How Data and Analytics Are Changing the Way Retailers Operate Physical Stores
Don’t let the hoopla fool you: brick-and-mortar retail is here to stay. This is particularly evident by the news that Amazon.com, the company that aimed to sell everything online, might build a chain of department stores. After numerous retailers announced their plans to close several physical locations, it seems the world’s largest e-commerce company will swoop in to take their place.
This has been the cycle of retail from day one — newer, successful entrants replacing others as they close up shop. However, things are different this time around. It's no longer enough to simply stock the shelves and open the doors. Retailer success is now determined by a wide variety of factors, including their supply chains and the level of engagement they provide, which depend on the quality of the data and analytics being utilized.
Brick-and-mortar stores remain a prominent and often primary sales channel for many retailers, which are transforming both digitally and physically. By using the right technology to empower insightful data-driven decision making, retailers can set themselves apart from the crowd while preparing for the future.
The Retail Revolution Starts With Data
Hybrid commerce, an amalgamation of online and in-person shopping, is now a permanent fixture of retail. It provides consumers with the ability to shop whenever and wherever they want, but it also means they can quickly research and compare products at the drop of a hat.
To keep up with their decisions, shopping habits and trends, retailers need to be able to combine all of their data — across all channels — to gain a complete view of customer buying habits and preferences. This is essential to any initiative to reduce stock loss, improve inventory management, and drive store performance.
Retailers must also work to evolve their brick-and-mortar locations into customer engagement centers that solidify their position as a place for more than trying and buying products. A further evolution is allowing retailers to become critical supply chain hubs that provide faster service — i.e., in-store shopping, pickup or delivery — than what would be possible when relying on warehouses alone.
However, this can only be accomplished with analytics that are powerful and easy to understand, allowing store employees to make smarter decisions right at the shelf, with the customer, or in the back office.
Data is Essential to Improving Customer Engagement and Satisfaction
The URBN brand family, which operates Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, Nuuly, and other brands, is fighting to overcome one of the industry's biggest challenges by democratizing in-store decision making. By providing staff with greater access to an array of dashboards and reports — updated with fresh data every two minutes — URBN employees can gain immediate access to information whenever needed.
As a result, store employees will be able to better supervise inventory, monitor sales, assess store demand and understand trends via mobile devices right on the shop floor. URBN is also becoming more efficient by consolidating three previously separate reporting locations into one central analytics hub. Now, instead of searching for insights and answers across three avenues, URBN staff can move faster and spend more time focusing on customer engagement and satisfaction.
Succeed While Meeting the Needs of Every Customer
Many have questioned the future of retail, wondering what will happen next as store closings reached record highs. However, it has now become clear that the future will be rooted in personalization and engagement, bringing consumers and e-commerce closer together, no matter when or where they shop. It's therefore essential for retailers to have flexibility and scalability in delivering accurate and near real-time data across the organization. By having quick and easy access to data across retail locations as well as the supply chain, e-commerce, warehouses and distribution centers, retailers will be positioned to succeed while meeting the needs of their customers.
Poornima Ramaswamy is executive vice president, global solutions and partners at Qlik, a data analytics and data integration solutions provider.
As the Executive Vice President of Global Solutions and Partners at Qlik, Poornima leads a multi-disciplinary team that blends alliances/channel strategy, consulting and education services, as well as value engineering. Her team designs and executes transformational strategies for large enterprise customers to maximize the value of their overall investments in Qlik’s data integration and analytics platforms. In her position, Poornima also holds a leadership role within the Customer Exchange Network.
Poornima joined Qlik from Cognizant, where she was the business leader for their AI & Analytics practice in North America. During her tenure, Poornima also led the Cognizant Chief Data & AI Officer Advisory Council, a community of analytics executives focused on AI & Analytics as a strategic imperative for organizations. Poornima has more than 20 years of experience across a variety of industries and started her career at Tata Infotech.
Poornima holds an MBA from ICFAI Business School, India and a BS in Mathematics from University of Madras, India.