By - Or Lenchner, CEO, Luminati Networks

As businesses look back at a turbulent 2020 and focus on the requirements for business success in 2021, it is clear that data, and especially online data, should be at the heart of the conversation. During 2020 we saw more people move online than ever before - whether that was to shop, work or socialise cyberspace has never been so congested. This is a trend that will continue to grow as we move into 2021 and businesses need to use this mass migration to online services to their advantage to get ahead in the new year and beyond.

Increasing digital demand

Retail is one sector that was undoubtedly impacted by the global pandemic in 2020 with physical outlets forced to shut and ecommerce surging in popularity. Research by Luminati Networks found that online shopping will continue to increase, even once the pandemic is behind us. In fact, 61% of shoppers stated their shopping habits will predominantly be online after the pandemic, even including those in the over 60 age group. This highlights a monumental shift in demand for online services across the world and as a result an increasing amount of data will be created by digital consumers and retailers alike.

To benefit from the increased amount of data online, businesses need to collect and analyse the most impactful data that will improve the customer experience and increase growth. A key aspect of this will be the collection of publicly available online data, which will be pivotal in promoting competition. This includes information such as competitor pricing and competitive intelligence on how products or services are marketed. With more than half of shoppers (55%) using comparison sites to help them shop for the most attractive deal, this is one of the key differentiators for brands.

Knowledge is power

Viewing publicly available information from competitors may sound straightforward but they are wise to this and actively block these attempts. In a perfect world, companies would not fight to block public data collection attempts. On the contrary, they would make doing so easier, just as businesses today help Google and Bing crawl and catalogue their websites for their own benefit. However, data collection tools and platforms are now more commonplace and are vital to circumventing this and achieving a holistic view of the competitive landscape.

This is crucial because from groceries to flights, winning the business of savvy consumers in 2021 is key to success. Businesses must have a clear view in real-time of every move their competitors make and their consumers' demand shifts. Retailers need to be aware and respond quickly if a competitor selling a similar product drops their price by a couple of pounds to attract consumers who are using price comparison tools. Large retailers, travel providers, and many more sophisticated online businesses have perfected this ability, thanks to large-scale online data collection. By regularly collecting online data providers have ‘near live' view of the market and can adapt accordingly.

Data key to driving businesses forwards in 2021

This process isn't limited to large businesses. Some small and medium sized businesses that will be dipping their toes into ecommerce for the first time in 2021 need to be competitive in their domain. Now is the time for all retailers to future-proof processes and embrace the digital world now that consumers of all ages are showing a preference for online shopping. There can be no doubt that 2020 has caused the retail landscape to change, but this has presented a golden opportunity to retailers. To take this opportunity retailers must be guided by online data and the insights it provides. Data is being created by every action taken online. The faster retailers can collect, adapt, and respond to the latest trends, the more successful they will be.