The Importance Of Data In Business: Making Informed Decisions
You’re creating data from the moment you wake up after logging six hours and thirty-eight minutes of sleep on your fitness tracker until you fall asleep and miss the last half of the show you’re binge-watching. According to the latest estimates, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created each day. This massive amount of data is the fuel that drives the global economy, and it’s hard to overstate the importance of data in business.
Data drives almost every decision modern businesses make, from when to hire more employees to the background color of their banner ad. We’re in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where constant connectivity and embedded systems create data points from every digital interaction. Businesses can use these data points to drive effective strategies, allowing them to gain a competitive edge by increasing productivity and profits and decreasing costs. You can use the table of contents to navigate the article.
The Era of Big Data
Big data is far more powerful than the analytics of the past. In the early days of broadcasting, for instance, companies could only track your viewing habits if you had an Audimeter (audience meter) installed on your television. This little box was attached to your TV and would record all shows watched. Once a week, if you were one of the “Neilson families,” you’d mail this back to the company so they could gather data about the most popular shows.
Now, that seems impossibly antiquated. Streaming companies gather data on what shows you watch, how long you watched them for, what you watched before and after a particular show, and more, without you ever having to make a trip to the post office. This type of transformation has affected every industry. Metrics that were once difficult or impossible to collect are now transmitted automatically, to the point that we’re practically drowning in data. The era of big data has created a tremendous volume of data and a wide variety of data types processed at incredible speeds.
Why Is Data So Important?
Data allows you to see connections that may not otherwise be apparent. Companies can use data to operate more efficiently, decrease production costs, improve customer service, design better products, and more. Public health agencies can use data to help prevent diseases, illnesses, and accidents. Governments can use data to improve traffic congestion and better deliver city services.
There’s practically no end to the insights that can be gleaned from data. Data allows you to understand the state of your business, including what’s working and what’s not. For example, you can find out what your customers are saying about your products and competitors’ products when they’re most likely to buy them, what specific language most resonates with them, and which ad campaigns are more effective.
Data allows you to target your ideal customers without wasting money advertising to people with no interest in your product. You can streamline many operating costs by understanding where to spend your money for maximum results.
The Importance of Data for Decision Making
Although you might come up with a few winning ideas when you use your intuition to make decisions, using data will give you the power to make winning decisions regularly. You don’t need to wait for hunches or inspiration. Some of the most important benefits of making decisions with data and business intelligence include:
Making decisions based on up-to-the-minute information can increase your operational efficiency and reduce costs. You can use data to find out where you’re wasting money. For example, you may be spending a lot of money on features or services that no one wants. Tracking your data will also show you where you should redirect resources for a better ROI.
You’ll probably take a reactive approach as you implement more data into your business strategy. For example, you’ll notice that your marketing campaign isn’t achieving the desired results, so you’ll change your plan. As you become more experienced with data analytics, you’ll learn to use your data more proactively. You may start incorporating data analysis into new product research, for example, to offer features your competitors don’t.
Unlike when you make decisions based on intuition, you can be confident in decisions you make based on data. Data also allows you to evaluate your choices and change course if needed. You can benchmark your starting point, compare your results and decide if your strategy was sound. Data is logical and factual in a way that hunches aren’t.
The Importance of Data Collection
Collecting the right kind of data is vital to your business’ success. You need to collect your internal data and data related to your market and industry. Data is valuable in its own right and is considered an asset when valuing businesses. Although you can buy data, it almost always will never be as valuable as the data you collect yourself.
You can get exactly what you need when you collect your own data. If you’re doing market research, you can research the most relevant variables to your company and product. Data you collect yourself is also not as stale as data that’s been collected, analyzed, and packaged for sale. When you buy data, it may be months old, while your data can be immediate.
You’ll want to implement a multipronged approach to data collection. You may well have some data collection processes built into your existing website. You probably collect data on your customers by having them fill out a checkout form and capturing their email addresses. You can also collect data about your customers’ preferences and experiences by sending them surveys, but this doesn’t always give good quality data. Many people are busy or just don’t like filling out surveys.
People are unlikely to give you their data without sufficient incentive. You can offer a freebie that people in your field would find appealing, but another alternative is collecting freely available data. People who don’t necessarily want to fill out your survey are already sharing their opinions in their social media posts.
