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Retail 5th February 2018 - 7 min read

5 ways traditional retailers can harness the benefits of big data

By Femi Ajayi

In a drive towards increased consumer intimacy traditional ‘Brick & Mortar’ retailers are leveraging big data to improve their customer’s shopping experience.

Although the majority of customers still prefer ‘on the street’ offline purchases, very few retailers have moved fast enough to really leverage data from their stores, including point-of-sale systems, to compete with the fast-growing e-commerce segment of retail. Experiences are powered by data and ‘big data’ can craft a shoppers’ experience tailored to their individual needs.

If you want to deliver strong, content-driven experiences to your customers and keep them coming back to your business, you need to build those experiences on a solid foundation of data. , you will need to build them on a solid foundation of data. Getting that balance of data and content right takes focus on refining your businesses organisation and creating an experience-focused company culture.

“The goal of digital transformation isn’t better social or faster analytics… it’s to remake brands to be more adaptable, better at learning and above all, able to tie together the strands of product, sales marketing and service that make up the customer experience.” – Digital Trends / Adobe – Intelligence briefing 2017

But how to start this necessary transformation? Here are five ways you can harness the benefits of big data and embrace a more data-centric approach in your business:


Establishing effective online channels that integrate with the physical brand and presence

Channels that lend themselves to personalised content are a major driving force behind marketing success, so time should be spent researching and testing digital marketing channels that can be made part of your overall presence in the market.

When businesses perform lead generation they can collect contact information (including permissions) to send them updates, offers and other information via email, for example. Email marketing can be a very effective form of marketing giving businesses up to 4,300% ROI.

PPC (pay per click) advertising can also help deliver highly targeted traffic, but  its effectiveness depends on how much you are willing to bid or invest in paying per customer / per click depending upon the popularity of certain keywords that link back to your core business.

Display advertising, on the other hand, allows you to place relevant ads on third party sites, blogs and forums whilst the wide spectrum of social media platforms opens up increasingly wide and varied possibilities of marketing options.

All these data-driven channels can be used independently or as part of a broader strategic campaign, yet it is always important to begin by defining your goals – brand awareness, sales generation, lead generation, the education of potential customers or to generate general traffic to both the site and the store – before choosing the delivery channels.


Building a social media presence and dialogue with customers

It is very important for any business nowadays to establish and maintain a strong online presence, and social media also allows you to open additional communication channels with your customer base and gather useful data through those interactions.

Many emerging social media platforms are presenting businesses with new marketing solutions and opportunities such as Ad buying and creating dynamic web content that can deliver greater personalisation and engagement.

It may seem obvious but one of the keys to success on social media is to be ‘social’ and actually engage with your followers. By interacting with them on a more intimate level they will connect with you and you will understand what they want and need. Once you understand that you can respond, adapt and direct them to your store.

It’s important that each social media network serves a purpose and that the content that you share is valuable, engaging and consistent (in terms of time and quality). Try to optimise your accounts by using keywords as well as using relevant hashtags to flag topics and products. Should you come across a customer complaint or problem, be sure to act upon it quickly, as a this will serve not only to satisfy the individual customer in question, but your existing and future customer base.

Although many traditional businesses might at first feel intimidated by the idea of creating an online social media presence, many thrive once they make that commitment. This happens in part because the greatest strength of traditional retailers lies in the “personal touch” that customers appreciate in their shopping interactions, and this genuine, honest tone is precisely what works best in social media interactions. Technology here serves as a way to amplify your brand identity, not change it.


Decide what datasets are most relevant for tracking

So what is big data really? It is essentially a collection of data sourced from both traditional and digital sources – inside and outside your own company – that represent a source for analysis. These can be broken down into two main categories:

Unstructured data is sourced from outside traditional databases (such as social media posts or metadata) while multi-structured data is derived from the interaction between people and machines, such as transactions in web and mobile  applications. Some companies like to constrain their data to web behaviour and data culled from social network interactions but retailers should also consider traditional data derived from product transaction information and ‘old school’ centres such as point-of-sale and call centres.

Now, making sense of big data can seem daunting at first, because – as its name implies – there is such a lot of it out there. The sheer volume of it can be both overwhelming and confusing, so it’s important to put procedures in place to decide what actually matters to your business and sort the wheat from the chaff.

Once again the starting point should be to start by outlining some clear objectives for your business and then think of what questions you need to answer in order to best achieve those. But don’t wait – you are only delaying the inevitable. Once you start tackling big data – what it is and what it does for you – you’ll soon realise what you didn’t know and be in a good place to take steps to resolve any issues and start reaping the rewards of data driven marketing.


Choosing the right tools to extract insights from data

The greatest trick in leveraging big data to your business’ advantage is to be able to not just meet your customers needs but to anticipate them. Online companies are pouring money into analysing our online behaviour, and for very good reason. If you can bring trends, anomalies and patterns to the surface you can better identify both growth and savings opportunities.

Google analytics is a free platform available in a range of suites  – from basic analytics to the advanced Google Analytics 360 – that aims to turn insights into action by integrating data analysis from all sites, apps and channels (both online and offline) and many marketers swear by the power of data to quickly improve customer engagement:

“Google’s analytics products helped us improve engagement by 33% and click-throughs by 21% for content promotions on our homepage.”  Mia Vallo – Sr. Director, Marketing Analytics, National Geographic

On the other hand, it is easy for smaller businesses without much experience of analytics platforms to get lost in data wrangling rather than using data insights as a catalyst for change and growth. Platforms and services such as Predict.X for Retail help you turn data into actionable insights by extracting meaning from datasets and automating decision-making by using predictive insights. In other words, these tools help you make sense of your data and turn it into concrete action for improving your business and customer relations.


Optimising your customer journey and supply chain workflows

 Once you have your data, and you analysed it, what do you do with it?  The key is to identify what your customer’s journey looks like – in other words, what are the steps that lead them to your door – and how you can use those insights to make that journey better, more enjoyable, and friction-less so that you get the same customers coming back, and attract new ones.

For example, when a shopper walks into café and logs onto their WiFi network with their smartphone, they may have to input their contact details only the first time, and on future visits the retailer would then setup a landing page that recognises that customer and greets them with a ‘welcome back’ message instead of making them enter their details every time, By capturing and leveraging that customer’s data, their resulting overall experience is much more positive.

Retailer that also have an e-commerce website can link data from a customer’s online browsing history with their bricks and mortar visit, by, for example, looking at items previously added or abandoned from shopping karts and emailing a discount voucher to encourage that customer to come and try them on in the shop, or sending a push notification to their mobile app as they enter the store (something that will become increasingly commonplace with location-based and IoT technologies such as beacons). These types of engagement scenarios are largely welcomed by consumers and can lead to engagement and further data.

While there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” approach, there is no question that leveraging big data is something that all businesses have to do in a digitally-driven society. By asking the right questions and using the right tools, however, retailers can seize that opportunity to streamline and greatly improve the customer’s journey – both online and offline.

Femi Ajayi
By Femi Ajayi
7 min read

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