained also provides a clear picture of what line of products to build next. It’s a prime example of thinking like a data company in order to have success as an e-commerce company.
This all starts on a very small scale. You’re not going to magically become Apple and build Safari. But one of the most important things to remember here is it just takes work and not strictly capital to succeed with a data mindset. Sure, you can move much faster if you have the capital, but it’s not a necessity. It just takes time, patience, and a lot of hustle.
It all starts with being a content company first — shoutout Gary V ;). The only thing you care about during that time is the consumer, not your product. You spend every day for two years with your ear to the ground, building a reputation and an audience. Eventually, you’ll be in a prime position to collect the first-party data your brand can use to thrive.
This may sound like a stupid decision in the short term. It’s natural for it to feel like you’re wasting time in this process. But this is about playing the long game. If you’re not interested in sustainability, don’t take this advice. Ultimately, the company that has the most data and thus a strong understanding of their customers is going to win.