Sifting Through Big data

Product comparisons and reviews are obviously nothing new. Aussies have been enjoying the helpful and informative advice from organisations likeChoice for over 50 years. Many of these older organisations have been working hard to re-invent their business to take advantage of technology. Choice for example has invested greatly in their digital presence and content syndication.

To understand the future of retail we need to, as Clayton Christensen and Mark Suster put it, look where the puck is going. So rather than look at how older organisations like Choice are evolving I’d prefer to look at newer business and trends in the space.

Big Data

The term is a cliche but a relevent one. Social media has given everyone a soap box. People are constantly giving products reviews. The collective intelegance of the 4 + billion people using the internet are going to beat any group of journalists any publisher can collate no matter how prestigious, knowledgable or experienced, the wisdom of crowds will win out. The challenge is not getting people to give their opinion, the challenge is in collecting, sifting through, collating and presenting the ocean of opinions in a clear and useful way.


Descide is a revolutionary service that collects & collates user & expert reviews from countless review sites. It easily allows you to compare products and even does regression analysis to produce a price predictions – big fat geeky data right there!


This trend answers one consumer problem, ‘just tell me what to buy already’. Put people with good taste in charge, take away choice and make it simple, simple, simple. The interesting trend I’m seeing in this space is people pouring personality into their brands. This is the opposite of the cold, scientific ‘Big Data’ approach and is all about interesting people recommending things you would have never previously known about.


Bespok Post and Pop-Up Pantry are both curators, one of interesting manly goods, one of high-end gormet food at take-away prices. Both are chock-full of personality and utalise email as their primary activation with their customers.


Automation is a growing trend in low-purchase descision products. Major retailers like Amazon are offering their customers the ability to sign up for subscriptions for every-day house-hold items like toothpaste or shaving creme.


Man Packs is my favorite brand in this category… their personality is unbeatable and they are Girlfriend Approved – what more could you want?

New Revenue Models

This consumer need will open all sorts of new opportunities for companies to connect, offer value and find new revenue streams. One of my favorite examples is by Hotwire UX employee Melissa Matross. Melissa’s professional plight was to get rid of the banner advertising that Hotwire was displaying for additional revenue.

To overcome the issue she had to find a way to replace the revenue being generated by the advertising. Her solution was to replace the advertising banner with a widget that allowed Hotwire’s prices against their competitor sites.

This is completely counter-intuitive but drove confidence in the brand with users (directly attributed to their confidence in showing competitor prices) and drove more revenue than the advertising that it replaced (2000% increase over 3 years in fact) with no negative impact on Hotwire customer purchase behaviour.

See Melissa’s talk describing the case study here.

What’s Next?

My key take out from the trends being explored by these businesses is that you can’t expect to be relevant if you assume people’s shopping habbits remain the same as 20, 10, even 5 years ago. In order to remain relevant I’d highly recommend a healthy dose of experimentation that’s deeply rooted in analysis, iteration and validation – a process we call Informed Creative.

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