2月 232015

Many retailers do not engage in effective forecasting.Retailers are always trying to get closer to customers. But it’s not just about improving service to those customers – it’s about understand more about what products they are demanding so as to make better forecasting decisions around, for example, how much of a particular item is needed in stock.

As this video reminded me, knowing your customers really well means you can easily know what products they will want, when and how, perhaps better than they do. Today, that knowledge is gleaned from a complex assessment of lots of online and offline data which contributes to every single buying decision by your customers.

The online element means it’s not just about attracting customers into the store. Visiting New York for the annual retail conference NRF a few weeks ago, I thought about how the value of retail space has changed. Retail giants that have been there for years, as well as the new retailers on the block, are continuing to transform the experience in-store to stay ahead of customer demand. We are enticed in-store with Wi-Fi, coffee, beer, or live DJs. But this only gets a retailer so far if they cannot capture key data about customers coming in to their stores.

The main problem, however, is not one of getting hold of data; it’s being able to forecast using that data.

We recently conducted the 3rd Annual Analytics in Retail Study, which reports that 71 per cent of retailers performed either basic or no reporting at all when it came to forecasting customer trends. Whilst a large proportion had the ability to gather data, and many were doing so, there is a clear gap in ability to analyse this data to inform business strategy. There are many possible reasons for this; a lack of in-house skills, and/or a lack of awareness of available technology that is more accessible.

At NRF it seemed clear to me that most retailers are continuing to find forecasting a problem, as they are also struggling against the volatility of promotions on stock and the lack of good data around non-traditional channels. As the view of the high street continues to change, shifting that ability to forecast for future buying trends will be the next frontier for retailers in 2015.

More and more retailers are looking at ways of capturing customer data in-store. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently declared 2015 to be the year of Apple Pay, which already makes up more than $2 out of $3 spent on purchases using contactless payment across the three major US card networks. We heard at NRF that this will be a focus for some of the UK's largest retailers. It provides an excellent opportunity to engage customers and enable them to pre-order items. Applying analytics to this data should help develop deeper customer relationships, and more personalised offers and prices. Crucially it also offers insight into customer demand so retailers can make better forecasting decisions.

You may also be interested in my colleague Alison Bolen’s take on the three big trends to come out of NRF this year. Read more about those here. In the meantime, let me know what you think. And thank you for following!

tags: #NRF15, Campaign Management, Inbound marketing, marketing optimization, real-time decisioning, retail
2月 172015
The SAS Booth at Retail's Big Show

The SAS Booth at Retail's Big Show

Omnichannel, Internet of Things and customer loyalty were just three of the terms you heard over and over again on the conference floor and in presentations at retail's biggest conference last month. If you had to miss the Retail Big Show in New York City, the article "Retail's Omnichannel, Data-Driven Revolution is Here" from CMSwire nicely sums up the main themes of the conference. Here's an excerpt:

“Praise the Lord,” that was our response when Alan Lipson, the global industry marketing manager for retail at SAS, said, “Smart retailers see that not every touch needs to lead to a sale. Sometimes the customer’s goals are more related to utility or convenience, and using data to help them accomplish those goals will increase customer loyalty in the long run."

We’re going to literally make note of it and hand it to the next salesperson or pop-up window that stalks us.

“The value is in the visit, not just the sale,” insisted Lipson. And if anyone has the analytics to prove it, it’s SAS.

Virginia Gibbons, the author of the article, reached out to Lipson after the conference to get his thoughts on the energy, topics and freebies at the SAS booth. Keep reading for the full interview between Gibbons and Lipson.

Was Big Data and Analytics a big deal at NRF’s BIG show?

Alan Lipson: Yes, between the continued growth of omnichannel data and the coming onslaught of data from Internet of Things, big data and analytics were bigger than ever at NRF this year.

What were attendees interested in?

Lipson: I saw a renewed interest in customer experience and customer loyalty, with a real shift taking place in the way retailers are approaching omnichannel. Smart retailers see that not every touch needs to lead to a sale. Sometimes the customer’s goals are more related to utility or convenience, and using data to help them accomplish those goals will increase customer loyalty in the long run.

 Did you present or moderate a panel? If so, what was the topic? Were there any reactions that surprised you?