With web scraping, you can mine the treasure trove of data that people happily share every day. Web scraping is the process of using a computer program, also called a bot, to automatically collect publicly available data from websites. We’ll dive deeper into everything you need to know about web scraping in another section, but for now, just know it allows you to collect almost any kind of data that’s in the public domain.
Before you start collecting data, you should consider the following questions, both to make the process easier and to be sure you’re collecting data ethically:
- What data are you collecting?
- How are you collecting the data?
- How do you plan to use the data?
Importance of Data in Planning
When you’re collecting data for your business, you want to collect high-quality data. You can’t make good decisions based on flawed data. Data can be poor quality for several different reasons, including:
- Inconsistent formatting
- Migration mistakes
- Old data
- Inaccurate data
Using bad data can harm your business. Some ramifications of making decisions based on poor-quality data are:
Missing out on opportunities
One of the biggest advantages of analyzing data is discovering trends so you can find new opportunities. If you’re using inaccurate, incomplete, or stale data, you may not see trends or find trends where there are none. Missing out on new opportunities may limit your ability to expand and grow. Worse, you may lose out to your competitors with better data.
Bad strategic decisions
Data drives business strategy at the highest level. However, using outdated or inaccurate data to make higher-order strategic decisions will cause you to make bad decisions. While making data-driven decisions is the best way to steer your business, those decisions must be made with good data.
Bad data can cause you to make costly mistakes. In addition to missed opportunities, you may waste money on marketing strategies that don’t work or channel your resources in the wrong direction.
Damage to your brand
Data management is highly regulated, particularly with data you collect from customers. Noncompliance with state, federal, and international regulations can have serious consequences, including hefty fines and criminal prosecution. Even if you aren’t hit with fines or penalties, bad data management can damage your customers’ trust in you.
Many businesses use data to determine how to optimize their processes. For instance, you might decide how many employees you need to provide adequate coverage. If your data isn’t giving you an accurate picture, you may end up scheduling too many people, or you may end up short-staffed. Either way, inefficiencies can cost you money, time, and other resources.
Why High-Quality Data Collection Is Important
Before collecting data, make sure you’re gathering the type of data you need. Collecting data from middle-aged men when your ideal customers are teenage girls won’t give you the insights that you need. Set the parameters so that you know the data you’re gathering is relevant to your customers.
Your data also needs to be recent. Old data won’t give you cutting-edge insights. Gaining insights from real-time data is one of the biggest benefits of web scraping your own data. Don’t waste that competitive advantage by scraping and analyzing old data.
Once you’ve collected your data, you need to clean it before analyzing it. You want to filter out any data that is incomplete, inaccurate, poorly formatted, irrelevant, or may otherwise negatively impact your analysis.
Set data standards so everyone in your organization is on the same page regarding how data is collected, handled, stored, and destroyed. The procedures will vary based on how your organization collects and uses data, but they should be transparent and shared among departments. Data sharing is important to your business’ growth, and formalizing procedures can help you share your data more effectively.
Some companies only want data shared with a few decision-makers. While that is a valid option and may be necessary in cases of confidential data, empowering all of your employees to apply business intelligence can give them the insights they need to do their jobs better.
Corporate Data Strategy: The Importance of Data in Business
Data can serve many purposes in your business. You may want to use it to drive your marketing strategy or product development, and you may even be interested in data as a primary business function. Data can increase the value of your business, not only by driving smart decisions that will ramp up your profitability but also by becoming an asset in and of itself.
The first step in implementing an effective data strategy is defining your objectives. Setting goals will give you a starting point while allowing you to stay flexible and quickly adapt to opportunities and threats you discover in your data analysis.
Regardless of how you want to use data to add value to your organization, you should start with a comprehensive strategy. Although you can’t predict the future, start with where you think analyzing data will serve you best right now. You’ll learn as you go along and adjust your strategy, but having a plan from the start will help you get where you’re going faster.
Bringing together stakeholders to outline a corporate data strategy will allow you to:
- Build a solid data management system
- Cut down on errors and inaccuracies from inefficient data collection practices
- Improve the quality of the data you collect
- Quickly scale and deploy data solutions
The Importance of Ethical Data Collection
While data is a powerful tool for the right uses, it can also be misused in the wrong hands. Data misuse can lead to severe financial and legal consequences. Many different federal and state laws govern data handling, but those are outside the scope of this article. We’ll cover ethical practices for collecting publicly available data through web scraping.
