Category Archives: Retail

3 Barriers to Delivering Omnichannel Experiences

 

This blog post initially appeared on CMSwire.com and is reblogged here with their consent.

3 Barriers to Delivering Omnichannel Experiences

Image via Lars Plougmann via CC BY-SA 2.0 license

I was recently searching for fishing rods for my 5-year old son and his friends to use at our neighborhood pond. I know nothing about fishing, so I needed to get educated. First up, a Google search on my laptop at home. Then, I jostled between my phone, tablet and laptop visiting websites, reading descriptions, looking at photos and reading reviews. Offline, I talked to friends and visited local stores recently, searching for fishing rods for my 5-year old son and his friends to use at our neighborhood pond. I know nothing about fishing, so I needed to get educated. First up, a Google search on my laptop at home. Then, I jostled between my phone, tablet and laptop visiting websites, reading descriptions, looking at photos and reading reviews. Offline, I talked to friends and visited local stores.

The product descriptions weren’t very helpful. What is a “practice casting plug”? Turns out, this was a great feature! Instead of a hook, the rod had a rubber fish to practice casting safely. What a missed opportunity for the retailers who didn’t share this information. I bought the fishing rods from the retailer that educated me with valuable product information and offered free three to five day shipping.

What does this mean for companies who sell products across multiple channels?

Virtually everyone is a cross-channel shopper: 95 percent of consumers frequently or at least occasionally shop a retailer’s website and store, according to the “Omni-Channel Insights” study by CFI Group. In the report, “The Omnichannel Opportunity: Unlocking the Power of the Connected Customer,” Deloitte predicts more than 50 percent of in-store purchases will be influenced digitally by the end of 2014.

Because of all this crosschannel activity, a new term is trending: omnichannel

What Does Omnichannel Mean?

Let’s take a look back in time. Retailers started with one channel — the brick-and-mortar store. Then they introduced the catalog and call center. Then they built another channel — e-Commerce. Instead of making it an extension of the brick-and-mortar experience, many implemented an independent strategy, including operations, resources, technology and inventory. Retailers recently started integrating brick-and-mortar and e-Commerce channels, but it’s not always consistent. And now they are building another channel — mobile sites and apps.

Multichannel is a retailer-centric, transaction-focused view of operations. Each channel operates and aims to boost sales independently. Omnichannel is a customer-centric view. The goal is to understand through which channels customers want to engage at each stage of the shopping journey and enable a seamless, integrated and consistent brand experience across channels and devices.

Shoppers expect an omnichannel experience, but delivering it efficiently isn’t easy. Those responsible for enabling an omnichannel experience are encountering barriers. Let’s look at the three barriers most relevant for marketing, merchandising, sales, customer experience and information management leaders.

Barrier #1: Shift from product-centric to customer-centric view

Many retailers focus on how many products are sold by channel. Three key questions are:

  1. How can we drive store sales growth?
  2. How can we drive online sales growth?
  3. What’s our mobile strategy?

This is the old way of running a retail business. The new way is analyzing customer data to understand how they are engaging and transacting across channels.

Why is this difficult? At the Argyle eCommerce Leadership Forum, Vice President of Multichannel at GameStop Corp Jason Allen shared the $8.8 billion video game retailer’s approach to overcoming this barrier. While online represents 3 percent of sales, no one measured how much the online channel was influencing overall business.

They started by collecting customer data for analytics to find out who their customers were and how they interacted with Game Stop online and in 6,600 stores across 15 countries. The analysis revealed customers used multiple channels: 60 percent engaged on the web, and 26 percent of web visitors who didn’t buy online bought in-store within 48 hours.

This insight changed the perception of the online channel as a small contributor. Now they use two metrics to measure performance. While the online channel delivers 3 percent of sales, it influences 22 percent of overall business.

Take Action: Start collecting customer data. Analyze it. Learn who your customers are. Find out how they engage and transact with your business across channels.

Barrier #2: Shift from fragmented customer data to centralized customer data everyone can use

Nikki Baird, Managing Partner at Retail Systems Research (RSR), told me she believes the fundamentals of retail are changing from “right product, right price, right place, right time” to:

  1. Who is my customer?
  2. What are they trying to accomplish?
  3. How can we help?

According to RSR, creating a consistent customer experience remains the most valued capability for retailers, but 54 percent indicated their biggest inhibitor was not having a single view of the customer across channels.

