There is no doubt that the pandemic has accelerated online retail sales globally. In fact, US e-commerce sales grew by 14.2 percent in 2021. As shoppers continue to shy away from main streets and malls, big data is shaping how shoppers experience online retail.
Now more than ever, consumers are demanding a more convenient, streamlined, and personalized e-commerce experience. Big-name retailers such as Amazon and Nike lead the way in delivering this personalized experience. From product recommendations based on previous purchase history, unique offers, and abandoned cart messages, e-commerce personalization is everywhere. Consumers now expect their retail experience to be customized to them.
But how exactly do retailers make themselves stand out in such a saturated market? Like the big online brands, smaller retailers must also provide a highly personalized customer experience, informed by data analysis. After all, personalization equals increased sales at the same time as promoting brand loyalty. 61 percent of consumers will purchase another product from the same retailer after a personalized retail experience.
At the very heart of big data lies its ability to understand consumer spending habits to help retailers refine their e-commerce strategy by mapping a customer’s purchase journey to identify the pain points or missed opportunities. Ultimately, data is key to optimizing the sales journey.
Grab their Attention
Holding the consumer’s attention is the first challenge. The average American household has 25 connected devices, spends over seven hours looking at a screen each day, and checks their phone a staggering 334 times a day. But how do you capture and, more importantly, keep the interest of a consumer with so many competing priorities? Providing the right product at the right time to streamline the consumer’s journey from consideration to conversion is the key to optimizing sales and retention rates.
Omnichannel personalization – a multichannel approach which provides the consumer with the same experience regardless of channel – is key to providing a seamless consumer service from one platform to another. This is achieved by collating data on the customer’s behavior through all their digital touchpoints from email to web browsing. Yet only 24 percent of businesses are financing this omnichannel experience, yet 69 percent of consumers expect this service.
So why are retailers delivering a personalized experience on only one channel? Legacy infrastructure is often to blame due to the limited data available. There is also the need to upskill existing employees in new digital infrastructure and how to effectively implement data collection processes. But investing in the technology to power an omnichannel service for customers is vital to providing a consistent, personalized experience between channels. Companies that can provide this experience can expect a 5-15 percent revenue increase. The statistics are clear: Invest in big data or get left behind.
Know your Consumer
Regardless of channel, customer service must be a top priority. You can have the best website or the fanciest retail location, but if the service is lacking, you’ll lose customers. Expectations are higher than ever, and modern consumers won’t tolerate less than stellar experiences.
The fact is consumers have endless choices of where (and how) to shop these days, and if you don’t meet their expectations and offer convenient solutions, they will find one of your competitors who will.
The main focus should be on how your customers want to experience shopping, and that focus should be supported by the best of breed infrastructure which can help to hold that customer’s experience to the highest standards.
Stock visibility at the touch of a button? Assisted selling? Next-day delivery? Buy in online, fulfil in-store? Enable increased sales through SEO and curated, direct marketing? All of these are possible if retailers have the appetite for breakthrough performance which is underpinned by data.
Time to Invest in Big Clean Data
If cash is king, then clean customer data is the prince. Sounds trite, but it is true.
At the moment, Amazon, Alibaba and other powerhouses are redefining traditional business models and raising the bar for customer experience. They are forcing traditional retailers to accelerate the decision-making process, and data is the key component in this. Those that fail to invest in data at scale will lag in their ability to make accurate and timely decisions, negatively impacting their ability to compete.
Because of this, the retail world is now all about disrupting traditional business models. Brands that have been industry leaders for decades are now faced with new competitors that don’t have the same cost structure and can move more expeditiously to serve customers.
The key to combat this? Data. At its core, the monetization of data is the opportunity to activate, enhance and create new value from existing assets in a privacy-compliant way. We know consumers have an increased understanding of the value of data exchange, and they will choose to share these insights with brands they trust, equaling a win-win for all involved.
The author Louisa Marlin is he Head of Delivery in the US for BJSS a leading technology and engineering consultancy. Her co-author Ralph Robinson is
the Head of Retail and Consumer Markets at BJSS. He is an experienced retail advisor, with retail experience in-house at Tesco and Lidl. I’m