When collecting data via web scraping, the biggest potential for harm is to the website you’re scraping. To minimize your impact, you should do the following:
Check the API
The first thing you should do when you’re getting ready to scrape a website is to check to see if it has an API. Many websites with large amounts of data offer APIs to allow access to their data and avoid overtaxing their servers. APIs are a more efficient way to collect data than web scraping. If a website offers the data you need via an API, use it instead of scraping.
Identify yourself in a user agent string
A user agent string is sent with a request and provides identifying information about your device and browser. Including information in your user agent string that lets a site know why you’re scraping data can prevent concerns about nefarious use. Not everyone who scrapes a site has pure intentions, so it can raise red flags for site administrators.
Scrape at a reasonable rate
One of the significant benefits of using a web scraper is that it can collect data much faster than any human can. However, sending too many requests too quickly can overload a server and cause it to crash. Worse, malicious actors can launch a distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) attack by flooding a server with traffic to block access to legitimate users.
Sending requests as fast as your scraper can go may cause a website administrator to think their site is under attack. To avoid this, program your scraper to space out requests. It will still collect your data rapidly without consuming too many of the server’s resources.
Scrape during off-hours
Time your scraper to work when the website is likely to have the least traffic, such as in the middle of the night. By scraping when the website isn’t busy, you’ll avoid tying up the servers when visitors need them most.
Only collect the data you need
It can be tempting to hoard data just in case it might come in handy. However, with data being created at the rate of 2.5 quintillion bytes per day, it’s not necessary. Collecting data you don’t need is wasteful, expensive, and bad data management.
Work with ethical partners
When you’re web scraping, you’ll need to work with partners to provide the tools you’ll need, such as proxies. Although proxies are ethical and aboveboard when used correctly, they’ve long been associated with gray and black-hat uses by bad actors. Working with an ethical proxy provider like Rayobyte will ensure your company isn’t associated with unethical activities.
What Is Web Scraping for Business Data?
A web scraper is an automated script that extracts data from a website and exports it into a readable format such as a CSV or JSON file. Websites encode their data into HTML. When you program a web scraper, you tell it what data you want to extract based on the HTML tags. The web scraper then parses the HTML to find your desired code.
Although you could technically scrape a website manually by copying and pasting it into a spreadsheet, using a web scraper automates the process and makes it much faster. A web scraper can accomplish in minutes what would take you weeks.
Once you’ve extracted the data, you’ll be able to analyze it to look for patterns and connections you can use to glean insights into your daily business operations and spot trends early enough to act on them.
Use Cases for Data and Business Intelligence
Every industry can use data to drive better decisions. From farmers trying to increase their yield to sneaker resellers picking the best colorway to stock, there’s no end to the possible applications of data analysis in business and the importance of data for an organization. Here are some of the most common use cases for web scraping in business:
No matter what you’re selling, you need to know how much similar products or services go for in your area. Even if you don’t plan to compete on price, you still need to know the market value. If you’re selling for significantly more than most other businesses in your area, you can address that in your marketing.
Customers are often willing to pay more for a product or service if there’s a reason for the premium. For instance, your car-detailing service can charge more if you offer pickup and drop-off services so you can clean cars while people are working. If you’re charging more for the same product and people don’t know why they’ll probably just go with the cheaper option.
Web scraping allows you to monitor competitors’ prices and track changes over time. If you are competing on price, you’ll be able to adjust your prices using real-time data.
Understanding your customers is crucial to your company’s success. When you know your customers’ habits, likes, dislikes, communication styles, and pain points, you can create effective marketing that speaks directly to them. The more you know about your customers, the more you can relate to them. You’ll be able to advertise in places that will reach them and speak in the language that resonates with them.
Using a web scraper will allow you to find out what your customers are talking about on social media, what products they’re buying, what’s driving them crazy, and what they love. This data is useful for formulating a marketing strategy and is also invaluable for product development. You don’t have to come up with an idea for a new product or service; your customers will tell you what they want.
Prices for airfare and hotels are constantly changing. Using web scraping for travel aggregation allows you to stay on top of current prices and compare them to historical trends. If you’re working in the travel industry or just trying to get the best price on a flight, web scraping puts the power of data in your hands. When you’re sitting on a plane, you won’t have to wonder if you paid twice as much for your ticket as the person sitting next to you.
