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The high street needs a data makeover in the digital age

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Maxx-Studio)

24-hour supermarkets, click and collect, home delivery. These are all things that have changed the way that we shop forever - and now technology is doing the same. With the retail footprint decreasing, and Topshop the latest in a long line of big fashion names to announce store closures, the customer experience in-store is more important than ever before.

All of our shopping demands are available in a click, so it’s not enough to just offer cheap prices anymore. With the e-commerce boom showing no signs of slowing down, customers are becoming more conscious of what they are buying and with over 23,000 stores predicted to close this year alone, fashion houses need to adopt a new approach to avoid becoming the ghost of 2019’s past.

Numerous reports are reinforcing that the experience is one of the more important elements of customer choice in today’s environment. This includes the fact that 67 per cent of consumers would pay more for a great experience, and 84 per cent of organisations working to improve experience report an increase in revenue.

How can retailers offer something unique and personalised to their customers that encourages them to come back into the High Street? One way, is through the goldmine that is real-time data.

When you combine data with the right business management software, you can achieve a 20/20 vision of your operations like never before. Artificial Intelligence is no longer a toy for bigger corporations. SMEs can take advantage of business management solutions which use AI to reveal untapped insights that can drive business growth, give you a deeper relationship with your customers, and even offer the closest to predicting the future that we have today. Today’s retailers need to take advantage of data that can:

Craft each service to each customer

Why do people pay to go to a concert or comedy show when they could watch it at home? For the experience. In a comedy set, the entertainer often gets involved and talks to the audience; something which would be difficult to achieve at home. Take a leaf out of entertainer’s books, and push the boundaries on customer experience. Data can help you find out a wealth of information which you can use to deliver that fulfilling experience.

Real-time insights can give you the ability to view a customer’s history, orders and previous questions at the tap of a screen, giving you that chance to have tailored conversations with them, not driving blind. You know exactly what they wanted or asked for the last time they spoke to you, and nothing falls through the cracks.

Use these insights to build your knowledge of your customers, giving them the chance to engage with your brand as well as offering a knowledge of them that previously only the online giants had.

With data, you can open up dialogues, have 1-2-1 conversations, and even find out unique characteristics of your customers. Data enables you to cut through the noise and craft your service directly to your audience. Many high street brands have been collecting data for years, but business management data platforms like ItSuitsFashion enables you to find the gold that lies within it, and offer a personalised service that is better than online.

Offer foresight, not hindsight

Decision making can’t be made on the way that the wind is blowing anymore. It must be based on solid facts, ones which can be backed up by data. Has there been a busy Saturday in the high street when nobody has come into your store?

Use data to take a proactive approach to ensure better sales outcomes tomorrow and stay ahead of the curve. As customer data continues to become more complex and diverse, it can provide insights like you may have never previously considered. Solutions like Microsoft Dynamics 365 will allow you to make sense of your current situation, your customers motives behind their purchase, buying patterns, and make informed decisions. Information is power, and predictive technology can allow omni-channel retailers to look at demand patterns and engineer promotions and merchandising to better sales incentivisation and likelihood of returns.

ASOS and the online giants use data to target people online, so why can’t you do it in store?

Streamline processes

Businesses need to provide a good customer experience, but they also need to have an efficient business process, whether that’s customer facing or in the warehouse.

The success in the High Street is not just down to the brick and mortar store itself but its supply chain. Efficiency and experience cannot be compromised - they must go hand in hand.

When handling incoming goods, business management solutions can operate a single source of shared data for materials, production, delivery and revenue to help boost collaboration. You can have your customer details readily available to make fast decisions, along with better planning operations. With data, you can make sure that you’re still getting as much stock as possible shipped to your stores, but it’s as accurate as possible, leaving less space for human error.

Bolster the customer journey

Your customer wants more from your business. They may not know it now, but they will be quick to vote with their feet if your store doesn’t cater to their demands and interests like a competitor does. In fact, 40 per cent of customers will stop buying from you if they have just two bad experiences - is that really something you want to compete with?

The retail footprint is decreasing, and new changes in consumerism can be unsettling. They want something new, they want an experience, and importantly they need a reason to come back and leave the comfort of their homes for your business.

Using data, you can gain a deeper understanding of your customer's profile and behaviour. You can identify and analyse your high-value customers, find out their preferences and create a targeted marketing strategy. See the cost that a product is being sold by other retailers, and how yours fare against the average price. Businesses that champion their customers with a consistent, omnichannel approach stand to make huge gains. Make their in-store experience the best it can be.

Phil Bacon, Xpedition

Phil Bacon joined Xpedition in 2018 and has more than 15 years knowledge and expertise within the Fashion and Apparel industry, working with national and international companies.