To Meet Surging Consumer Expectations, Retailers Must Put Data To Work

bartmrozData-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is by Bart Mroz, CEO at SUMO Heavy.

Information changes everything. For shoppers, the age of information comes with perks, including greater access to product knowledge, more relevant offers and personalized shopping experiences. Consumers have come to expect these perks that come with better data.

For retailers to live up to these expectations, it’s up to them to put data to work. It’s not enough to mine data; one has to then visualize it and find the relevant information points to reap its full benefits.

In our data-driven world, the best retailers capitalize by using information to serve personalized experiences to their shoppers. Retailers have several tools available to help them make the most of their data and deliver the kind of individualized shopping experiences offered by Amazon and other big e-tailers.

Amazon has set a precedent with ultra-relevant offers, such as “Top Picks for You” or “Inspired by Your Shopping Trends.” But before retailers can get to that point they have to take the first step: They must visualize their data.

Using Tools To See Connections

The dashboard creation tool Klipfolio can help build connections to many different services out of the box, or retailers can add their own. Klipfolio can connect to databases, REST APIs and even flat files. Any data source you can think of can probably connect to Klipfolio. It’s also one of the more affordable dashboard tools on the market, so if your needs aren’t extremely robust, it may be a perfect choice. People commonly use Klipfolio for sales and customer service.

For example, Klipfolio may be used to understand customer service reps’ performance. Companies can feed in all the information about their correspondence with customers and segment bits of the information into Klips for a visualization of the data. If they want to see the percentage of time out of total working hours that the reps are actively helping customers, to determine if more reps need to be hired, this can be done can easily by dividing total active hours by total working hours. They can go even further to visualize the most active hours of the day, so that they might overlap shifts during that time to have more reps available.

Chartio is a similar tool. It’s a real-time dashboard that connects to services and databases and enables drag-and-drop chart creation and visualization tools. It can function as its own entity or as a supplement to Klipfolio and other apps.

With Chartio, users can visualize ecommerce metrics and create personalized experiences. The drag-and-drop user interface is meant to be easy to use, plus there’s functionality on tablet and smartphone. There’s no need to use SQL on Chartio, and even people with little software or development experience can garner insights from this tool.

For example, marketers for a fashion retailer might segment a demographic by defining certain characteristics, such as females living in the Southwest between the ages of 18 to 30 years old. They can then use Chartio to visualize the top-selling fashion products for this demographic, and create offers to incoming consumers based on this visualization. With enough data, one could even map the top-selling products based on people’s buying history, including which products they’ve purchased, how much money they’ve spent and which products people like to buy together, such as shoes and socks, leading to the creation of sale bundles for these products. When marketers use dashboards, their consumers might not realize how they’re getting such compelling offers, but they’ll be happy that they are.

Understand The Individual

Dashboard tools help marketers comprehend what’s going on with their sales processes, from a high level. Because of this, they’re able to start creating experiences for the individual.

But if marketers really want to create personalized shopping experiences, they should look into Parse. Parse is an event-tracking analytics product that helps its users sell more rapidly and relevantly. With Parse, users can push custom events with additional attributes called dimensions, use APIs to build custom tools on top of Parse, analyze how consumers are using an app, website or IoT device and even look at a single user's time plot to find how people are using a service over time.

The great thing about Parse is that it allows marketers to understand an individual shopper’s path to purchase and then use those insights to sell more personally, plus they can integrate it with almost anything.

Let’s say a company handles video game rentals through an app. That app can be integrated with Parse to track a single event, such as when users make a purchase. The company can identify all the attributes associated with this event; 75% of purchasers are male, for example. The company can also use a second event – perhaps every time a customer returns a video game – to figure out how long people rent games for on average and how many games they rent. These insights can inform the creation of ultra-relevant messaging, such as asking an avid user who rented a specific game for less time than their personal average what they didn’t like about that game, followed by a coupon.

Align In-Store And Ecommerce

Using data to provide a better brick-and-mortar shopping experience is a bit trickier than ecommerce but is possible with the right tools. Data in-store doesn’t track automatically like it does online. It’s more difficult to know, for example, how long a customer spends in-store.

But instead of focusing on providing great ecommerce and in-store experiences separately, retailers and marketers should look at their sales channels as distinct segments of an omnichannel experience. Each channel and its data should inform and assist every other channel.

For the brick-and-mortar shopper, information is very important. Shoppers want to interact online and in-store during their shopping experience. They also want to find information about prices and availability online before they go in-store, according to Think with Google.

For retailers, inventory management is vital to finding and using the right information to create better shopping experiences. If they have inventory management software that integrates with the ecommerce store, the retailer can easily inform online customers about items in stock before those customers arrive in-store.

Beyond this, retailers will be able to understand which items sell best through which mediums. For example, consumers may tend to buy couches in-store more often than they do online. Knowing this, retailers can create offers to boost online couch sales, such as free shipping.

Data is a game changer. It can inform retailers of what’s happening in their e-stores and brick-and-mortar stores, and can help them decide how to optimize these sales channels to best serve consumers. With data, everyone wins. Shoppers get better experiences and retailers can sell more.

Follow Bart Mroz (@bartmroz), SUMO Heavy (@sumoheavy) and AdExchanger (@AdExchanger) on Twitter. 


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