Omni-Channel Retail Forum Breakfast – April
Our most recent Omni Retail Forum was held in conjunction with IORMA (International Omni Retail Markets Association www.iorma.com). The discussion centred around the challenge of managing big data to deliver personalised service to the customer. We had representatives from the Omni world including business analytics, retail, travel, private equity, gaming, brand management and media.
In fairness to those present, these are only my reflections and those who expressed their ideas did so with far greater clarity than I’ll articulate now.
We kicked off the discussion with some case studies drawing from experiences of using real time information to communicate with customers, for example, using Weve, the mobile wallet that glues M-commerce together including an incentives platform. In the past promotions may have taken 4 weeks to originate and deliver and now with platforms like Weve, the opportunity is immediate.
The problem Retailers face with big data is how to make it useful through segmenting the customer base. It is easy to fall into the trap of analysis paralysis or for analytics geeks to get so trapped in the detail that they propose 23 customer segments which are almost impossible to manage. It was agreed at the forum a common sense approach of 5 to 7 segments seems right.
There seemed to be a consensus that the key to getting targeted data was working closely with the data miners to ensure there were workable actions from what is a costly, time consuming exercise.
The challenge is that historical data is one thing; but the trick is in understanding the next aspirational trend and identifying where the real opportunities lie. Nowadays, this lies in underground movements seen as ‘cool’ because they’re new, exclusive and inaccessible to the masses, you have to be in the know to know. But how can one monetise the community?
This also gave rise to comments on the potential value sitting with customers who reject all aspects of personal data surrender – we don’t know about them, but they too have money to spend – so how do we find them and attract them if they don’t want to share their profiles and preferences with us?
Social media is the conduit for this change in consumer behaviour and the task of monitoring all social media seems like a monumental task. Best to just get started somewhere but you may need to change the paradigm. In the past brands and products were jealously guarded, with litigious responses to any infringement. In this age, retailers have found it best to embrace the fan sites on Facebook and unofficial twitter feeds and offer support and make them a friend, getting the brand involved and using the power of the consumer in a positive way.
But we are faced with the challenge of how to monitor these sites without being seen as a policeman, particularly to the youth market who are incredibly savvy to even the subtlest sell. Embracing the customer base through social media is just a new avenue to achieving something we all used to say in retail – the easiest way to win a customer for life is the way one handled their complaint -Turn them from being hostile toward the brand to becoming a champion for the brand. The aim remains the same and social media allows us a new platform for advantage.
And finally reflecting back on big data. There used to be one set of communication and content rules. But spam is only spam if it is not relevant to the recipient. Flexing the message per segment is key. But then understanding what the person has purchased in the past is not very useful if it was a one off purchase like a holiday or sofa. The trick is to understand the lifestyle of your customer and respond to that.
So who holds the lifestyle information on our customers? Media businesses are a good start. Perhaps media companies that are looking to monetise their sites (as paper sales diminish year on year and currently fund the sites) need look no further than to be a lifestyle data provider. Another paradigm shift, how to broker that sort of joint venture.
Given this challenge of how businesses need to measure to deliver their future and not focus on their past, the next forum will address that question.
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