Drive Sales The Data Way

Pete Zaballos, CTO, SPS CommercePete, a strategic marketing executive thrives to creative ideas and make sure the work gets done

Historical Sales and Pricing Information
Remember when "knowing your customer" was limited to these two metrics? We had no way of knowing then just how important data would become in today's digital retail environment, an environment in which retailers meticulously develop customer engagement, retention, and loyalty through everything from transactions and demographics to what consumers are express and share social media.

And while information has always been equated with power, it is now essential to survival. That is because "big data" is now "big business." Hotel chains harness data to create digital engagement with their customers to increase bookings, professional sports teams to attract more fans and retailers to drive traffic, increase sales, and improve margins.

Retailers can improve operating margins simply by harnessing product attributes, inventory information, sourcing information, social validation and other data to form the foundation of their digital relationship with consumers.

However, keeping pace with consumers' fickle buying habits is not easy. It starts with combining traditional raw point-of-sale (POS) data with other data now available. Then, analytics transform the data into meaningful intelligence that guides informed action that can boost sales, balance inventory with demand and improve overall bottom-line performance. Retailers and their trading partners need to share data to ensure they have an engaged customer, and then can offer the right products, in the right quantities, in the right outlet at the right time.

Boosting Sales
In addition to helping power consumer engagement, big data delivers unprecedented insight into the effectiveness of marketing efforts. POS analytics can easily compare slightly different
approaches to a single campaign, for example, or evaluate a specific store's product sales related to a specific promotion or end-cap location. This intelligence is invaluable to optimize future promotions and to get a better handle on inventory for individual store locations.

Analytics also offer valuable insight into individuals' purchasing behaviors: who buys what, at what time, how often, and in what quantities? When combined with loyalty programs, this information can reveal cross-promotional opportunities for retailers and their suppliers, such as issuing POS bar-coded coupons when competitive or complementary products are purchased. The success of these coupons can be tracked as well.

The location service capability of most mobile phones provides yet another opportunity for retailers to engage today's shoppers through "pop-up" promotional messages that are highly relevant to a specific time and location. Imagine a shopper standing in front of a display of blue jeans receiving a text offering a discount on a certain brand or promoting a BOGO on a display of sweaters nearby. When linked to events, the possibilities for location-based promotion are even more compelling.

When retailers, suppliers and other trading partners share their data and insight, an actionable, detailed view of item sell-through, inventory and order fulfillment emerges

Big Benefits for Business
There is one more beneficiary of big data in digital retail: all of the supply chain trading partners that must stay ahead of the changing consumer tastes and preferences that drive demand and move inventory.

When retailers, suppliers and other trading partners share their data and insight, an actionable, detailed view of item sell-through, inventory and order fulfillment emerges. Sharing such intelligence across a business network strengthens collaborative relationships for improving delivery of products when and where they're needed, boosting profitability for all parties involved.

Additionally, retailers can quickly source new suppliers that offer desired products and services and can that can meet specific item, fulfillment and other requirements. In addition, suppliers that have real-time visibility into product performance can spot and respond to new opportunities and sales trends, while more quickly and accurately refining forecasting, identifying needs, and adjusting inventory to avoid stock-outs or oversupply.

What is more, the use of data analytics to track vendor performance, such as order fill rates and on- time metrics, makes suppliers and trading partners more accountable. Quality improves throughout the supply chain, to the benefit of retailers, suppliers, and consumer.

What is the data ah-ha from all of this? It is simple: Big data is essential for building digital engagement with shoppers that result in in-store and digital sales, and for optimizing sales performance in Omni-channel retail. Are you embracing the big opportunities that it can provide?