Why is this difficult? A $12 billion specialty retailer known for its relentless focus on customer experience, with 200 stores and an online channel had to overcome this barrier. To deliver a high-touch omnichannel experience, they needed to replace the many views of the customer with one unified customer view. They invested in master data management (MDM) technology and competencies.

2014-17-July-Customer-Information-Challenge.jpg

 

Now they bring together customer, employee and product data scattered across 30 applications (e.g., e-Commerce, POS, clienteling, customer service, order management) into a central location, where it’s managed and shared on an ongoing basis. Employees’ applications are fueled with clean, consistent and connected customer data. They are able to deliver a high-touch omnichannel experience because they can answer important questions about customers and their valuable relationships, such as:

  • Who is this customer and who’s in their household?
  • Who do they buy for, what do they buy, where do they buy?
  • Which employees do they typically buy from in store?

Take Action: Think of the valuable information customers share when they interact with different parts of your business. Tap into it by bridging customer information silos. Bring fragmented customer information together in one central location. Make it universally accessible. Don’t let it remain locked up in departmental applications. Keep it up-to-date. Automate the process of updating customer information across departmental applications.

Barrier #3: Shift from fragmented product data to centralized product data everyone can use

Two-thirds of purchase journeys start with a Google search. To have a fighting chance, retailers need rich and high quality product information to rank higher than the competition.

2014-17-July-Geiger-Image5.pngTake a look at the image on the left. Would you buy this product? Probably not. One-third of shoppers who don’t make a purchase didn’t have enough information to make a purchase decision. What product information does a shopper need to convert in the moment? Rich, high quality information has conversion power.

Consumers return about 40 percent of all fashion and 15 percent of electronics purchases. That’s not good for retailers or shoppers. Minimize costly returns with complete product information so shoppers can make more informed purchase decisions. Jason Allen’s advice is, “Focus less on the cart and check out. Focus more on search, product information and your store locator. Eighty percent of customers are coming to the web for research.”

Why is this difficult? Crestline is a multichannel direct marketing firm selling promotional products through direct mail and e-Commerce. The barrier to quickly bringing products to market and updating product information across channels was fragmented and complex product information. To replace the manual, time consuming spreadsheet process to manage product information, they invested in product information management (PIM) technology.

2014-17-July-Product-Information-Challenge.jpg

Now Crestline’s product introduction and update process is 300 percent more efficient. Because they are 100 percent current on top products and over 50 percent current for all products, the company is boosting margins and customer service.

Take Action: Think about all the product information shoppers need to research and make a decision. Tap into it by bridging product information silos. Bring fragmented product information together in one central location. Make it universally usable, not channel-specific. Keep it up-to-date. Automate the process of publishing product information across channels, including the applications used by customer service and store associates.

Key Takeaways

Delivering an omnichannel experience efficiently isn’t easy. The Game Stop team collected and analyzed customer data to learn more about who their customers are and how they interact with the company. A specialty retailer centralized fragmented customer data. Crestline centralized product information to accelerate their ability to bring products to market and make updates across channels. Which of these barriers are holding you back from delivering an omnichannel experience?

Title image by Lars Plougmann (Flickr) via a CC BY-SA 2.0 license

 

 

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Emerging Markets: Does Location Matter?

I recently wrapped up two overseas trips; one to Central America and another to South Africa. As such, I had the opportunity to meet with a national bank and a regional retail. It prompted me to ask the question: Does location matter in emerging markets?

I wish I could tell you that there was a common theme on how firms in the same sector or country (even city) treat data on a philosophical or operational level but I cannot.   It is such a unique experience every time as factors like ownership history, regulatory scrutiny, available/affordable skill set and past as well as current financial success create a unique grey pattern rather than a comfortable black and white separation. This is even more obvious when I mix in recent meetings I had with North American organizations in the same sectors.

Banking in Latin vs North America

While a national bank in Latin America may seem lethargic, unimaginative and unpolished at first, you can feel the excitement when they can conceive, touch and play with the potential of new paradigms, like becoming data-driven.  Decades of public ownership did not seem to have stifled their willingness to learn and improve. On the other side, there is a stock market-listed, regional US bank and half the organization appears to believe in meddling along without expert IT knowledge, which reduced adoption and financial success in past projects.  Back office leadership also firmly believes in “relationship management” over data-driven “value management”.

