June 9, 2011

Data - The Holy Grail of Online Retail

Data rules the digital world. It helps in identifying problems, creating new value propositions, and discovering unique use cases that customers show by their queries or questions. Without data, moving would require guess work and success is impossible to measure. The biggest advantage that digital offers for retailers is measurement, and data is the key element to effective measurement. 

Digital is a data-enabled environment but to make the most out of it, analysis and optimization of data should be the main focus; retailers should be able to make use of data to give commercial insights and make decisions accordingly. We are moving from the age of information to the age of insights. Information is everywhere, but it's only valuable if you can draw insights from it to help you.

How can retailers use this data to produce better, more relevant customer experiences? What information do retailers need at each touch point to improve the experience and effectiveness? What’s the “value of knowing” versus the cost?

Data coming from media and advertising, including ad servers like Doubleclick tell us what creative and messages users have been exposed to, how many times, where have they seen it and if they have clicked to find out more.

Site analytics data coming from web analytics tools such as Google and Omniture tell us everything from how long people spent viewing content, how often they visit the content, what content has been viewed the most, and what they are searching for.

Social data from platforms like
 Facebook and Twitter can tell us who is in a consumer’s social graph and what brands and content they and their friends like and follow. 
Finally, mobile provides a new dimension to data capture through location and payments. These are all insights that can be used to drive richer experiences and better return on investment. 

Oracle Retail has released its new data analytics tool “The Oracle Retail Merchandising Analytics” which can be used by companies to monitor sales levels, store performance, stock levels and efficiency of promotions, allowing them to manage logistics and better understand their operational problems and act accordingly.

Multichannel retail is becoming more and more important to the industry. The integration of data across multiple channels is becoming more challenging. Retailers need to understand the importance of linking data across inventory, prices, supply chain, stores and marketing activities. A report by dotMailer had a closer look at how retailers use data on existing customers to tailor email campaigns. The report revealed that many large brands such as Sainsburys and Play.com are struggling from the lack of personalization in their email marketing activities. This is due to the poor integration of social and mobile data with email.

It’s not surprising that today’s shoppers are becoming increasingly digitally savvy. Adoption rates for smartphones and tablet devices are continuing to explode. That is why; the new mobile and social media technologies are becoming essential to any retail brand’s strategy. Tools like the iPad have changed the game for retailers. Using the iPad for personalized selling provides retailers with the ability to view the customer’s shopping history, product preferences, past purchases and favorite items –- and use this data to suggest relevant accessories.

Retailers now have the ability to integrate data from Point Of Sale store systems to view customer data, sales history, inventory management and product availability. By linking these aspects of retail technology, devices and store systems are now connected to each other and can easily identify customer data with inventory and product information.

Top retailers are already bridging the gap between offline and online data. Tesco is trying to gain insights into customer loyalty and draw data from social media
. Sainsbury’s has taken its first steps into using customer data to encourage more content creation. It’s using data from its Nectar Card about in-store purchases to contact customers and ask them to add reviews to its website.

Just like consumers, marketers are facing information overload. The data that consumers are creating, paints a picture about what is relevant to users. Marketers need to break down and manage this information by creating persona information and segments of customers with personalized messages. Data gathered during the online registrations, purchasing process, social graphs and mobile if utilized effectively can drive repeat sales and increase customer retention and satisfaction.

What do you think are new ways retailers can make use of data? And what are the challenges of obtaining it? Let me know in the comments below.


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