Lipson: SAS sponsored two Big Ideas sessions. The first featured a Macys.com executive discussing customer engagement and cross-channel analytics. The enthusiasm of the standing-room only crowd was fantastic, and pointed out that retailers are still searching for the best way to understand and delight customers. The other session was a lively panel discussion among executives from eBay, Brooks Brothers and Chico’s. They talked about their experiences with loyalty marketing and the big data analytics needed to better engage with customers across all channels.

What was the most interesting topic at the conference?

Lipson: The Internet of Things, for sure. There is so much opportunity here to get convenience and optimization right with streaming data, but also a lot of risk for over reach and frivolous features. It will take some smart planning for retailers to get that balance right and develop options for consumers that are seamless and beneficial.

 If you had a booth, what did you give away or raffle?

Lipson: We gave away copies of Jill Dyché’s new book, The New IT: How Technology Leaders are Enabling Business Strategy in the Digital Age, just released by McGraw-Hill. Jill is VP of Best Practices at SAS and a long-time consultant to businesses around the globe. She notes in her blog, “My current focus is getting IT and business organizations to collaborate more effectively and not kill each other.” A laudable goal. In her book, she covers innovation, the evolving role of the CIO and the trend towards digital business.

tags: #NRF15, analytics, big data, customer loyalty, Internet of Things, omnichannel, retail
2月 102015


Think about what makes you shop at the same place over and over again. Is it attention to detail or the fact that you're always remembered? What makes a good customer experience, regardless of channel?

Darren Stoll, Group Vice President of Marketing at Macys.com recommends these three guidelines for retailers:

  1. Think about the customer, not the channel. “Customer centricity demands omnichannel thinking,” says Stoll.
  2. Shop her way. “Frame everything around what she loves and what experience she expects,” says Stoll.
  3. Use a strategic + tactical customer lens. “If I know the customer has activities they want to accomplish, I know what I need to produce to guide and inform her visit,” says Stoll.

Stoll discussed the omnichannel strategy for Macys.com at The Retail Big Show in New York City last month.

“There’s tremendous power in having all this information about how a customer interacts with us,” he said. “But it’s still early days.” Capturing data and figuring out how to best leverage that data to improve the customer experience will only continue to grow in importance for retailers.

Learn more about the different expectations shoppers have for different channels and find out what data points alone can change the way you think about smartphone activity by reading the full article, "The value is in the visit, not just the sale."

tags: #NRF15, customer experience, omnichannel, retail
1月 192015
The SAS Booth at Retail's Big Show

The SAS Booth at Retail's Big Show

If you’ve been watching the news out of The Retail Big Show, you've been hearing about omnichannel, big data and the Internet of Things. Now that the show is over, don’t forget to follow @SASRetail on Twitter for continued retail news, and watch the SAS Marketing Insights Center for coverage of the presentations I attended from eBay, Chico’s, Brooks Brothers and Macys.com.

Here on the Customer Analytics Blog, I wanted to give you an exclusive on some long-term retail predictions we gathered when we asked retailers to look five to ten years into the future and give us one prediction about where the industry is heading:

  1. Global availability of almost anything. Gayatri Patel, eBay’s Director of Global Data Infrastructure, says she expects the global aspect of retail to continue to grow. “The omnichannel environment is important because it’s global,” she says. “This will continue to give consumers access to goods and services they never had before. It will become easier to drop and ship across any site, with the flow of traffic locally and internally. How we exchange goods and services will have to simplify, and the inventory of products available to us will continue to broaden.
  2. Near real-time delivery. Sahal Laher, Brooks Brothers Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer, is predicts an increase in the real-time nature of customer demand. “We have a new partnership with Uber using their courier side of the business to make same-day deliveries within New York City.” As mobile continues to grow and the demand for same-day delivery grows, this market will spread to more cities, says Laher.
  3. In-home manufacturing. Eric Singleton, Chico’s Chief Information Officer is looking at 3D printing and similar technologies. He says, “I predict a tremendous rise of in-home manufacturing. It won’t replace all products but it will be nothing to produce a range of products in the home. That may sound very futuristic, but a decade’s a long time.”

