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e-Commerce Industry News

May 6, 2014
How to avoid a retail data disaster
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May 6, 2014
Data can inform significant retail decisions. Data can inform significant
retail decisions.
Data is crucial to omnichannel retailing efforts. With the right information, merchants can tailor their offerings to the needs of specific individuals, providing them with highly relevant item recommendations that can improve conversion rates. At the same time, accurate data can also greatly enhance many behind-the-scenes areas of operation, ranging from customer service to warehouse and inventory management.

The problem, however, is that data management in and of itself is no easy task. Information is always changing - whether it's customers' preferences maturing or their physical location changing, data isn't a static asset. Inaccuracies in data can lead to inefficient retail operations and customer frustration and, as Multichannel Merchant noted, as much as 30 percent of information stored in retailers' database will change on an annual basis, which causes further problems.

In short, a data disaster can damage customer loyalty and hinder CRM efforts, which means retailers should make data management a priority. Here are a few steps merchants can take to minimize the chances of their data becoming a hindrance down the line:

1. Consolidate channels
Historically merchants operated each retail channel and platform as if it was its own independent store. This not only resulted in inventory management issues, it also limited the retailer's ability to collect and create accurate customer profiles.

With the rise of new omnichannel retailing tools and software, merchants need to break down the walls that separate all of their different retail channels so they can consolidate information into a "single source of truth."

"The rules and processes put into place to support this type of infrastructure are known as master data management," Multichannel Merchant explained. "Under this structure, the master customer records are consolidated into a central database controlled by a single administrative application that feeds and supports the other customer applications."

Once this data has been centralized, retailers can use it in real-time to make critical business decisions, whether it's deciding on a particular marketing strategy or deciding which items they want to stock.

2. Make people accountable
If retailers want something done right, they need an advocate who can pioneer change and really get behind improvement efforts. This person understands why data is so important to the success of omnichannel retailing efforts and is willing to make sure everyone else sees the value of information as well.

This data champion would oversee efforts to consolidate data, integrate it into decision-making, monitor the creation and management of data and otherwise act as an administrator who oversees the use of information across retail operations. They also need to ensure all data is handled according to protocol and in a consistent fashion to minimize any inaccuracies. This person will also be in charge in proving the ROI of data, which can be a major tool for dissuading any skepticism.

3. Map the movement of data
How do companies attribute and collect data? How often are databases scrubbed? How is data used? All of this information needs to be carefully mapped out to ensure a consistent approach to data management.

Many retailers struggle with their data usage. According to one report from IDC, as many as 20 percent of retailers don't have any analytics while 60 percent are still in the process of integrating data. Companies need to get a grasp of this core business function if they want to achieve omnichannel success.