Big data in retail: The power of customer transaction data

Fact: Accessing customer data in a format that allows retailers to identify trends on when, where and how individual customers like to shop and the type of products they prefer to purchase is invaluable in helping retailers to put relevant offers in front of customers using targeted marketing.  But the challenge remains – how can retailers go about collecting and making sense of this data for a clear picture of customer shopping habits?

Banks and payments processors are miles ahead of the retail industry in documenting customers purchase history, with it being a fundamental part of their day-to-day business processes. NatWest has taken this a step further by offering customers a comprehensive annual breakdown on total expenditure by retail outlet, restaurant, hotel, attraction visited etc. So as a customer, you would know how many times you visited a particular restaurant that year and the total amount spent.

The financial sector spends much more than retailers on the technology that enables this level of granular detail, which explains how they are more advanced. However, they have an advantage on retailers, in that most of their customers only purchase a handful of products, where retailers are dealing with much larger product and range volumes. The issue for most retailers is amassing and analysing data, which is not a core retail competency, and without the technology in place to enable this, it’s near on impossible to make sense of it all.

Standards such as PCI: DSS have also made it more of a challenge for retailers to monitor customer transactions, with stringent and expensive guidelines to abide by if they are to hold and securely process customer card details.

Taking all of this into consideration, it makes sense for retailers to partner with a payments provider that has the capability to manage payments across the retail estate and multiple channels, with a central hub for all of this data to be stored for visibility of transactions across the business – ultimately to deliver a single view of the customer – then report in a way that can be exploited through marketing.

With the growing importance of big data, it will become common practice for retailers to work in a much more integrated way with payments processors and banks, to access critical customer data. As they say, knowledge is power!


Sales staff – the key to customer satisfaction

Wherever you chose to shop, eat or purchase something, you expect a certain level of service to be delivered along with it. New technologies are certainly changing the way that we shop, but they are simply an enabler of service – with good staff required at the helm of the business to manage the technology, service and ultimately, the customer experience.

New technologies across the retail estate can help to deliver a quicker, more effective and informative service, but what it can’t do is deliver the cherry on top – a warm greeting and helpful assistant on hand to help with your shopping needs. From sourcing a particular colour or size product to upselling accompanying accessories.

When technology fails to deliver against expectations it’s the staff that are at the forefront and have the power to resolve a situation, delivering the best alternative possible so the retailer/ brand reputation isn’t damaged.

The SMG Customer Satisfaction Index* revealed that staff assistance has the biggest impact on customer experience, with in-store staff behaviour having a direct impact on customer satisfaction.  Customers who receive good service are likely to spend up to 40% more than those who don’t, with the average non-assisted sale amounting to £21.73 and assisted averaging at £33.41. Without taking into consideration the amount lost due to customers walking out on a potential purchase.

Even in the midst of an online boom, the majority of people still choose to shop in store, which comes down to a physical interaction with the product and shop assistant, delivering a customer service that cannot be imitated online. Online channels will continue to grow, but it’s highly unlikely that the store environment will simply die out.

Even so, change is needed and the natural evolution of the store will see it become an interactive hub that acts as a showroom for consumers to view, touch and try out merchandise before deciding to buy from their preferred channel.

Engaging technology in store is the future, but retailers mustn’t forget its purpose, which is to empower staff with knowledge and motivate them to provide a truly personalised service through access to rich product and customer data, enabling them to answer queries and fulfil customer needs.

*Service Management Group (SMG), a customer insight agency, collected feedback on purchasing behaviour from 359,000 consumers, resulting in the SMG Customer Satisfaction Index, gauging the customer journey across the UK.