Combining Social, Mobile With Analytics Dramatically Improves the Shopping Experience
Whether it's shopping for new summer styles or preparing for back to school, when consumers are on the hunt for the hottest items and best deals on new clothing and accessories, they're increasingly turning to their mobile devices and social networks.
More and more consumers are using the rich functionality of their mobile devices to browse, research and purchase products. In the last months of 2013, mobile traffic accounted for nearly 35 percent of all online traffic, up 40 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2012.
Gone are the days when marketers could simply check the "mobile box" with a one-size-fits-all mobile website or app. Mobile must be personalized and integrated throughout all consumers’ interactions with a brand. Mobile can be used to drive synergies with in-store interactions and improve retail associates’ productivity and customer service capabilities. Smart retailers are making mobile a top priority to capitalize on these opportunities.
Mobile has the power to arm businesses with rich data and analytics that provide meaningful insight into a consumer's interests, location and how they interact with a brand. A recent survey found that 62 percent of retailers report that the use of information (including big data) and analytics is creating a competitive advantage for their organizations, compared with 63 percent of cross-industry respondents.
Collecting data and turning it into insights helps organizations improve the customer experience by analyzing clickthroughs, time spent on specific pages and pain points in the payment process. This data, collected from point-of-sale systems, online transactions, social media, loyalty programs, call-center records and more, deepens their understanding of customer patterns and preferences, helps them understand drivers, and enables more precise customer segmentation and the ability to make personalized real-time offers.
Forward-thinking retailers are taking a business-driven and pragmatic approach to big data. The most effective big data strategies identify business requirements first, and then tailor the infrastructure, data sources and analytics to support the business opportunity. Retailers can create unprecedented insight and intelligence by transforming the large amount of data collected from transaction systems, social networks and mobile devices — including shoppers’ locations within stores — into actionable insights.
For example, NS Shopping, a home shopping network in South Korea, is using mobile to more easily reach shoppers wherever and whenever they prefer to browse and purchase products. NS Shopping can also gain insights from data gathered on the company's mobile and web properties to provide shoppers with personalized product recommendations, enabling smarter marketing and engagement with individual consumers.
By detecting emerging opportunities and personalizing offers at the moment that the opportunity arises, retailers are able to enhance operational dexterity and deliver services more quickly. This approach is important for improving the in-store experience and synergies. Research shows that 84 percent of smartphone shoppers use their phone while in a physical store, and 64 percent of store associates use mobile devices in-store to perform store functions.
Using mobile technology is equally important for retailers. Consider the ability for an associate to check inventory, locate items and look up in-stock store locations from a mobile device, using available data to improve the customer experience at the first point of contact. And, most importantly, associates can deliver personalized recommendations when they have a complete view of shoppers’ online and social interactions along with what they're doing right now in-store.
With nearly 5 billion subscribers worldwide, mobile phones are becoming a pervasive consumer touchpoint and are changing the way customers interact with retailers and their social networks. Mobile is already enabling consumers to bridge the physical and digital shopping experiences. To capitalize on this opportunity and improve customer loyalty and satisfaction, retailers will need to identify how to turn data into a positive experience — whether on a device or in-store.
Vish Ganapathy is the chief technologist for global retail industry, IBM.