To quote a leader in their finance department, “we don’t believe that knowing a few more characteristics about a client creates more profit….the account rep already knows everything about them and what they have and need”.  Then he said, “Not sure why the other departments told you there are issues.  We have all this information but it may not be rolled out to them yet or they have no license to view it to date.”  This reminded me of the “All Quiet on the Western Front” mentality.  If it is all good over here, why are most people saying it is not?  Granted; one more attribute may not tip the scale to higher profits but a few more and their historical interrelationship typically does.

tapping emerging market

“All Quiet on the Western Front” mentality?

As an example; think about the correlation of average account balance fluctuations, property sale, bill pay account payee set ups, credit card late charges and call center interactions over the course of a year.

The Latin American bankers just said, “We have no idea what we know and don’t know…but we know that even long standing relationships with corporate clients are lacking upsell execution”.  In this case, upsell potential centered on wire transfer SWIFT message transformation to their local standard they report of and back.  Understanding the SWIFT message parameters in full creates an opportunity to approach originating entities and cutting out the middleman bank.

Retailing in Africa vs Europe

The African retailer’s IT architects indicated that customer information is centralized and complete and that integration is not an issue as they have done it forever.   Also, consumer householding information is not a viable concept due to different regional interpretations, vendor information is brand specific and therefore not centrally managed and event based actions are easily handled in BizTalk.  Home delivery and pickup is in its infancy.

The only apparent improvement area is product information enrichment for an omnichannel strategy. This would involve enhancing attribution for merchandise demand planning, inventory and logistics management and marketing.  Attributes could include not only full and standardized capture of style, packaging, shipping instructions, logical groupings, WIP vs finished goods identifiers, units of measure, images and lead times but also regional cultural and climate implications.

However, data-driven retailers are increasingly becoming service and logistics companies to improve wallet share, even in emerging markets.  Look at the successful Russian eTailer Ozon, which is handling 3rd party merchandise for shipping and cash management via a combination of agency-style mom & pop shops and online capabilities.  Having good products at the lowest price alone is not cutting it anymore and it has not for a while.  Only luxury chains may be able to avoid this realization for now. Store size and location come at a premium these days. Hypermarkets are ill-equipped to deal with high-profit specialty items.  Commercial real estate vacancies on British high streets are at a high (Economist, July 13, 2014) and footfall is at a seven-year low.   The Centre for Retail Research predicts that 20% of store locations will close over the next five years.

If specialized, high-end products are the most profitable, I can (test) sell most of them online or at least through fewer, smaller stores saving on carrying cost.   If my customers can then pick them up and return them however they want (store, home) and I can reduce returns from normally 30% (per the Economist) to fewer than 10% by educating and servicing them as unbureaucratically as possible, I just won the semifinals.  If I can then personalize recommendations based on my customers’ preferences, life style events, relationships, real-time location and reward them in a meaningful way, I just won the cup.

AT Kearney "Seizing Africa's Retail Opportunities" (2014)

AT Kearney “Seizing Africa’s Retail Opportunities” (2014)

Emerging markets may seem a few years behind but companies like Amazon or Ozon have shown that first movers enjoy tremendous long-term advantages.

So what does this mean for IT?  Putting your apps into the cloud (maybe even outside your country) may seem like an easy fix.  However, it may not only create performance and legal issues but also unexpected cost to support decent SLA terms.  Does your data support transactions for higher profits today to absorb this additional cost of going into the cloud?  Focus on transactional applications and their management obfuscates the need for a strong backbone for data management, just like the one you built for your messaging and workflows ten years ago.  Then you can tether all the fancy apps to it you want.

Have any emerging markets’ war stories or trends to share?  I would love to hear them.  Stay tuned for future editions of this series.

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Top 5 Data Themes in Emerging Markets

Top 5 Data Themes in Emerging Markets

Top 5 Data Themes in Emerging Markets

Recently, my US-based job led me to a South African hotel room, where I watched Germany play Brazil in the World Cup. The global nature of the event was familiar to me. My work covers countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, South Africa and Costa Rica. And as I pondered the stunning score (Germany won, 7 to 1), my mind was drawn to emerging markets. What defines an emerging market? In particular, what are the data-related themes common to emerging markets? Because I work with global clients in the banking, oil and gas, telecommunications, and retail industries, I have learned a great deal about this. As a result, I wanted to share my top 5 observations about data in Emerging Markets.

