Actionable insight is the name of the game in modern retail as businesses operating in the sector look to provide the relevant experiences and interactions today’s customers demand.
That’s the key for retailers looking to navigate their way through a period of change and disruption in their industry.
It’s no secret many stores are closing in the US and the UK, and yes, the shape of the industry is evolving into an omnichannel structure that no-one would have predicted some 20 years ago – but this should not be a doom a gloom scenario. Retailers should be embracing new ways of working and new technologies, which exist to make their lives easier and improve their business operations.
The retail industry is evolving, and those that make the necessary changes fastest for this new world will certainly survive – and most probably thrive – long into the future. And at the heart of this necessary change is data, and sophisticated use and management of it through retail data analytics.
Commentators calling the death of retail are exaggerating, but there’s no doubt solid data management practices will be crucial to retailers’ longevity
From attending and hearing the output from industry conferences around the world, it’s difficult to get away from the fact that modern retail businesses view data as life critical. It’s the bloodline containing necessary information, both from a customer and inventory perspective, enabling organisations to function.
In a candid interview at this year’s Retail Week Live, for example, Marks & Spencer CEO Steve Rowe admitted the company, which is one of the largest and longest running on the UK high street, is actually “drowning in data” and struggling to join it all together. But he understands the importance of solving this problem.
Rowe said that almost all households in the UK have shopped with his business at some point, making for a powerful position to communicate with a large customer base and increase customer lifetime value if – and only if – the data can be used properly. There is much work to do there.
On the other hand, companies like online fashion house Asos are employing hundreds of technologists and engineers to ensure their internal operations can make best use of the data flowing through the arteries of its business. It’s resulting in some compelling examples of personalised customer service such as webpages and mobile experiences tailored to customers preferences, as well as relevant, targeted marketing that converts to sales.
The Power of Analysis
More than ever, data will – and should – drive in-store retail decisions, in the way that online players like Asos have always been able to do due to the digital footprint their customers leave behind. There are various examples of businesses operating in the sector starting to provide personalised in-store services thanks to the capability of retail management systems such as iVend Retail’s.
Retailers need to invest in this type of technology because it will enable them to access real-time inventory information at the customer’s point of purchase in a store. Be it through mobile point of sale devices or at a fixed till point, associates will have the opportunity to serve shoppers with confidence as they’ll have the most up-to-date product information and can guide the transaction accordingly.
But retail analytics solutions are key to keeping track of performance across the entire retail organisation – and iVend Retail provides the tools required to identify best or non-performing stores, evaluate individual products and promotions, and prove what constitutes best practice.
Actionable insight is what is needed in retail’s current challenging era, so companies in the sector can quickly shift their operations to meet demand and the latest trends, and understand when things aren’t going to plan in real time.
For retailers worried about analysts, the media and everyone else writing their early obituaries, I’d say it’s time to get to grips with data, invest in the right technology to manage it, and prove there’s much life left in the old dog yet – there are successful retailers around the world doing just that.