NoSQL Databases May Be Your Next Competitive Advantage

NoSQL databases offer improved performance, spur ecommerce innovation, may be less expensive than other options, and could improve management of big data. In short, your ecommerce business’s next competitive advantage could be your database.

Competitive advantages are slippery things. For example, a few years ago you might have been able to use free shipping as a competitive advantage for your online retail business. But now, free shipping is often standard.

Ecommerce platforms used to be a competitive advantage too. Features and integrations could set your business apart. But now, all leading ecommerce platforms offer a similar set of features. To find a competitive advantage, look elsewhere — such as customer experience.

Customer experience is a recent battlefield, wherein one retailer or another might gain a competitive advantage. Retailers — from big-box stores to pure-play ecommerce businesses — are trying to provide more relevant, more personalized, and more compelling shopping experiences.

In short, your ecommerce business’s next competitive advantage could be your database.

To do this, a company might need to use a combination of technologies — like big data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence — and business savvy. After all, your shoppers want, for example, relevant, specific, and personalized search results delivered in milliseconds, regardless of their geographic location or device. They want messaging, content marketing, product suggestions, and a buying experience tailored for them.

Database a Competitive Advantage?

Ecommerce operations will have a few ways to compete around customer shopping experience. But one method, which might get overlooked, is the database you choose to run your business on.

Many, if not most, ecommerce platforms in use at mid-market ecommerce and brick-and-click operations rely on a relational database management system — RDBMS. These sorts of databases have long powered software, applications, and websites. They have, in a sense, gotten business this far. While RDBMS can be good and very useful in many applications, it is ill suited for ecommerce.

With a tabular structure, an RDBMS system cannot easily manage product information, which can vary greatly and may not be best for some of the other forms of data that ecommerce businesses require.

Kyle Banker, author of a book about MongoDB, a NoSQL document database, once wrote that if you looked at an ecommerce platform running on a relational database, you would find “a flurry of [database] tables working together to provide a flexible schema on top of a fundamentally inflexible style of database system.”

In an effort to deal with product data in an RDBMS, developers have to employ relatively complicated data models, such as entity, attribute, value; class table inheritance; or character large object (CLOB).

In contrast, NoSQL databases make managing product,…

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