Putting data to work: how analytics can inform new retail initiatives

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The retail industry was one of the first sectors to grasp the value of Big Data. Long before they had the systems and technology to make sense of huge volumes of information, supermarkets were gathering data through loyalty schemes and gaining unique insight into customer behaviour that they used to inform their marketing strategies.

It didn’t take long, however, for other sectors to catch up in today’s digital age, data analytics has become mainstream for any business to function effectively. Given the explosion of data across channels, sources, formats and in varying volumes, it is imperative to leverage Data Analytics to run business.

In an ever-more competitive commercial environment, retailers need to find and leverage any possible advantage, which is why they must recapture the same spirit of enterprise and innovation that powered their first forays into the world of big data.

Competition is not the only imperative, though. In this age of instant gratification, Consumers expect a variety of new digital-enabled experiences and tailored services; retailers lacking the agility to provide these services, risk alienating even their most loyal customers.

As a business-critical imperative, today almost all retailers have already moved to the cloud or are in the verge of moving to the cloud. This movement to cloud is not only for the obvious cost benefit Cloud offers - It is also the ability of the cloud players and the ecosystem to provide for seamless integration, ingestion and the ability to churn insights to run business.

It is necessary for retailers to have their cloud strategy intact since it is not only about optimum storage, it is more on what one does with the data on cloud to run business effectively. The Modernisation & Monetisation offerings from Infosys provides for a clear & contextualised strategy for retailers on the need to move and the business problems it will solve.

Some of the key areas or cases that retailers should focus are as below:

Personalisation and time-to-market

Personalisation is no longer just for the chosen ones. With a plethora of channels to engage and the competitive landscape, every consumer expects a personalised view or offer. Be it choosing bespoke interiors for their vehicles or deciding the finer details of a piece of clothing.

Forward-looking retailers are starting to offer consumers the ability to design and personalise items, thereby creating differentiation in a crowded market and opening up valuable new revenue streams in the process.

At Infosys, we call this customer-centric product design and our offerings provide a boundary less data landscape enabling the ‘Do it yourself approach’ for our clients. We work with a number of retailers on personalisation and explore how they can give their customers something special to further strengthen their relationships and loyalty.

Personalisation is a very data-intensive process, not only as regards providing tailored recommendations, but also in gathering insight into customer preferences, stock levels, manufacturing capacity, and supply chain that is so important for creating individualised items.

Know your customer

The most successful retailers are those that have an intuitive understanding of what their customers desires. In the digital age, data obviously plays an integral role in “know your customer” initiatives, but the sheer volume of information online and on social media often makes it difficult for brands to filter out the noise and concentrate on what’s important.

Analytics has a vital role to play in helping retailers to understand what’s truly important to their customers, and to tailor their offerings to win more of the market.

Dynamic pricing

Dynamic pricing has been around for decades (it was first used in the airline industry) but it’s only recently that other market sectors have begun to embrace the opportunity. Now, companies from Amazon to Uber routinely adapt prices in real-time thanks to the insight they glean from customer behaviour and other external factors.

Implementing dynamic pricing requires retailers to have a full 360-degree view of both customers and competitors. This necessitates a tightly integrated data network between retailers’ physical and digital properties, from bricks and mortar premises to social media pages, to gain the required data that enables them to make informed decisions on pricing.

Analytics (and its cousin, machine learning) are crucial tools in turning this data into actionable insight.

Improving the supply chain

Alongside personalising products and creating great shopping experiences, it is critical to manufacture or deliver the goods in a timely manner to keep the experience a pleasant one. As retail operations grow more complex, the supply chain is being put under increasing strain; this is an area in which Infosys has been helping many retail customers with. Providing for global inventory visibility and maintaining optimum stock levels is a must.

Analytics enables retailers to crunch through huge amounts of data on their supply chain and logistics operations, identifying blockages or poor practices that are delaying their ability to bring the right product to the right customer at the right time.

While the above use cases focus just on the end client side from a digital foot print stand point, there are innumerable cases that the technology or cloud platform will enable. Having a cloud strategy is critical and for that, starting with a few use cases that provide for excellent business benefits will be a good start.

Ramakrishnan Krishnan, Head of Data Engineering, Infosys
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