OmniChannel Analytics: The Customer Still Must Come First


You're getting ready for a business trip and need a new pair of pants, so you head to the department store. You find the brand and color you want, but your size is not in stock. You can't find a sales associate to help you. You leave. Who knows when you will go back to that store.

That's a nightmare scenario for retailers. In an age when so much data about customers is available to retail companies, most have only just scratched the surface in leveraging that data to provide a customer experience that truly anticipates consumer demand and is ready to fulfill consumer needs.

Yet anticipating those customer wants and needs enables retailers to be ready to fulfill them, and that is really one of the key goals for retailers today.

"I expect you to know who I am and what I might want based on the data I'm giving you access to," said Adele Sweetwood, senior VP of Global Marketing at SAS (the sponsor of this site) and author of the new book, The Analytical Marketer: How to Transform Your Marketing Organization. Sweetwood brought her analytics marketing know-how to the National Retail Federation (NRF) Convention and Expo this month, and shared her insights about retail and marketing with All Analytics in an interview. "I want to be able to go online and go to the store," and have the retailer view that profile as a single customer.

That's similar to the shift that Sweetwood has pursued for SAS's marketing organization, working to eliminate the silos defined by channels such as email marketing, social media, search, content, and others.

Such silos can create separate objectives for the different teams in each of these areas, and you don't want the content team's strategy to conflict with the social media team's strategy. So Sweetwood shifted the organization to create a shared services model for a group of go-to-market teams.

The approach to fix data silos could also be applied to one of the big challenges that traditional retail brands face today. These companies started with physical stores alone, but are now facing an influx of data from their online commerce efforts. In the past organizations have started by looking at the data from the channels. The big shift is to start by looking at the customer first, and then looking at what channels the customer touches. That could be the ultimate goal and benefit of omni-channel integration for retailers as they work to make sense of data from ecommerce sales, physical store sales, social media channels, and more.

SAS at NRF 2017
(Image: Jessica Davis/All Analytics)

SAS at NRF 2017

(Image: Jessica Davis/All Analytics)

Sweetwood said that retailers run the gamut in their adoption of analytics technologies to gain insight from all this data. Digital native ecommerce retailers have an advantage because they got an early start in leveraging analytics to improve sales and operations. But retailers overall have lagged other industries, such as financial services, in adoption of analytics technologies.

"Your more traditional retailers that have been in business for 100 years have the value of that much data and the curse of that much data," Sweetwood said. "Their analytics adoption has been more complex and difficult than they would like."

Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps, Informationweek

Jessica Davis has spent a career covering the intersection of business and technology at titles including IDG's Infoworld, Ziff Davis Enterprise's eWeek and Channel Insider, and Penton Technology's MSPmentor. She's passionate about the practical use of business intelligence, predictive analytics, and big data for smarter business and a better world. In her spare time she enjoys playing Minecraft and other video games with her sons. She's also a student and performer of improvisational comedy. Follow her on Twitter: @jessicadavis.

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Re: Online has an advantage
  • 2/6/2017 9:08:32 AM
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Recently I've found a dollar store's online coupon program convenient to click on a product coupon and merely enter your phone number at the store register to get the discount. But, in the last month discovered that not all couponed products are actually stocked by my local store. At first I thought they were just out of stock, but after inquiring to online customer serivice found they don't stock the couponed items at every store. Seems analytics and programing could easily resolve that showing only stocked items and coupons for your local store.

Re: When you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
  • 2/5/2017 1:01:18 PM
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@Seth: If you ask me, that course of action and that line of reasoning is akin to an airline saying, "Our profits are down, so we need to cut costs.  From now on, we're only using planes with one wing."

Re: When you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
  • 2/5/2017 12:59:42 PM
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@Michelle: Moreover, the humans behind building and coding these tech solutions often cannot predict all the possible things that can go wrong or all the possible questions or concerns a customer may have.

To wit, when it comes to analytics, AI, and other enterprise technology, we've a long way to go before we master "Miscellaneous."

Re: Online has an advantage
  • 1/31/2017 8:51:41 PM
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And that instore process is complicated by increasing traffic - I really believe we have way more traffic now than when I was a mall kid hanging with friends. That increased crowds makes it more of a chore to get somewhere in general, and can leave people feeling really disappointed when heading to a store with no sign of our item - even worse if there is no customer experience.  

Our sense of time has altered the value of activities such that retailers have to play defense in attracting customers, when there are alternatives available.

Re: When you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
  • 1/31/2017 12:55:16 PM
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Jessica I agree I often order a couple of the items I am interested in and then return to tones I don't want.That way I am sure I get what I want. So many stores are keeping their inventory very sparse, so the trip to the store is often wasted.

Re: Online has an advantage
  • 1/31/2017 12:52:38 PM
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Tomsg I agree that is one of my biggest complaints of instore shopping not only the time to get here but the process of being disappointed if they don't have your size. I do order multiples online because it's easier to try on or test something out before you commit to it. The free shipping makes the purchase simpler and easier and with no disappointment if you order multiple sizes.

Online has an advantage
  • 1/31/2017 11:16:10 AM
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It is really hard in a physical store to have all sizes in stock and ready when a customer walsk in. Retail floor space is expenisive and taking up more space to have all sizes of pants may limit how many shirts are out. I think the online people have an advantge in personalization.

Re: When you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
  • 1/30/2017 11:43:28 AM
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Big chain retailers really do have a massive challenge to capitalize on the benefits a physical store offers over an online-only presence. Because physical stores are expensive. But there are certain items that I'd rather see before I buy them such as computer keyboards and pants. 

Re: When you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
  • 1/30/2017 11:26:54 AM
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Broadway sadly Macy's tried to improve the customer experience with coupons posted automatically to client accounts and some other integrated marketing but the reality is the stores are just not a good experieince.They are dated, lacking a full diversity of brands and they are just not compelling to shop in. I do like the remote check out option at Nordstrom but they don't advertise it, you need to know that any rep can handle your returns or exchanges.

Re: When you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
  • 1/29/2017 11:38:00 PM
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@ Jessica, the problem you describe in your first paragraph is exactly what Macy's is going through.  Sales have declined horribly so they have cut staff.  Their might be just one person on a whole sales floor, not section but entire room or floor.  The result there is no staff people to asist any customers and that just caused a downward spiral.  Maybe some self serve technology could have helped. 

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