Instant gratification: No better time than now for retailers to leverage on web analytics

THIS year, Alibaba's Singles' Day sales extravaganza hit 168.3 billion yuan (S$34.6 billion), surpassing Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales combined, taking the throne as the world's largest shopping event. Closer to home, the Great Singapore Sale (GSS) also did well, recording a 2-4 per cent increase from 2016, its highest since 2012. This was boosted by the GoSpree app, launched by the Singapore Retailers Association to increase sales and drive shopper traffic to malls. Clearly, these retailers are now doing something right, and with the festive shopping season upon us, how can they continue to build on this momentum with individual shoppers to encourage in-store sales?

We are now in a digital era where we can have what we want instantly, and at a favourable price point. Chico's FAS, Inc, a leading women's clothing retailer in the United States, relies on a robust customer intelligence solution to consolidate and analyse customer and transactional information to create a complete view of the customer. Rather than just analysing visitor numbers, the system analyses what customers are looking out for, what drives purchases, how and when to contact customers, and what the right offers are, to create targeted channel marketing for better customer experiences. Chico's FAS has been able to enhance its relationships with shoppers, as well as generate better results from its targeted marketing campaigns.

In the same vein, retailers in physical stores can take a leaf from Chico's FAS's book, using an omnichannel approach and data-driven technologies to move away from broad, generic offers, and instead towards targeted, personalised recommendations and offers. Relevance to each customer is critical to effective cross-selling and up-selling, and this is where analytics and AI often contribute the most.

Businesses must understand that the Web is not an island to be analysed in isolation; it is vital to the performance of all channels. To be customer-centric, they need to integrate collection and analysis of data about online customer activity with that from their other channels for a complete view.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

These include understanding where relevant touch points are; much like how personal devices can provide consumers with reminders to make purchases when they pass by a certain store, giving them not just what and when they want it, but better still, when they need it. More importantly, quantitative and qualitative data enables merchants to always be one step ahead of the customer and even the competition. Real-time, deliberate efforts in reaching out to consumers will be more widespread as businesses use data and analytics to their advantage.

Europe's biggest drugstore, dm-drogerie markt Group, adopted this approach throughout its 3,000 stores in 12 European countries, ensuring that its digital marketing campaigns, customer rewards programmes, corporate communications and new store launches were all streamlined. This enabled them to share relevant and contextual updates with their customers to drive traffic back to their physical stores.

In a digital era where customers seek instant gratification, artificial intelligence (AI) can help simplify the process for shoppers by enabling real-time decision management. Given the advancement of AI in the retail space, shopping experiences can be made more predictive through the Internet of Things (IoT) with smart assistants and connected devices that learn from living and spending patterns.

Web analytics, when transformed into digital intelligence, is a powerful tool in the retail space - both online and offline - providing even greater value when the data collected on these platforms is not mutually exclusive. The importance of an omnichannel strategy is underscored here, and is especially pertinent in light of the holiday season, as it allows retailers to truly integrate their outreach channels.

With AI, IoT and augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) creeping into personal spaces, real-time data collected using these tools can be used to further discover and engage customers, and act as a boost to enable a better omnichannel strategy.

Customers and companies alike can expect the nature of interactions to change as businesses use big data analytics and the various forms of AI work to provide well-informed and efficient customer interactions that benefit both customers and businesses. The influx of new technologies also signifies a change in the retail industry. The only way retailers can remain competitive is to have an in-depth understanding of the evolving customer profile, needs and demands. Having data on hand to tap this wealth of knowledge is not enough - analytics is what makes it work.

  • The writer is vice-president, global marketing for Asia-Pacific at SAS