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“My printer sold me ink” – How big data is changing e-commerce

Big Data

Understanding how to use big data intelligently can help develop digital relationships with customers, says chief Terry Jones.

April 1, 2013 6:18 by

When Terry Jones, founder and former CEO of, ran out of ink, he got a notification saying he needed to replace his cartridges. While he scribbled down the model number and cartridge specifications, he noticed there was a link to order the cartridge he needed on line. He clicked on the link.

“Was it more expensive than going to the store? Yes. Did I buy it? Of course. It was fast and convenient and then I realised my printer sold me ink – wow, that is pretty unusual?”, said Jones.

Jones, who is also the Chairman of and CIO of Sabre, was speaking about the role of big data for eCommerce at the first ever Dubai World Conference Exhibition on Consumer Rights and Power Brands Dubai exhibition, which started today at the Dubai World Trade Center.

Jones says understanding how to tap into and leverage big data can help a brand take its relationship with a customer to the next level. Collecting information and developing a massive database is of little use, unless it is utilized in a way which is proactive and personalized. The key is to realize that the purpose of a sale isn’t just to make a sale, rather the purpose of a sale is to get a customer, who you can have a relationship with over a long period of time.

“In the digital world, we need to move from knowing the customer as a demographic, men versus women, young versus old, to knowing the customer as an individual”, says Jones.

He uses the following example of one of the many customers in’s database of 40 million names:  January, Rob buys a ticket from San Antonio, Texas, to Los Angeles. In February, he buys tickets for the same flight. So in the months to come, when there was a sale for tickets for Rob’s preferred itinerary, sends Rob an email informing him of the sale, followed up with recommendations for a car rental and hotel options.

A prudent and apt example for the current market. As e-commerce catches on in the UAE and Middle East at large, customers are willingly providing their personal information to companies. It is this kind of special attention to the finer details that will allow a company to develop a relationship with a customer.

“I believe that building digital relationships are a lot like building personal relationships. You start with attraction, you make people curious, you begin to explore, they learn about the product and begin to build trust. You build enough trust and they will buy. Now I can get them to return and deepen the relationship, and if they go away for too long I can rekindle it,” adds Jones.

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