1) Communication Infrastructure Matters

Many of the emerging markets, particularly in Africa, jumped from one or two generations of telco infrastructure directly into 3G and fiber within a decade. However, this truth only applies to large, cosmopolitan areas. International diversification of fiber connectivity is only starting to take shape. (For example, in Southern Africa, BRICS terrestrial fiber is coming online soon.) What does this mean for data management? First, global connectivity influences domestic last mile fiber deployment to households and businesses. This, in turn, will create additional adoption of new devices. This adoption will create critical mass for higher productivity services, such as eCommerce. As web based transactions take off, better data management practices will follow. Secondly, European and South American data centers become viable legal and performance options for African organizations. This could be a game changer for software vendors dealing in cloud services for BI, CRM, HCM, BPM and ETL.

2) Competition in Telecommunication Matters

If you compare basic wireless and broadband bundle prices between the US, the UK and South Africa, for example, the lack of true competition makes further coverage upgrades, like 4G and higher broadband bandwidths, easy to digest for operators. These upgrades make telecommuting, constant social media engagement possible. Keeping prices low, like in the UK, is the flipside achieving the same result. The worst case is high prices and low bandwidth from the last mile to global nodes. This also creates low infrastructure investment and thus, fewer consumers online for fewer hours. This is often the case in geographically vast countries (Africa, Latin America) with vast rural areas. Here, data management is an afterthought for the most part. Data is intentionally kept in application silos as these are the value creators. Hand coding is pervasive to string data together to make small moves to enhance the view of a product, location, consumer or supplier.

3) A Nation’s Judicial System Matters

If you do business in nations with a long, often British judicial tradition, chances are investment will happen. If you have such a history but it is undermined by a parallel history of graft from the highest to the lowest levels because of the importance of tribal traditions, only natural resources will save your economy. Why does it matter if one of my regional markets is “linked up” but shipping logistics are burdened by this excess cost and delay? The impact on data management is a lack of use cases supporting an enterprise-wide strategy across all territories. Why invest if profits are unpredictable or too meager? This is why small Zambia or Botswana are ahead of the largest African economy, Nigeria.

4) Expertise Location Matters

Anybody can have the most advanced vision on a data-driven, event-based architecture supporting the fanciest data movement and persistence standards. Without the skill to make the case to the business it is a lost cause unless your local culture still has IT in charge of specifying requirements, running the evaluation, selecting and implementing a new technology. It is also done for if there are no leaders who have experienced how other leading firms in the same or different sector went about it (un)successfully. Lastly, if you don’t pay for skill, your project failure risk just tripled. Duh!

5) Denial is Universal

No matter if you are an Asian oil company, a regional North American bank, a Central American National Bank or an African retail conglomerate. If finance or IT invested in any technologies prior and they saw a lack of adoption, for whatever reason, they will deny data management challenges despite other departments complaining. Moreover, if system integrators or internal client staff (mis)understand data management as fixing processes (which it is not) instead of supporting transactional integrity (which it is), clients are on the wrong track. Here, data management undeservedly becomes a philosophical battleground.

This is definitely not a complete list or super-thorough analysis but I think it covers the most crucial observations from my engagements. I would love to hear about your findings in emerging markets.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series where I will talk about the denial and embrace of corporate data challenges as it pertains to an organization’s location.

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Posted in Governance, Risk and Compliance, Public Sector, Retail, Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy | Tagged | Leave a comment

Reflections of a Former Analyst

In my last blog, I talked about the dreadful experience of cleaning raw data by hand as a former analyst a few years back. Well, the truth is, I was not alone. At a recent data mining Meetup event in San Francisco bay area,  I asked a few analysts: “How much time do you spend on cleaning your data at work?”  “More than 80% of my time” and “most my days” said the analysts, and “they are not fun”.

But check this out: There are over a dozen Meetup groups focused on data science and data mining here in the bay area I live. Those groups put on events multiple times a month, with topics often around hot, emerging  technologies such as machine learning, graph analysis, real-time analytics, new algorithm on analyzing social media data, and of course, anything Big Data.  Cools BI tools, new programming models and algorithms for better analysis are a big draw to data practitioners these days.

That got me thinking… if what analysts said to me is true, i.e., they spent 80% of their time on data prepping and 1/4 of that time analyzing the data and visualizing the results, which BTW, “is actually fun”, quoting a data analyst, then why are they drawn to the events focused on discussing the tools that can only help them 20% of the time? Why wouldn’t they want to explore technologies that can help address the dreadful 80% of the data scrubbing task they complain about?