What do you think? Are our experts on mark – or being somewhat fanciful? What will you look forward to manufacturing at home, and what do you wish you could have delivered within a day? Tell us in the comments.

tags: #NRF15, retail
1月 132015

Retailing is fascinating because it’s the very essence of a market – a place that begins and ends with the customer. And the cash register / online shopping cart is where the supply curve and the demand curve meet, generating an endless stream of customer data made very valuable with analytics.

Retail Silhouette2

Your customers know when you get it right.

So what can retailers do with analytics?

  • First and foremost – ask and answer questions more quickly and completely.
  • Solve more complex problems than previously thought possible.
  • And gain deeper insights into customers’ tastes, preferences and likely next moves.

Some retailers, such as Chico’s, use analytics to link web browsing to store purchases so they better understand the overall shopping patterns and preferences of customers.

With analytics, retailers can know exactly what customers want – and make sure they get it. Wouldn't that make a difference?

Imagine knowing their preferences, buying behaviors and what they are thinking (and saying) about your brand. Retailers are doing that with analytics. Then imagine using that insight in both marketing and merchandising decisions – so everything in your operation begins and ends with the customer. Accurately. Profitably. And more meaningfully for the customer.

With analytics, retailers can know every customer and make interactions more personal – online, offline and omni channel.

With analytics, retail gets it right. Everything at the right price, in the right place and at the right time.

Want to learn more? Click on the video frame below and watch – it’s only a minute and a half and well worth your time.



tags: #NRF15, analytics, omni-channel, retail
12月 192014

This infographic summarizes some of the findings of this reseach report.Everybody cares about the holiday shopping season. For retailers, it can account for as much as 30% of annual sales according to the National Retail Federation ("NRF"). For many individuals, it can be the best time to score great deals on presents for loved ones. For the overall economy, the impact of the holiday shopping season is estimated by the NRF to be $640 Billion, so its importance ripples far beyond the immediate receipts tabulated by retailers.

The start of the holiday shopping season is referred to as "Black Friday" in recognition of many retailers going "into the black" of profitability on the day after Thanksgiving. That important day inspired me to write a Thanksgiving rhyme about a study we conducted on holiday shoppers and their habits throughout the period. And with a week yet before Christmas Day, we have seven days to appreciate seven things to know about holiday shoppers:

  1. One in five of us still has gifts to buy. Eighteen percent of holiday shoppers plan to buy gifts this week.
    Who are these shoppers? The younger crowd—with an average age of 40 compared to 47 among other shoppers. One-third of those buying this week are under 30.
  2. Those buying this week will spend more. Those of us still shopping for holiday gifts will end up spending an average of $1278 on holiday presents this year, compared to $1077 among those who have literally wrapped up their holiday spending.
  3. Gift cards will be the “perfect” last minute addition.   Gift cards top the shopping list for those still in search of presents this week. Fortunately, they are also the No. 1 request on many wish lists. So pick a card. But not just any card. The most requested gift card brand? Amazon. Also popular: a favorite department stores, restaurant or specialty store. Picking the right one adds that personal (and not so last minute) touch.   Two in three shoppers will get it right—they ask what people want for the holidays.
  4. It’s probably too late to ask for electronics. If you’re hoping to sneak in a late request for a new tablet or smartphone, you might have to wait for your birthday. Most of the shopping for electronics was done during Thanksgiving weekend. Black Friday Warriors were out in force snagging the electronics deals.
  5. Male shoppers will outspend women shoppers. At least that’s what they report in the survey. When men report the holiday spending, the bill comes in at an average of $1,134, compared to $1,077 for women. Men will also spend more on their significant others. But then, men don’t mind spending more for convenience (53% of men agree versus 41% of women).
  6. More than half of us will have a holiday spending hangover. When the holiday bills start rolling in, 57% will feel like we overspent during the holidays. But men, despite spending more, are less likely to feel the post-holiday guilt (51% versus 63% of women). Go figure.
  7. Holiday shopping is stressful for four in ten of us. According to our survey, holiday shopping stress is related to the desire to find the “perfect gift,” pressure to stay on budget and maybe even over planning. Stocking filled with a gingerbread man.Those who say holiday shopping causes them stress are much more likely than the “non-stressed” to have a holiday budget (62% versus 46%), spend extra time to save money (73% versus 58%) but are more likely to overspend (67% versus 55%).   The takeaway: Chillax - it’s Christmas.

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