Staying on top of what people say about your brand gives you feedback about what you’re doing right and lets you get ahead of negative publicity before you go viral for the wrong reasons. People expect instant feedback when they reach out to a brand on social media, and if you let a dissatisfied customer’s post sit unanswered, it looks like you don’t care.
On the other hand, you can turn a dissatisfied customer into a loyal fan by responding promptly to their concerns. Even better, it happens in front of a large audience. If your customer service rep effectively addresses a customer complaint in the store, you have one satisfied customer. If you effectively manage a customer complaint on social media, you have one satisfied customer and possibly thousands of people watching who will remember how you handled it.
Your search engine rankings can be a huge sales driver in today’s digital-first business landscape. Scraping data is the most effective way to monitor keyword trends and strategies. You can also identify any technical issues with your website that may be interfering with your SEO. You can hone in on which strategies are working most effectively for the highest-ranking sites in your field and share that data with your marketing team.
Tools of Data Collection
When you’re ready to start collecting your own data, you’ll need some tools to help. While you won’t need much, there are some indispensable items, including:
A web scraper
If you know how to code, making your own is not too complicated. However, you can buy easy-to-use, feature-rich options like Scraping Robot. With Scraping Robot, you can get the exact information you need from almost any website.
You won’t have to worry about all the headaches that come with scraping, like proxy management and rotation, server management, browser scalability, CAPTCHA solving, and looking out for new anti-scraping updates from target websites. There are no hidden fees, monthly costs, or complicated pricing tiers. In addition, they have a reliable support system and 24/7 customer assistance! It’s also regularly updated with solutions to new anti-scraping technologies. So you can focus on getting the valuable data you need for your business.
Most websites employ anti-scraping software that can block your scraper as soon as it starts sending multiple requests from the same IP address. Because web scrapers send requests so much faster than regular users, it’s easy for anti-bot software to detect and block them. To avoid getting blocked, you’ll need to use IP addresses. In the next section, we’ll go into more detail and help you decide which type of proxy is best for you.
Proxies for Data Collection and Analysis
Proxies can be classified in many ways and may fit into multiple categories. The best type for you will depend on several factors, and we’ll discuss the pros and cons of each.
Before we jump into types of proxies, let’s talk about what a proxy is. A proxy, technically a proxy IP address, is an IP address that disguises your actual IP address. People may want to shield their IP addresses for many reasons, such as increasing their security or anonymity while surfing the web.
Most users collecting data do it purely as a matter of practicality. Using a proxy IP allows you to avoid bot detectors while you scrape. A proxy server is an intermediary between the website you’re visiting and your device. Your device will send a request to the proxy server, and the proxy will attach a new IP address to the request and then send it to the website. The website will send it back to the proxy server, which will send it back to you.
Public proxies are free. Sounds great, right? Well, unfortunately not. Most public proxies don’t follow the latest security protocols. They expose your data in transit and are an easy target for bad actors. Hackers sometimes set up public proxies to gain access to your device so they can install malware.
In addition to being a severe security risk, public proxies are usually so overcrowded that they’re virtually useless. The servers have so much traffic that they’re bloated and slow, making them ineffective for data collection.
Finally, public proxies are prone to the “bad neighbor effect.” This occurs when you share an IP address with someone, and they get blocked from a website. Because websites block users based on IP address, you’re blocked as well.
Although public proxies are technically shared proxies, in this instance, we’re talking about private proxies that are shared. You buy these proxies from a proxy provider but have to share them with other users. These are slightly more secure because they’re private proxies, and there is at least one gate-keeping level before they can be used.
However, anytime you share proxies with other users, you will be exposed to the same issues you’d face with public proxies. They’re typically crowded, slow, and more insecure.
Dedicated proxies are reserved for your use, and no one else will be using the same IP address as you. Dedicated proxies should follow the most recent security protocols if you purchase them from a reliable proxy provider. You don’t have to worry about the bad neighbor effect because no one else is using the proxies.
Semi-dedicated proxies are shared with just one or two other users, which can be a good option under certain conditions. You’ll want to make sure you’re buying them from a reliable and ethical proxy provider who vets their clients. If you don’t trust your proxy provider or the users with whom you may be sharing them, semi-dedicated proxies aren’t for you.
