3 Ways Fast Data Helps Retailers Deliver Rich Customer Experiences (Just Like Amazon!)
What if retailers could make real-time recommendations to customers based on current events happening inside and outside their online or physical storefront? Or resell returned merchandise even before it arrives back at the warehouse? In the age of “fast data,” retailers can leverage real-time data to better understand what customers want and need today, as opposed to making predictions based on what they wanted in the past. The result is dramatically improved customer experiences and increased operational efficiency. How? Let’s look at a few examples:
No. 1: Providing Real-Time Product Recommendations
Instead of periodically calculating recommendations in advance – which has been common practice to date – retailers can leverage data about events happening right now to make in-the-moment recommendations that better fulfill customer needs today. The result is not only increased sales and customer loyalty, but substantial differentiation. This data might come from the following sources:
- Geographic location and current shopping behaviors: For example, a sports fan shopping for new gear may want to be one of the first to get the jersey of a new player traded to his or her home team.
- External factors impacting customers right now: Alternatively, there might be a spike in purchases for a book that was promoted on a late-night talk show in a region where many consumers are snowed in. A retailer could then suggest that book to others experiencing the same inclement weather.
- Today’s trending data: By mining data from Google, Twitter, Facebook, etc., retailers can deliver search results that capture and reflect viral trends. For example, a search for “belt bag” or “bike shorts” might result in trending styles seen at Coachella, whereas a general search for home decor could lead to bold, checker-patterned throw pillows and curtains popularized by today’s dream home on HGTV.
No. 2: Offering Customers the ‘Zappos’ Return Experience Without Sinking Profits
Customers love the ability to return unwanted products at zero cost to them (e.g., Nordstrom and Zappos). However, offering this perk can be extremely costly for retailers. In addition to extra shipping costs, retailers also incur related inventory costs associated with returning items to the warehouse, checking them in, restocking them, and re-entering them into the e-commerce system before they can be made available for sale again. It can take days before this is completed – all contributing to increased costs and lost sales. With fast data, retailers can directly link logistics, inventory and e-commerce systems to immediately add in process returns to available inventory, dramatically improving inventory management efficiency.
No. 3: Optimizing Product Delivery
Fast data capabilities can also optimize and expand delivery options to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and future purchases. For example, it may be more convenient for a customer to receive their package at work this morning rather than at home this afternoon. Through new apps and other technologies, making this change is as simple as clicking a button, even when the package is already out for delivery. Taking it a step further, innovative retailers, like Amazon.com, are finding new ways to transform delivery, such as testing delivery to a customer’s vehicle. It’s one thing to optimize around fixed delivery points, it’s another entirely to optimize to changing time-sensitive locations. The ability to deliver to a location that moves truly illustrates what's possible with fast data.
The Future of Retail is Fast – Your Use of Data Needs to Be Too
In an industry as competitive as retail, it’s important for businesses to leverage new technology solutions that can enhance the customer experience. The idea behind fast data is simple: look at and respond to current data to offer customers cost savings, convenience, and more relevant products. With new innovations in data streaming technologies, fast data is becoming increasingly easier for retailers to adopt, introducing endless possibilities to delight customers. How will it transform retail next?
Karthik Ramasamy is the co-founder of Streamlio, an intelligent platform for fast data.
Karthik Ramasamy is co-founder of Streamlio, an enterprise-class solution for fast data powered by Apache Pulsar that can connect, process and store data streams in real-time.