TL; DR: Import.io empowers more than 700 customers to make critical business decisions based on the most substantial information source in the world: the internet. The company’s Web Data Integration solution helps users extract, prepare, and integrate comprehensive web data into analytics platforms and business applications. With continued expansion and enhancements focused on data quality, delivery speed, and analytics, Import.io is committed to providing businesses with a competitive, data-driven advantage.
Retailers should look no further than Amazon to understand why data are critical assets in today’s online marketplace. The e-commerce titan has woven analytics into its business fabric from the start, effectively disrupting the industry in the process.
“When you start to understand your customers and the market, you can use dynamic pricing based upon factors such as available inventory, the time of day the product is sold, who it’s being sold to, and the actions of competitors,” said Gary Read, CEO at Import.io. “When you consider the power of that strategy compared with a traditional retailer, you start to see why traditional retailers are in trouble.”
And it’s not just retailers that are affected. Gary said he’s seen entire industries disrupted by smaller players who understand the power of data.
Import.io’s Web Data Integration solution provides organizations in a range of sectors — including retail, finance, insurance, sales, machine learning, data journalism, and academic research — with a complete platform for deriving business insights from web data.
The solution, designed to support customers throughout their entire journeys, can automatically extract, prepare, and integrate high-quality web data into analytics platforms and business applications.
The company’s ultimate goal is to help organizations take a data-driven approach to fueling insight and driving change. “We enable you to provide better products and services to your customers, and that creates a massive competitive advantage,” Gary said.
Web Data Integration: A Fresh Approach to Acquiring and Managing Data
Headquartered in Saratoga, California, with additional offices in Colorado, New Jersey, and London, Import.io delivers data to more than 700 worldwide customers from millions of web sources. Gary said the businesses he serves range from startups with less than 10 people to some of the largest companies around the globe.
“Business size is not the biggest determiner of whether someone is a customer of ours — it’s whether they understand and want to run a data-driven organization to drive improvement,” he said.
According to Gary, businesses have used online data to derive business insights for quite some time. Retailers have historically turned to the web for competitive pricing analytics, and researchers commonly access news data while conducting studies. Import.io has set out to make the process of acquiring and managing online data more accessible.
“Prior to Import.io, if you wanted to get data from websites, you started off with engineers who wrote code, and the code would break on a regular basis,” Gary said. “It was a poor-quality, high-cost experience.”
Import.io aims to flip this model on its head, providing data sets to retailers, investment banks, hedge funds, research companies, and travel companies on a broad scale focused on quality and control. “We want the customer to be able to rely upon the information we are providing and think of that data set as a first-class citizen, just as they would with their internal data sets,” Gary said.
Extract, Prepare, and Integrate Data into Analytics Platforms and Apps
Import.io was founded in 2012 as a simple online data extractor but evolved into an enterprise-grade solution as customers with limited resources began to shift data manipulation to third-party providers. “Our customers want us to manage the entire journey — this is no longer only about web scraping,” Gary said. “Web Data Integration covers everything from discovery to insight.”
Customers aren’t interested in dealing with raw data — they want information in a format they can easily understand and put to use. To satisfy the needs of its customers, Import.io has built out its product and services capabilities, enabling users to better find, extract, set up, monitor, and interpret data. “Whether it’s discovering which websites the data is on, how to get the data, or transforming the data into a meaningful format, we can help you do it,” Gary said.
Format considerations are often complex, but Import.io has the tools to unify data into a streamlined arrangement. For example, a retailer looking to collect product prices across multiple websites for a competitive price analysis would need to consider various factors for error-free results.
“Some websites may charge for delivery, and some may be in a different currency, so you can’t make a proper price comparison unless you can put everything into one normalized format,” Gary said. “You have to build in factors like special offers, delivery costs, etc.”
Import.io maintains a strict code of ethics that ensures the company acts as a good web citizen. But it continually battles challenges presented by those with less-than-admirable intentions.
“There are a lot of unscrupulous players out there, such as bots that take websites down or attempt to do nefarious things,” Gary said. “Because of that, website owners start to build antibot capabilities on their sites, and we’re faced with constant technical challenges to ensure that we don’t get hung up by those.”
Helping Data-Driven Organizations Fuel Insight and Drive Change
According to Gartner, a company’s biggest database isn’t internal — it’s the web itself. To that end, Import.io enables hundreds of organizations to curate and leverage the vast amount of data on the internet to gain intelligence and efficiencies.
Meidata, for example, uses Import.io’s data extraction capabilities for a number of projects before integrating the data with other proprietary sources. The service saves time and allows the market research and business insights firm to offer additional services.
U.K.-based MoveGB, on the other hand, uses Import.io to expand its vast network of fitness providers using straightforward, targeted information. And WINwarehouse uses the Web Data Integration solution to automatically import information on office furniture and equipment donations into the database for their nonprofit marketplace.
Import.io leans heavily on its customers for feedback that it uses to inform future development. Gary said he’s thankful that the company has attracted a high caliber of customers who are open to sharing their challenges.
“Some of the world’s leading companies that understand how to use data to drive their businesses forward share their requirements with us, and we’re very happy that they do,” Gary said. “We listen to their needs and build those capabilities into the product.”
The company’s speedy development cycles ensure that updates are made promptly and effectively. “We can make quick changes to the product,” Gary said. “We run in sprints of two weeks, so there’s a constant flow of improvements.”
New Enhancements Focused on Data Quality, Delivery, and Analytics
Import.io recently announced several new enhancements intended to meet the increasing demand for high-quality web data at enterprise scale. The Web Data Integration solution will now include a WDI Knowledge Engine that allows users to access web data more quickly and extensively while remaining intuitive.
New dashboards will provide increased transparency into the quality of data, and Data Quality Service Level Agreements will ensure consistent and reliable data integration. Finally, an Insights Platform will offer comprehensive data visualization and notification tools.
“Our Insights Platform enables customers to get actionable insights from the data,” Gary said. “We’re also clearly setting standards for everyone else in terms of data quality and reliability.”
Import.io is proud to help customers derive value from the internet in novel ways. “Data has power in the world, and it’s driving so much change — and we’re squarely in the middle of it, enabling organizations to leverage the largest data source in the world,” he said.