Semi-dedicated proxies can be a great compromise if your proxy provider has high standards, screens their clients, and monitors usage. They’re cheaper than dedicated proxies and aren’t prone to the security and performance issues of shared proxies. At Rayobyte, we vet all of our customers to make sure their use cases are valid and ethical. You don’t have to worry about being associated with any questionable practices.
Data center proxies
Data center proxies originate in data centers. They’re plentiful and cheap. They’re also fast, so they can be a great option for gaming or other use cases that would suffer because of lag time. However, they’re not optimal for data collecting via web scraping. The main problem with using data center proxies for web scraping is that it’s easy to tell they’re data center proxies.
Most people don’t use data center proxies to access the internet. Some websites block all data center proxies, so your scraping project will never get off the ground. Other websites allow data center proxies, but if they detect bot-like behavior, they’ll ban the entire subnet instead of just one IP address. If you decide to use data center proxies for web scraping, you’ll want to pick a proxy provider that offers a lot of diversity and redundancy to avoid proxy bans.
Residential proxies are issued by internet service providers (ISPs) to their customers. Most people access the internet through residential IP addresses. These proxies have the most authority, and websites don’t block them without reason. They don’t want to risk blocking actual users, although they will block residential IP addresses acting like bots.
Because residential proxies have to be obtained directly from end-users, ethical proxy providers have to take extra steps to ensure that they aren’t negatively affected when their IP address is used. Unfortunately, many proxy providers engage in unethical behavior when sourcing residential proxies, such as burying their terms of service in tiny text to confuse users. But not Rayobyte.
At Rayobyte, we set the industry standard for ethical residential proxy sourcing. We always ensure our end users are fully informed and compensated for using their IP addresses. They can revoke their approval at any time and only use their IP addresses if they’re not using them and their devices are adequately charged or plugged in.
Our commitment to ethics doesn’t stop at how we acquire residential proxies. We also vet our customers. There’s no option for buying our residential proxies directly on our website. Potential buyers must demonstrate that their use case is legitimate before we sell them residential proxies. After purchasing our residential proxies, we continue to monitor their usage for any signs of illegal or unethical use.
Our residential proxies help you avoid CAPTCHAs, allow you to target countries, cities, states, and regions, and offer unlimited concurrent connections. You’ll have a large pool of IPs, and each request will be sent with a unique IP address.
ISP proxies are like a cross between residential and data center proxies, the best of both proxy worlds. They’re hosted in a data center but are issued by ISPs, so they have the authority of residential proxies, and you get the fast speeds of a data center proxy without raising red flags! In addition, Rayobyte puts no limits on bandwidth or threads, meaning more significant savings for you. Rayobyte currently offers ISP proxies from the US, UK, and Germany.
To avoid getting blocked while web scraping, you need to use rotating proxies. Rotating proxies use a pool of proxies so you can attach a different IP address to each request. When your scraper sends out one hundred requests, each one will have a different IP address. It will appear as if one hundred different users are sending one request each instead of one user sending one hundred requests. Using rotating proxies allows your bot to appear more human. You’ll be able to avoid detection by anti-bot technology and scrape continuously.
People create data every day as they go about their lives. By harnessing the power of that data, you can make strategic decisions that can give your company a competitive edge. Although you probably have methods for collecting data from your existing companies, you don’t have to limit yourself to using internal data.
Web scraping allows you to collect publicly available data from almost any website. You can collect data on your target market even if they aren’t your customers yet. Scraping data lets you find out what your customers and potential customers want, how they feel, and how you can best communicate with them. Applying the trends and patterns in your data can help you make marketing, product development, and process efficiency decisions.
You’ll need several tools to scrape websites for data, including a web scraper and proxies. Since most websites have software designed to block bot activity, you’ll need proxies for your web scraper to function effectively. Proxies make your scraper look like a human user, so anti-bot software is less likely to detect it.
When choosing a proxy provider, look for an ethical one like Rayobyte to protect your brand’s reputation. We’re setting the standards for ethical proxy sourcing and usage in the industry. We understand the importance of data in business, and we’re happy to discuss our standards with you. We’re not only the most ethical proxy provider around, but we also give you the most reliable proxies on the planet. Reach out today to find out how we can help you reach your business goals.
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