Making Data Work: The real-time benefits of real-time data

Data has always had an important role in retail. From shaping decision-making on stock control and pricing, to influencing marketing, and informing sales strategies, it’s all about the insights that this information can provide. Two key areas where data plays an even greater role today are customer experience and loyalty.

The reason? Competitive advantage and differentiation. The retail landscape is increasingly cut-throat, where traditional brands are competing, not just against each other, but also against the dominance of e-commerce players. In order to attract and retain customers, other than the actual offering, it’s consistent, relevant and personalised messaging that will keep customers coming back.

Capitalising on the point of sale

The point of sale, an area that presents a huge opportunity and one that retailers aren’t necessarily taking full advantage of, is where personalisation can be elevated to deliver more benefits to both retailer and consumer. Especially given that the majority of sales transactions still take place in-store – 84% of them, in fact.

In conjunction with the right technology, retailers can capture and analyse shoppers’ real-time purchase data. This data can be used to personalise offers for shoppers – regardless of whether they are members of a loyalty scheme, regular buyers, or infrequent shoppers. The right technology at the point of sale can deliver meaningful communications and offers for every customer that passes through.

These offers can range from coupons, messages on receipts, stretch spend offers, discounts, new product promotions, or value-adds like product care information or recipes. And the important thing is that they are all based on shopper behaviour, past purchases and items in the basket, harnessing the data generated at the point of sale.

Looking at the long-term

In the longer term, shopping transaction data can also be used to build up a more comprehensive view of the customer and their behaviour and purchases. While historical data can certainly play a role in marketing campaigns and refining offerings, it is the real-time element that sets successful retailers apart from their competitors, making them more agile and proactive in capitalising on trends and events that could positively impact sales.

When it comes to campaigns, for example, there is often a time lag between updating analytical models and executing them. As a result, what was relevant last month is perhaps no longer the case. How can retailers get around this? By using machine learning to automate the process, the delay between insights and action can be minimised.

With the right software, relevant and personalised offers can be placed in the hands of the customer more quickly, prompting a faster return on investment. In addition, this approach can help the retailer save money and conserve resources as campaigns based on current data have a much better chance of success.

Bringing automation into the equation can also help retailers make that leap into trigger-based marketing and campaigns. Kicked off by a predetermined date or when certain criteria are met, trigger-based campaigns can be focused around seasonal events like Halloween, or sporting events such as Wimbledon or the World Cup. They generally have an end date and a specific outcome to achieve.

The use of real-time data and automation can also help with measuring these campaigns in terms of whether or not they are successful and delivering a return on investment. If campaigns aren’t performing as planned, they can be stopped or amended. And if they are performing well, additional resources or offers can be added to capitalise on the momentum seen to date.

Going forward

The retail environment will continue to change, and brands will need to do all they can to ensure they remain relevant, competitive and able to deliver the best possible customer experience. A key factor for retailers will be the use of real-time data to derive real benefits for the business. While data is not solely responsible for these elements, it can be used to great effect across retail organisations to help shape marketing efforts and drive that customer experience, particularly in conjunction with the right technology, software and automation.

Michael Poyser is the chief analytics officer at point of sale-based marketing software company Ecrebo

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