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Why data could well be your retail business’s biggest asset (and how you can harness it)

Written by LS Retail | 09 January 2020

    

In London’s Westfield shopping center, a pop-up store sells products that are trending in real time. Its stock is put together using data collected from social media.

The artificial intelligence (AI)-powered store tracks over 400,000 global social media accounts that are known for being early trend setters and strong influencers, and taps into more than three billion data points across the internet to determine which clothing, accessories and footwear are most popular and will sell best. Stylists then source these items from other stores both in the shopping center and online to create a curated selection of 100 products at a time.

Could this be the future of retail? Myf Ryan, CMO Europe and group director of brand and strategic marketing at Westfield’s parent company, believes so.

“Shoppers are inspired by online influencers and used to being guided by AI when they shop online, with products served to them based on their behavior,” he said. By taking advantage of data in this way, the store demonstrates how social media can be tapped into, and brought to life in a physical shopping scenario so that customers can get their hands on the hottest products from one place.  

Data is key, but many are yet to harness it

Retailers have begun to recognize that how they harness and take advantage of data will determine their future success. In Incisiv’s Retail C-Suite Survey, over two-thirds of CEOs said that the key differentiating factor in the future will be how their firm manages data. And yet, the same report found that less than 30% of business leaders are able to convert data into actionable insights to impact future performance. Even more worryingly, half of them do not trust their data.

Why? Many said they do not have the right platforms and tools in place to support them. They also acknowledged that they haven’t yet shed old habits, and instead of embracing a much needed holistic view of retail, they are still stuck on an outdated channel-centric thinking.

But the cloud and AI are changing this. In the same report, executives said they believe that the cloud has more than two times the impact on business agility than any other technology. They also see it as a key driver of the “intelligent enterprise.” Meanwhile, artificial intelligence (AI) has both the highest rate of current experimentation, through pilots, and expected future adoption, with respondents stating they plan a five times increase in the technology over the next two years.

“These survey results further validate the strategic imperative behind AI and cloud as transformative technologies for retailers to gain competitive advantage by truly unlocking value from customer data,” Greg Jones, director of business strategy for retail at Microsoft, said. “Retailers must know their shoppers better than they know themselves, and the powerful technologies coming to the forefront for digital transformation are the way to get there.”

Making data work for you

Of course, while data may be the new currency, it’s useless if you can’t withdraw it and gain insights from it.

To start with, then, you need to find a way of consolidating all of your data. An effective way to do this is to adopt a system that stores all data in one centralized place. For many, the answer lies in a unified commerce platform.

A unified commerce platform seamlessly brings together all consumer-facing channels, from online to in-store. It breaks down siloes across your business, leaving you with one single version of the truth. With all data in one place, you can extract the information you need and make sense of it.

The result is the ability to deliver a consistently high level of service across every single channel your customers use to engage with your brand. Their experience is personalized and seamless, and their shopping journey is smooth and uninterrupted, even if they switch channels. But unified commerce brings even more than this to the table. It allows you to react much quicker to market opportunities and threats, ultimately enabling you to serve consumers better.

How cloud-based intelligence tools can transform your business

As our CEO Magnus Norddahl discussed at conneXion, our annual partner and customer conference, unified commerce is a key concept for retailers today, and it is driven by data, and powered by intelligence.

With a unified commerce platform backed by the latest cloud-based intelligence tools, retailers can transform data into actionable information, and use this information to properly attend to customers and support them as they wander around the web and the world. Marketing can use intelligent tools to gain a single view of consumers across transactions, channels, social media and more. The result is a better understanding of their shopping habits and preferences, and improved ability to determine which customers to cater for and how best to engage with them. Intelligence can also support your logistics and operations with accurate forecasts of what to keep in stock, where and when.

These intelligence tools in the cloud make it as easy as possible for you to access the meaningful business insights you need. You get all the information you need via intuitive dashboards and reports, and thanks to the cloud you can be up and running quickly, with minimal disruption. That’s a far cry from the months of work and the specialized knowledge this kind of business intelligence tools demanded just a few years ago!

Ultimately, retailers with intelligent technology and robust service delivery will be the ones best positioned to meet shopper needs and scale up.

How prepared are you?

If you need help understanding how you can harness data to your advantage and how unified commerce in the cloud can help you become an intelligent retailer, contact us.

 

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Learn the 7 most common mistakes business owners make when selecting retail POS, ERP and accounting software, and how to avoid them.

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