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GUEST COMMENT From darkness into light: why an IPPN delivers data-gathering ecommerce success

The internet has opened up a world of shopping opportunity for consumers, but it’s also resulted in a fiercely contested ecommerce market. Or Lenchner, CEO of Luminati, discusses the challenges of obtaining real-time, accurate, competitive data in this environment, and why an IP proxy network (IPPN) can restore transparency and openness to the web, to benefit consumers worldwide.

How can brands win the hearts of online shoppers? Most often, it’s through their wallets, meaning sales and success are predicated on a brand’s ability to price its products competitively. This means obtaining one thing: the right kind of data. How? By leveraging the power of millions of consumers in order to see a fully transparent internet.

Before buying, most of us will browse the internet to find the best deals for the best products. In order for retailers to provide consumers with those deals, they must also be able to access this kind of data. Visiting competitors’ websites to accurately view and compare the content displayed here allows retailers to optimise their own pricing and offers. After all, if the same item is offered to a shopper from the same region, at two different prices – we know where that shopper’s heart will take them!

The value of customer experience

Money isn’t always everything – a rich catalogue and strong branding also contribute to success and sales in ecommerce. A brand must make sure that, whatever device a shopper is browsing on and wherever in the world they’re browsing, they can easily spot products and offers that are relevant to them and their location. As well (of course!) as being displayed and priced favourably compared with local competition.

Grabbing and maintaining shopper engagement also means delivering a customer experience which is seamless and convenient. So, a shopper browsing on their smartphone in New York, for example, must be able to access and navigate a brand’s website in a similar fashion to someone using a PC at their office desk in Barcelona.

Almost two-thirds of consumers say that the speed of page loads impacts buying decisions. As such, waiting for a site to load, or browsing one that’s not optimised for a device or region, can easily result in a shopper defecting to your competitor’s site. Brands must therefore be able to test their websites as if they were both the shopper in New York and the shopper in Barcelona – as well as its millions of customers all over the world. Without a technical solution, this is quite some feat!

Opaque and misleading

What’s holding brands back from ecommerce success? Well, the open, transparent internet that shoppers enjoy has become a somewhat opaque and misleading domain for many online retailers. While consumers can browse the web at will, if a brand tries to visit the site of a competitor it’s likely that it will be quickly identified and have its access blocked, or else be misled by incorrect information. The competitor might hike up the prices it displays to the visiting brand, for example. Identification methods are easy to implement, and can pinpoint internet users according to their geo-location and IP address.

Global brands must remain relevant, offer competitive pricing and feature rich and attractive catalogues which appeal to consumers in every global market they’re selling to. But how can they collect the kind of data that’s freely visible to consumers – and essential for their business – if their own view of the web is distorted and opaque? How can they browse freely and anonymously and gather accurate data to better serve their shoppers? And how can they test and view their own digital presence as if they were their own consumers, in multiple global territories?
One word: transparency. One acronym: IPPN. Before we get there though, let’s look at one of the most common traps that brands fall into, one which demonstrates why IPPN is so much more than just IP addresses.

The IP trap

In the past, in an attempt to gain accurate data insights, many brands bulk-bought IP addresses through data centres. These allowed businesses to route traffic via these addresses in order to visit competitor sites from different virtualised regions. This approach may have served them initially, but as bulk-buying IP addresses became more common, more websites were able to identify them as data centre IPs and block access. Brands were back to square one.

To move from square one to ecommerce success, a growing number of brands are leveraging a global IPPN. This uses residential IP addresses from locations all over the world to enable brands to browse the internet as if they were a consumer based in every one of these locations. Why doesn’t an IPPN result in a brand being blocked or misled? Well, we have our online customers to thank for that.

Collaborative consumers for a global IPPN

The most effective IPPNs are those that have been created with the cooperation of consumers, who opt-in to the network in return for ad-free applications or other benefits. Able to opt-in and opt-out at any time they wish, consumers who form the most effective IPPNs will be in their millions, and based in every city in every country in the world. A Hong-Kong based fashion retailer with a branch in Johannesburg for example, will be able leverage the IP address of a shopper based in the South African city, and view accurate, up-to-date pricing and data on its competitors’ websites.

Brands that use an IPPN for website experience usually test the localisation, the structure, the products that are being shown, and that all the links are working correctly, and that response times are optimised. This approach allows brands to see how their website appears and functions as if it were a shopper using any kind of device, anywhere in the world, utilising the IP address of the network’s collaborative consumers.

Advances in technology have allowed for ecommerce brands to thrive in the digital environment, and have given consumers a seemingly unlimited level of choice. However, as we’ve seen with website blocking, technology also has the potential to restrict a brand’s ability to compete effectively online.

Brands now need to take that next step in the cycle, and join the scores of market leaders that are leveraging an IPPN to again make strides in the ecommerce world. Creating a transparent, open internet will allow brands to gain access to valuable data and deliver the best value and experience for their shoppers. And with that, their best chance of ecommerce success!

Author: Or Lenchner, chief executive officer, Luminati

Image credit: Fotolia

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