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Cyber Monday: Big Day for Shoppers, Bigger for Data Scientists

By Caroline Brooks

Move over, Black Friday. Cyber Monday has surpassed the day-after-Thanksgiving as the day consumers find the best shopping deals, according to CBS News. Just last year Cyber Monday sales surpassed estimates to reach $3.1 billion, up almost 21 percent from the year before. But shoppers aren’t the only ones uncovering information on this digital-holiday.

Online retailers outsource data scientists for months to map users’ online site traffic, shopping trends, and digital behavior. This not only helps retailers shape their deal offerings for Cyber Monday, but also their targeted advertising strategies for months to follow. These scientists mine for data in everything—from your searches to your mouse-clicks and movement along a web page.

Anjana Susarla
Anjana Susarla, the Broad College of Business’ resident expert on big data trends.

To get a better idea of Big Data’s big day on Cyber Monday, we went to Anjana Susarla, Broad College of Business’ resident expert of information systems cloud computing, social media, and big data analytics in the Accounting and Information Systems department. Here’s what she has to say about what these data scientists find, and what it means for you on Cyber Monday…and beyond.

 How early do online retailers start tracking user data to target Cyber Monday deals?

Online retailers have fairly detailed data of purchasing patterns based on prior years and also based on shopping trends in the fall. Most retailers also collect detailed data from November and December and use it for the next year’s shopping season. Now that Cyber Monday sales are much larger than that of Black Friday, retailers use fairly sophisticated real-time tracking to continuously update their understanding of what users want

What kind of data do data analysts/miner capture on the day itself?

They use detailed data about what customers browse online, what sort of promotions and offers are more appealing to customers etc. In addition, some companies also combine data from purchases from brick and mortar stores with online shopping data to create a more holistic view of the customer. Companies also use predictive analytics to understand if something is a quick fad, or will be a more lasting

Are there any concerns online shoppers should have about the data collected on seemingly “safe” websites?

Shoppers are not always aware of the privacy issues. While it may appear that Cyber Monday poses more invasion of privacy, most of the data collected about shoppers is not much different from what is collected on Black Friday. At the same time, there are problems such as identity theft and phishing that consumers may not be aware of. Some resources for customers are StopThinkConnect.org maintained by the Department of Homeland Security as well as StaySafeOnline.org maintained by the National Cyber Security Alliance.

From a data perspective, what do you think is the most valuable takeaway from Cyber Monday?

Cyber Monday shows the importance of having a synchronized offline + online strategy. In recent years, this also marks the importance of mobile commerce as customers switch to more mobile devices.

 


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