April 13, 2012, 11:26 AM

It’s all about the data

The world of online dating has much to teach retailers, an IRCE speaker says.

Lead Photo

Sam Yagan

Most small business owners don’t realize the value of the data already in their databases, or know which vendor databases might yield unexpected insights about their business, says Sam Yagan, CEO of OkCupid.com, an online dating site.  But Yagan knows how such data can be mined and turned into action points that drive business, an experience he will share in a presentation at the Internet Retailer 2012 Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.

The session, “You know more about your customers than you think you do,” will provide a framework for businesses to think about the hidden gold buried in their customer data and ways to extract and interpret it, based how Yagan did that with his own online dating site.

“I’ll talk about some of the insights we’ve learned about consumers through the lens of their dating experiences and, more generally, how big data can help small and medium-sized Internet retailers grow their businesses,” Yagan says.

Yagan will explain how the OkCupid blog, which hosts more than 7 million unique visitors each month, reports on online dating trends that are based on the company’s analysis of data provided by the millions of people who have signed up for the free match-up service. Yagan will generalize the discussion from the dating world to retail to provide an overview of the kind of actionable data online retailers may already possess without even realizing it. He’ll also discuss broader insights on retailing and e-commerce gained from OkCupid’s analysis of its own customer data.  

“I might even share some dating tips,” Yagan says.

Understanding what drives its customers is key to OkCupid’s business model, which is almost entirely based on advertising, according to Yagan. To use the free match-up serve on the site, consumers fill out questionnaires about habits and preferences, which allows advertisers to target different ads to different types of site visitors. The ad targeting, Yagan notes, does not make use of personally identifiable information about individuals.

Recently, OkCupid was acquired by Match.com, a subsidiary of IAC/InterActiveCorp.

Internet Retailer’s editors asked Yagan to speak based on his track record as an Internet entrepreneur. In addition to serving as CEO of OkCupid, Yagan oversees advertising sales at Match.com through the Match Media Group, and also oversees an internal research and development group. Prior to founding OkCupid, Yagan founded eDonkey Inc., a peer-to-peer file-sharing application; and SparkNotes, a study-guide brand later acquired by Barnes & Noble, where Yagan served as vice president and oversaw the publication of more than 200 titles under the brand.  Yagan also is co-founder and CEO of Excelerate Labs, a start-up business accelerator, and a board member of several start-up companies.

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