3 ways data leads the way for retail disruption

Retailers think differently about the customer experience today than they did 10 years ago. As Ralph Lauren CIO Janet Sherlock noted in a session at The Girls’ Lounge at NRF 2019: Retail’s Big Show, “Data is at the forefront of everything, and the customer is the center of everything.” The panel, which also included fashion designer Nicky Hilton, Hammitt founder and CEO Tony Drockton, Bulletin co-founder and COO Ali Kreigsman and Resulticks CEO Redickaa Subrammanian, highlighted three ways technology is changing the way we shop.

Creating seamless experiences

Savvy retailers leverage data to connect their physical stores to the online world. That unification provides a seamless experience for customers and creates one cohesive brand identity. For example, if a customer is shopping online and marks a few items as favorites or places them in their cart, a retailer can leverage beacons and tracking technology the next time that customer visits their local store to notify a sales associate to proactively place those items in a fitting room.

Better understanding customers

Data is also changing the way brands look at consumer segments and audiences. Segmentation used to be limited to basic demographics like age, gender and income level. Now, deeper and richer data allows brands to use factors such as a customer’s social influence and other digital behavior to shape audience segments.

Beyond more comprehensive customer profiles, data empowers retailers with a better understanding of how consumers shop in their stores, including what displays catch their eye and what areas of the store they avoid. With this information, collected through foot traffic-monitoring technology, retailers can optimize store layouts to help customers find what they want, faster.

Explaining the benefit to customers

Regardless of how retailers are using customer data, it’s important for them to be transparent about why they’re collecting it and the benefits it will provide customers — whether it’s convenience, time saved or more customized recommendations. Kreigsman pointed out how shopping behavior is similar to social behavior: Instagram users expect tailored content on their feeds as soon as they open the app, and they want to shop like that, too. Customers often don’t even notice the most effective technology, but don’t discount the importance of spelling it out.

In the end, numbers alone can only take a company so far. It’s the combination of technology with the human touch that will win customers. As Drockton noted, Hammitt is a “human-to-human” company, not “business-to-consumer.”

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