Having been there myself, I thought perhaps a little self-reflection would help answer the question.

As a student of math, I love data and am fascinated about good stories I can discover from them.  My two-year math program in graduate school was primarily focused on learning how to build fabulous math models to simulate the real events, and use those formula to predict the future, or look for meaningful patterns.

I used BI and statistical analysis tools while at school, and continued to use them at work after I graduated. Those software were great in that they helped me get to the results and see what’s in my data, and I can develop conclusions and make recommendations based on those insights for my clients. Without BI and visualization tools, I would not have delivered any results.

That was fun and glamorous part of my job as an analyst, but when I was not creating nice charts and presentations to tell the stories in my data, I was spending time, great amount of time, sometimes up to the wee hours cleaning and verifying my data, I was convinced that was part of my job and I just had to suck it up.

It was only a few months ago that I stumbled upon data quality software – it happened when I joined Informatica. At first I thought they were talking to the wrong person when they started pitching me data quality solutions.

Turns out, the concept of data quality automation is a highly relevant and extremely intuitive subject to me, and for anyone who is dealing with data on the regular basis. Data quality software offers an automated process for data cleansing and is much faster and delivers more accurate results than manual process.  To put that in  math context, if a data quality tool can  reduce the data cleansing effort  from 80% to 40% (btw, this is hardly a random number, some of our customers have reported much better results),  that means analysts can now free up 40% of their time from scrubbing data,  and use that times to do the things they like  – playing with data in BI tools, building new models or running more scenarios,  producing different views of the data and discovering things they may not be able to before, and do all of that with clean, trusted data. No more bored to death experience, what they are left with are improved productivity, more accurate and consistent results, compelling stories about data, and most important, they can focus on doing the things they like! Not too shabby right?

I am excited about trying out the data quality tools we have here at Informtica, my fellow analysts, you should start looking into them also.  And I will check back in soon with more stories to share..

 

 

 

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Posted in Big Data, Business Impact / Benefits, Customers, Data Governance, Data Quality, Hadoop, Healthcare, Life Sciences, Profiling, Retail, Utilities & Energy | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The World Cup: Everyday PIM Malpractice

The World Cup: Everyday PIM Malpractice

The World Cup: Everyday PIM Malpractice

If you’re an electronics-loving football fan, you may have used the World Cup as an opportunity to finally buy that coveted new large-screen TV. If you did, you weren’t the only one: In fact, UK retailer John Lewis reported a 47% sales increase on televisions the week of May 31. And, almost without exception, electronics retailers designed special World Cup offers to attract customers.

The World Cup drives a profound number of purchases. These purchases expose a stunning amount of what I call “PIM malpractice.” When there is a sudden surge in online product comparisons, the companies with effective Product Information Management benefit the most. The companies that lack effective PIM lose revenue.

It should be a no-brainer for electronics retailers to make sure their TV category product information is complete and up-to-date. After all, attributes sell. Unfortunately, many retailers still don’t understand the importance of consistent, accurate product information. Product information does sell  – especially online, where shoppers go for product research. This is especially true for a spec-heavy tech purchase like a big-screen TV.

Product information has enormous power. When it is accurate and consistent, it has the power to excite and guide shoppers. When it is incomplete or incorrect, product information can create deal-breaking insecurity.

A case in point:

Let’s for a minute replicate the customer journey to that new TV set. Say you want a new HD TV with a 50-inch screen. Your budget is around $1,200, and your spouse said “yes” under the condition that it’s wall-mountable. You visit an online shop and filter your search by price and screen size. The result: no fewer than 25 models to compare. This is what a detailed view of one of them looks like:

electronics_attributes

Apart from the prioritization of essential information (shouldn’t the screen size be displayed above the model number?), it seems pretty impressive. There are lot of information and explanations (hidden behind the information icons) that make the product take shape in your mind and help you learn what to look for. The only thing that seems to be missing is information about the wall mount…

What we can learn from the comparison function

Once you look at a few products in comparison, however, the situation changes quite a bit. Say you choose four TVs from your filtered search results and hit “compare products.” This is what your screen looks like now:

electronics_compare_products

The comparison view reveals the kind of product information deficiencies that inhibit purchase. Here’s what we can learn from it:

  • Data on all four products was incomplete. One of the first things the customer sees is a whole lot of grey: product information that’s missing. The single product view only gave the available attributes but the comparison function highlights the gaps. And gaps are bad, because…
  • The product with the most attributes sets the standard. Customers look to product information to tell them what they should know. Missing information or an attribute that isn’t defined always look careless – and what’s worse, it makes the product look inferior: If they haven’t bothered, they can’t think too much of the product, right?
  • Product information doesn’t simply exist, waiting to be written down. You have to create it. When it’s designed well, it sets standards and helps your products rise above the competition.
  • The unanswered question is always the most prominent. You still don’t know about the wall mount… And as a matter of fact, whatever far-fetched detail customers may want to know – it will always be the first thing on their mind. It may be their dream TV, but unless they know that one thing, they just can’t buy it.

So when I said in the beginning that brands and retailers don’t understand that product information sells, this is what I meant:

Modern shoppers always research product information, especially when making a major purchase such as TV set. That product information isn’t neutral, or nice-to-have. It is the product. And it needs to be treated with the same care as the product itself.

Retailers need to create their own standards: It’s not enough to just display supplier information. Rigorous quality control and information completion processes need to be in place if retailers want their product information to be better than the competition’s.

Great PIM comes from the customer’s point of view. When designing product information, the customer is the ultimate guide. Immersing oneself in their situation, and investing time and the combined brain power of category experts to think about anything they may want to know – it may the make or break of a sale.

That’s one recent example in one product category.  But the PIM problem can be seen across every retail category and on virtually every retail website or mobile app.

To brands and retailers that get it right, multichannel product information management is a secret advantage. It’s also the best way to leap out of the product comparison tables and into the shopping carts.

Imagine the wall mount is there and helps to convince the mainly male target group. Which information is needed to tailor digital marketing to different personas and target groups, depending on teams, nations, locations or what information can help to personalize marketing to people which are maybe not keen on football. What would attract them?

PIM electronics personalized marketing

What do you think? Did you find the right large-screen TV for World Cup watching? The World Cup shows everyday PIM malpractice. We’d love to hear about your most sought-after but least-found television attribute! (And for more on the importance of product information, check out our ebook “The Informed Purchase Journey.”)

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World Cup of Data: The Early Bird Closes the Sale

Did you know the 2014 Brasil World Cup is actually the World Cup of Data? In addition to the visible matches played on the pitch, eShops will be in a simultaneous struggle to win real-time online merchandise customers.

Let me explain. Jogi Löw, the manager of the German team, is known for his stylish attire. At every major event, each European Cup and World Cup, he wears newly designed shirts and suits. As a result, when television audiences see each new article of clothing, there is a corresponding increase in related online retail activity. When Löw began this tradition, people didn’t know that his outfits were made by Strenesse. As a result, people searched using the keywords “Jogi Löw Shirt.” This drove traffic to the eShop with the best search engine optimization, giving them more conversions and more revenue.

If a manager’s attire drives online retail sales, imagine how much demand there is for the jerseys worn by the most visible World Cup athletes? Many of the these players have huge social media followings. Consider the size of the social media followings of Ronaldo, Kakà, Neymar, Ronaldinho and Wayne Rooney:

football social top5

(Source: http://fanpagelist.com/category/athletes/soccer/view/list/sort/followers/page1)

There is huge demand for these player’s jerseys. This demand will only increase as the games progress. Once the winner is decided, Google searches will rise for phrases like “World Cup Winner Jersey 2014 of xxx”. Some refer to this as the super long tail. And research does show that search queries with 3 or more words have better conversion rates than queries with only 1 or 2 words.

Longtail-image

(Source: http://www.conductor.com/resource-center/research/long-tail-search )

Who can predict the winners?

What happens if a fairly unknown player scores the last goal in over time? How will that event impact social media activity and search engine volumes? Who will be able to leverage this activity to sell the relevant merchandising products fast enough? The eShop with the best data will have the quickest response. And the eShop with the quickest response will get the traffic and the revenue.

The world cup is a battle. The early bird closes the sale. It’s time to play the World Cup of Data.

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Will Social Search Replace Search Engines?

More 60% of shopping journeys start with Google. This is what I wrote in one of my white papers on product information and their impact on omni-channel purchasing decisions. But how long will that be true? We all learned that shopping which is influenced by digital can dramatically change, everyday.

Marketing Sherpa reports this week which channels e-commerce companies are investing in. E-mail marketing, social media, SEO and paid search are listed as top 4 invests.

