Real-Time Analytics: Need Of The Hour For Retailers

ashwin

Surviving in this world of intense competition and changing minds, offline and online retailers find the need to understand customer minds to track their preferences. Business decisions have to be altered as per customer’s behavioural patterns. In order to acquire substantial data, brands rely on analysis that helps define the offerings to engage potential customers.    

However, consumer behaviour research by IBM Commerce India/SA shows that 81% of marketers believe they have a holistic view of customers while only 22% of customers believe the average retailer understands them. This is where data analytics comes into play, as it empowers companies to differentiate their services with respect to customers by focusing on understanding customers to serve better. This leads to the management taking sound business decisions based on their understanding of the target. In this context, retailers are placing huge bets on analytics to deliver personalized user experience and create brand loyalty.

How real is traditional analysis?  

Analytics is usually a backend function that analyses customer data over a period of time. Over the years, companies have been relying on traditional analysis, in order to understand every aspect of the business performance. Big data is collated over a period of time and there are hurdles around dealing with the volume and variety of data. There are equally big challenges related to velocity, or how fast the data can be processed to deliver any benefit to the business. However, it was not enough for brands operating in highly competitive environments to rely on data picked up by traditional statistics.

Everything has a time value and so do the insights derived from traditional analytical data. More the time passes, the value of insights decreases. Today, organizations rarely have the luxury of storing and analysing data over a matter of months. The latest customer data helps the brands to define their action and needs as per customers partiality. According to Gartner, retailers will not be able to compete in the digitalized marketplace without advanced analytic capabilities.

Business Value from Real-Time Data

To bridge this gap, real-time analytics is a preferred tool for brands to enhance the effectiveness of business decisions. Real-time analytics is gaining ground because customer needs and preferences are evolving very rapidly. Analysing purchases made in the last transaction can afford better predictability of customer behaviour than analysing purchases made in the last season. Real-time analytics commands 24×7 connectivity with customers to keep track of their in-store browsing and to prompt customers for feedback via their mobiles after every encounter with the brand. Data analytics helps companies gain insights into customer buying behaviour while delivering customer feedback at their doorstep.

Talking about the Indian Retail industry in specific, witnessing seasonal trends is a common mechanism. Seasonal trends prove to be a good opportunity for high sales, in order to collect customer’s feedback and act on it. If feedback from customers is acted upon after the seasonal change, the case becomes irrelevant. Desired action has to be taken before the season is over to be on top of the customer preference chart.

The online retailers has seen unprecedented growth in the last couple of years, driven by rapid technology adoption, increasing use of smartphones and rising internet penetration, leading to a growing customer base. Availability of diverse products, seamless and rapid delivery services and attractive deals and more have led to customers preferring online retailers in place of traditional retailers. While this presents a huge business opportunity for online players it comes with its share of challenges like customer retention, need for superior user experience with respect to seamless transaction, etc. Though holding a higher market share, offline retailers need to safeguard their position to combat against their online counterparts. Whereas online retailers need to constantly refine their offerings in order to stay ahead in all times.

A number of solutions on offer have made it easy for businesses be it online as well as offline to process data in real-time and seamlessly integrate with the POS system (online and offline). Real-time analytics need to be integrated with various processes without altering on-going practices. Besides obtaining customer feedback and generating detailed real-time customer analytics, it will facilitate running a customer loyalty programme too. It will permit collective views of customer preferences, such as top selling products, best performing outlets and yields of marketing campaigns, as well as facilitate drill downs to the level of individual customers.

sunpreet

There are two ways for companies to implement real time analytics. Firstly, setting up an in-house system involves high investment and set-up time. Training employees to get acquainted to the software also contributes to a high portion of the expenditure. Secondly, an affordable and convenient option is by using a third party secured platform for real time analytics. It requires less money, time and effort, no special skills are required since the platform is easy to use.

If real-time data analytics is adopted, well executed and used for a long time by brands, multiple business issues can be solved and many opportunities can be taken advantage of. To conclude, a complete customer engagement platform is needed that enables retailers to know their customers from various aspects such as transactional, geographical, income-level, spending behaviour, to name a few.

(The article has been co-authored by Sunpreet Singh Bindra, Co-Founder, ONE Rewardz)