Retailers: Is your customer
data always right?

A customer walks into a shop. They can see the products on display, pick them up, feel them, get a closer look. If they need help, there is a customer assistant on hand to answer their questions. As they make their way to the till point, there are displays strategically placed to recommend and upsell items.

It’s a fully immersive, informative experience – designed to help the customer along their path to purchase.

So how do you guide customers on that path when there is no ‘shop’? How do you catch their eye with additional products when the customer is browsing through a device? Importantly, how do you ensure they get that feel-good factor that comes with excellent customer service, and brings them back to your store time and time again?

The answer is, of course, data, and retailers have been utilising it as a tool to engage with customers and offer more ‘tailored’ shopping since the advent of e-commerce. Or at least, they’ve been trying to. While it’s inarguable that data has transformed the way that retailers connect with their customers, there is still so much potential for retailers of every kind – supermarkets, fashion, luxury, wholesale, etc – to use data to offer an even better experience.

What’s more, as digital evolves, customers are demanding more from retailers. Opportunities to surprise consumers with omnichannel, data-driven actions are shrinking: replaced instead with an urgent need to deliver on customer demands.

Offering a unique experience with omnichannel

There’s more to exploiting data in retail than emulating an in-store experience online. Data can – and should – be used to create a richer, more personalised omnichannel shopping experience. However, this needs to go beyond basic product pictures, information, product categorisation and simple algorithmic shopping recommendations.

Data should enhance customers decision making in an omnichannel world, providing them with the information and images they need, when they need it. Product data should give customers real insight into the item at every touchpoint, exactly as picking it up and examining it in store would – but with even greater attention to detail. Retail data online, on mobile or on social media platforms should essentially fulfil the role of a customer service assistant.

As for recommendations, it’s important not to conflate the simple act of suggesting products that share certain data tags, with a useful, enjoyable customer experience. Big-ticket items, such as furnishings, often fall foul of this mistake. A customer who has just bought a 3-seater sofa is unlikely to immediately want to buy another one, yet poor retail data practices can see the customer inundated with emails for 3-seater sofas for weeks after the sale. Yet effective, impactful retail data actions can ensure that the customer is, instead, offered complimentary items that spark their interest and suggest a true understanding of their needs based on accurate analytics.

360-data views can help retailers get a more rounded, complete understanding of their customers and their interactions with the brand. By drawing on data from different departments, and different omnichannel touchpoints, retailers can get a clearer understanding of what customers want, need and expect to find – and what products will most accurately fulfil those expectations. It can shift data-driven actions from feeling intrusive (such as irrelevant email or notification overload) to useful and considerate whilst also predicting when customers would re-enter the market for certain products.

Sustainability and efficiency: Managing supply chains

Over the last ten years, several high-profile brands have been caught out by poor practices further up the supply chain: including dangerous production methods, unfair treatment of employees and environmental issues.

Not only are regulations tightening around sustainability and ethics in the industry, but these issues have become a point of differentiation for customers. Shoppers today are already choosing where to spend their money based on sustainability, ethics and morals, and this trend will only continue. As awareness of the real cost of unsustainable practices grow, people don’t want to find themselves at the end of a supply chain that damages the planet, or treats people unfairly. The Global Consumer Barometer Study by Toluna found that 73% of shoppers consider a brand’s ethical values before making a purchase, while 40% have ceased shopping with brands that don’t align with their values.

What does this have to do with data and omnichannel strategy? Well, your data is your most valuable tool in managing your supply chain and ensuring that your values and ethics are shared by every supplier, distributor and link in your chain. It’s also critical to communicating this to every customer: whether they are shopping online, in-store, via mobile or through a third-party platform. Retailers need to give full consideration to the accuracy and availability of this information, at every touch point in the journey.

Aside from sustainability and ethics, data-driven supply chain management also enables retailers to reduce waste, tighten up processes and cut costs without cutting quality. Data can give a much clearer insight into how and where resources are being used, identify unnecessary expenditure and even create ‘supply on demand’ production practices (arguably the future of the retail industry – particularly in fashion).

Is the customer (data) always right?

There is one thing that can make or break all of the above data-driven strategies and omnichannel experiences.

Data quality.

Your customer (and product) data always has to be right for any digital strategy to succeed. If it’s not reliable, accurate, timely and complete, then your omnichannel experience will not deliver on expectations. In fact, it could create more problems than it solves, eroding customer trust with inaccurate, missing or misleading information, generating irrelevant insights and even tying up your teams in manual tasks that should be replaced with automation.

At Agile Solutions, we work with retailers to not only identify and implement the technology they need to get the most from their data, but to ensure that they have the data quality and governance practices they need to make it a success. Our sprint-based approach allows us to deliver continuous results, with sustainable, long-term outcomes. It allows the retailers we work with to exercise flexibility and explore ever-expanding opportunities with their data – offering a unique customer experience to every consumer.

If you need advice on how to utilise your data effectively – whether it’s through new technology or tightening up data practices – contact our team of experienced data consultants. We’re able to advise you on your next steps, wherever you are on your data journey.

You can also take a look at our The Body Shop Case Study here.