Channels investments due to MarketingSherpa

Channels investments due to MarketingSherpa

Did you notice the phenomena of social product search? We had BBQ with friends last Saturday and my friend Marco told about his new digital radio he can use for playing music from his mobile devices. That made me think about looking for a Bluetooth or Wifi ready and stylish gadget for my living room. Should not be to big, but pound enough and cool. Wifi or Bluetooth is important because I don’t want any visible cable.

This is what I did next: I posted my question to Facebook, not to a search engine.
As you know, the always connected customer is always online, on his “informed purchase journey”. Within minuted I had a series of recommendations from friends and colleagues. Some posted links to products they recommend. As some friends are know for having much more knowledge than me on consumer electronics, and both confirm same brand names…

social search

My snapshot of a “Social Search”.

What does this mean for easy access to product information and omni-channel commerce?

Keep Us Posted

Internet Retailing Conference & Exhibition (IRCE) is around the corner. See something you absolutely love? Let us know! Keep us posted by using @InformaticaCorp #IRCE2014

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Creating a Differentiated Retail Customer Experience

Michael Porter

Michael Porter

In my marketing classes, I like to share on the works of Michael Porter’s Competitive Strategy. This includes discussing his three generic business strategies. We discuss, for example, the difference between an “efficiency strategy” (aka Walmart) and an “effectiveness strategy” (aka Target or even better, a high end service oriented retailer). I always make sure that students include in their thinking on differentiation the impact of customer service.

customer service One of these high end service oriented retailers is using technology to increase its customer intimacy as well as holistic customer knowledge. Driving this for them involves understanding when customers use their full price and off price customer purchase channels. I was so fascinated about their question that I decided to ask the font of all wisdom, my wife. She said that her choice of channel is based on my current salary or her projected length of use of an item. So if she is buying a jacket that she wants to use for years, she will go to the full price channel but for a dress or pair of shoes for one time use like a Wedding, she will go to the lower priced channel. Clearly, there is more than one answer to these questions. This retailer wants to understand the answers by customer segments.

singleviewTo create an understanding of each customer segment, this retailer wants to create a “high fidelity” view of data coming from customers, markets, and transactional interactions. This means that that they need two new business capabilities. First is a single integrated view of their customers across channels and the ability to see the cause and effect of customer channel selection decisions. Do customers spend more time at the full price channel option when, for example, sale offerings are going on?

To solve these problems, the retailer has implemented two technology approaches, master data management to bring together its disparate views of customer and big data for quick hypothesis testing of customer data from structured and unstructured sources. With Master Data, they get a single view of customer across differing IT systems. For separate customer specific analysis they have created operational and analytic views on top of the MDM system. And while they have an enterprise data warehouse and multiple analytical data marts, they have also created a HADOOP cluster to test hypothesis about the cross channel customer segments. They are using the single view of customer regardless of channels and transaction history to understand when customers use which channel and as well what marketing or other campaigns pulled the customer in. With this, they are creating inferred attributes for customer market segments.

Clearly, the smarter the retailer gets, the greater the differentiation the retailer services can be to customers. At the same time, the data let’s the retailer optimize marketing between channels. This is using data to create service differentiation.

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Posted in Big Data, Master Data Management, Retail | Tagged | Leave a comment

An Unexpected Journey – The Informed Purchase Journey

unexpected journeyFor years, a customer’s purchase process was something of “An Unexpected Journey.” Lack of insight into the journey was a struggle for retailers. The journey was fraught with questions about product research habits, purchases and crucial factors that spark purchase decisions.

Today, the customer purchase journey no longer has to be a “guessing game.” Data integration and analytics are able to assist retailers in understanding this journey. To begin, let’s examine how consumer behaviors and the role of product information have changed since the advent of substantial bandwidths and social buying. To do so, lets examine the way shoppers buy today.

The customer buying experience has changed in the following ways:

Shopper-controlled
The days of the single visit to a trusted retailer are behind us. Today’s shoppers are in control. They are hugely aware of their power as consumers, and they’re exercising it freely.

Multichannel 
Buyers aren’t using one specific channel anymore. They’re shopping in stores, online, through mobile apps, on social platforms, and from catalogs simultaneously. Lacking a central focal point, quality data integration and analytics have become imperative to understanding this behavior. Retailers must be able to track the purchase decisions of one consumer as he or she switches back and forth amongst these channels. If done correctly, a retailer would be able to recognize behavior specific to individuals and act on it, serving ads or timely discounts to them.

