eBay uses big data to drive operational efficiencies

While consumer-facing businesses have been able to use big data to provide better products and services, others are making sure their data experiments help internal processes as well – furthering their operational efficiency in the process. eBay, one of the first websites of the digital retail revolution, has been using big data to drill-down on its data centres and make them more efficient.

The company has been able to save millions of dollars through utilising its various assets, including:

  • > 100 million active users globally
  • > $70bn in goods for sale
  • > US$3,500 goods sold every second.

eBay uses data not only for obtaining better insights into customer behaviour intent and website traffic patterns but also for optimising its IT infrastructure by uncovering underutilised servers and misconfigured devices, then redistributing those. This has resulted in saving millions of dollars in CAPEX within just one year.

One of the other main uses for data has been optimising the company’s search engine, which has evolved from taking requests literally to interpreting the deeper meaning of a particular search. For example, eBay is able to determine which users are more likely to purchase an item based on the nature of their query. Using data captured through this method, the company was able to make search results more accurate, this leading to more sales.

This is a stark reminder for the digital CEO that big data can be used for tasks other than repurposing a factory or making the consumer experience better – using data to improve operational efficiencies, and even predict customer movement, is just as critical.

Forbes, ‘The Surprising Way eBay Used Big Data Analytics to Save Millions’, 23 August 2012
DataScienceSeries, ‘How eBay performs Big Data research to create new insights for its business’, 2012
PC Advisor, ‘eBay employs big data platforms to drive competitive edge’, 9 May 2013