IT services firm ITC Infotech on data analytics in retail

Retail is one of the sectors that could benefit the most from data analytics technologies. Many are outsourcing this activity as getting the experts on-board is costly and takes time.

Here is a guest blog from Hardeep Singh Garewal, president European operations at Indian IT services specialist ITC Infotech. He explains how technology can help retailers gather and analyse customer data to help them improve the customer experience.

He talks about Customer Experience Management (CX) as being a new frontier in Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

Fear of losing customers will drive aggressive investment in technology

By Hardeep Singh Garewal

“One of the biggest challenges that retailers will face in 2014 is the fear of losing their customers, as well as winning new ones, in a very competitive business environment. To address these challenges more and more companies will make aggressive investments in technology to gather intelligence about the buying trends and experiences of their customers. The most exciting area of growth is expected to be the use of data analytics as companies try to understand real time consumer buying patterns and behaviours. In the wake of recent store closures, processes like Real Time Data Analytics and Single View of Customer will highlight what drives customer loyalty and enable retailers to provide a tailored shopping experience to ensure customer retention.

As Christmas trading figures have come in, companies are being faced with the harsh realities that they may have huge blind spots in their knowledge about where their target customers are purchasing, whether their experiences are reinforcing their franchise or are negative, and hence depleting their loyalty. This valuable information is proving to be the difference between a prosperous festive period and becoming the latest in a string of high street failures. In an age of increased mobile activity, spawned by the proliferation of social media, news of a negative shopping experience can become viral almost immediately and have serious consequences. A ‘customer-centric’ strategy has, therefore, never been more critical. The online retailers are becoming winners not just through price, but because they have a better understanding of their customers.

In the current economic uncertainty and with companies struggling to convince consumers to purchase their goods and services, Customer Experience Management (CX), the new frontier in Customer Relationship Management (CRM), has become a key weapon in the retailer’s arsenal. Retaining and selling to existing customers is far easier than attracting new ones therefore deep, targeted customer engagement has now become a necessity. Appreciating that the contemporary business landscape is characterised by hyper competition for a finite customer base, organisations are becoming ever more reliant on the need to engage positively with their customers.

Large swathes of retailers’ customers are unknown to them, in some cases, up to 85%. In many cases, companies have little knowledge of customer purchasing decisions. Customer Experience Management helps to provide a strategic framework that retailers can use to gain business insights from multichannel data.  These insights enable companies to improve profits and customer satisfaction. Retailers need to be equipped to handle an abundance of data from overlapping sources such as mobile, social, in-store and e-commerce sites and then leverage this data for enhancing their customer’s shopping experience.

CX provides retailers with a clear roadmap that closely links technology, strategy and capabilities. Retailers will come to rely on technology partners who possess deep domain expertise in the retail sector and also possess technical skills that can leverage existing technology or deploy new tools. These tools will include cutting edge analytical data to meet business goals and allow them to respond quickly to trends and user behaviour. Companies can now track orders, analyse website navigation, view shopping chart usage and gather knowledge of other kinds of online or digital activity – all in real time.

Customer insights are the key to growth for companies around the world. An effective Customer Experience Management strategy can help retailers generate customer insights and use this information for designing and implementing pinpointed sales campaigns.
Retailers need to access with speed what their customers are doing across a portfolio of platforms. To stay current, retail businesses need an integrated approach combining physical stores, mobile devices, and desktop computers, to create a seamless customer experience in a multichannel environment.

Consumers expect all their interactions with a retailer (irrespective of which channel they use) to reflect a consistent understanding of their history and preferences. As much as they enjoy being able to access their favourite brands through multiple channels, customers want a consistent experience mobile, online and in-store. If the purchase experience is not seamless across channels, retailers will lose loyal customers to hungry competitors, resulting in declining brand value and revenue. They have to implement integrated processes to maintain a positive customer experience while dealing with the task of improving operational efficiency. Speed and real time data analytics are going to be hugely valuable for companies as they try to understand their customers.”