Social-powered
Purchasing decisions are “crowd-informed.” Recommendations and reviews from peers guide consumers and validate their choices every step of the way. As a result, it has become increasingly necessary for retailers to understand how they are being reviewed. But more specifically, it is important for the retailer to identify and target influential reviewers. If this is done effectively, the retailer may be able to personalize their experience and make that influential consumer feel special. This may seem like a complicated task with small returns, but imagine if they write a positive review that is ultimately read by thousands of people. This could lead to a fantastic return on investment for the retailer.

Search-guided 
Shoppers used to be dependent on a few sources of information. Now with Internet search tools, consumers are able to hunt for answers themselves. As such, retailers must understand what type of information their consumers are searching for. With this information, retailers may be able to update the content on their websites, blogs, or social channels to provide information customers need. To visualize this purchase journey we’ve created the INFAgraphic below.

The-Informed-Purchase-Journey-Informatica

The Informed Purchase Journey – An example of an unexpected journey.

So how can I learn more?

Join us at Informatica World 2014 to learn rich information about retail technology and the “purchase journey.”

The Retail Path track will feature insights from companies including: NikeAvent, Discount Tire, Nordstrom, GeigerIntricity and Deloitte.

Experts will share ways of leveraging your data to boost sales and heighten customer experience. The conference also has a dedicated MDM Day on Monday May 12 with workshops and sessions showing how vendors, distributors, retailers and individuals interact in the “always-on,” connected world.

Reserve your spot by signing up here.

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Posted in Informatica World 2014, Master Data Management, PiM, Product Information Management, Real-Time, Retail | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Consider PIM When (Re)Defining Your Direct-To-Consumer Model

directmodel

Over the past few years, we have assisted an increasing shift in customer behavior. Pervasive internet connectivity – along with the exponential adoption of mobile devices – has enabled shoppers to research and purchase products of all kinds, anytime and anywhere, using a combination of touch points they find most convenient. This is not a passing fad.

Consumers expect rich data and images to make purchase choices; business users require access to analytical data in order to make mission-critical decisions. These demands for information are driving a need for improved product data availability and accuracy. And this is changing the way businesses go to market.

A staggering number of stores and manufacturers are reforming their models to response to this challenge. The direct-to-consumer (DTC) model, while not new, is rapidly becoming the center stage to address these challenges. The optimal DTC model will vary depending on specific and contextual business objectives. However, there are many strategic benefits to going direct, but the main objectives include growing sales, gaining control over pricing, strengthening the brand, getting closer to consumers, and testing out new products and markets.

Supermarket Tube Informatica

Supermarket Tube Informatica

It is my contention that while the DTC model is gaining the deserved attention, much remains to be done. In fact, among many challenges that DTC poses, the processes and activities associated with sourcing product information, enriching product data to drive sales and lower returns, and managing product assortments across all channels loom large. More precisely, the challenges that need to be overcome are better exemplified by these points:

  • Products have several variations to support different segments, markets, and campaigns.
  • Product components, ingredients, care information, environmental impact data and other facets of importance to the customer.
  • People are visual. As a result, easy website navigation is essential. Eye-catching images that highlight your products or services (perhaps as they’re being performed or displayed as intended) is an effective way to visually communicate information to your customers and make it easier for them to evaluate options. If information and pictures are readily accessible, customers are more likely to engage.
  • Ratings, reviews and social data, stored within the product’s record rather than in separate systems.
  • Purchasing and sales measurements, for example, sales in-store, return rates, sales velocity, product views online, as well as viewing and purchasing correlations are often held across several systems. However, this information is increasingly needed for search and recommendation.

The importance of product data and its use, combined with the increased  demands on business as a result of inefficient, non-scaling approaches to data management, provide an imperative to considering a PIM to ‘power’ cross-channel retail. Once established, PIM users repeatedly report higher ROI. It is likely that we’ll see PIM systems rank alongside CRM, ERP, CMS, order management and merchandising systems as the pillars of cross-channel retailing at scale.

For all these reasons, choosing the right PIM strategy (and partner) is now a key decision. Get this decision wrong and it could become an expensive mistake.

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Posted in Business Impact / Benefits, Operational Efficiency, PiM, Product Information Management, Retail | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment