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Data analysis gives retailers an edge, tech leaders say

🕐 3 min read

Shop owners can analyze a customer’s shopping habits the moment he or she walks into a store by observing the products the customer picks up, how the customer interacts with the product and, of course, what products the customer decides to buy.

But thanks to technology and the internet, customer analysis that was once done through observation can now be done with quantifiable data.

Technology leaders discussed the relationship between data and retail Thursday at the University of North Texas’ 12th Annual Consumer Experience Symposium. They talked about how data can help retailers get to know their customers better and sell more products.

“It’s really Retail 101,”said John Napieralski, former vice president of site optimization and analytics at Neiman Marcus. “It’s the things you would do if you owned a little store, how you’d merchandise, how you talk to your customers at the end of the day, understanding what they did, what they bought last [and] the price points.”

Han Woo Park, a media and communication professor at Yeungnam University in South Korea, said companies can gather customer data a number of ways – one of the best ways being social media.

Millennials, especially, have a tendency to post almost everything to sites like Facebook and Twitter. By observing what gets posted to social media, retailers can track what customers buy online, what they search and the types of products a particular customer prefers, he said.

“The media changes everything,” he said. “What kind of media? Social media. Social media generates data.”

Companies can also analyze customer data by using services like Google Analytics, Omniture and Edgecase.

Edgecase founder and chief data scientist Garrett Eastham said his company is the reason why online shoppers see “related products” on the websites of some stores – when a customer buys a dessert dish, for example, the website then directs the customer to similar products like salad bowls or appetizer dishes.

Some of Edgecase’s clients include Pier 1 Imports, Urban Decay and Crate & Barrel.

“We’re seeing a lot of brick and mortar retailers that are starting to build a digital pedigree,” Eastham said. “They’re seeing a lot of success by taking what they know really well from their customer, which they’ve honed over many years, and trying to transit that online.”

Using data to analyze customers is becoming more crucial as retailers move toward personalized marketing, said Amrit Kirpalani, founder and CEO of software company nectarOM.

He said he understands that some people may be apprehensive of the fact that companies track customers’ shopping habits and personal interests, but if used properly, retailers can use that data to give customers a more personalized experience.

“If you deliver personalized experiences in a very safe manner, meaning like, ‘Hey yeah, this is information I’m willing to give you and this is an appropriate exchange between brand, retailer and consumer,’ then most customers really like the notion,” he said.

It all comes together to not only “maximize experience” for shoppers, but generate more revenue for retailers, Park said.

“Data becomes information, information becomes knowledge, knowledge becomes wisdom, so data is the source of the economic growth,” he said. “Data is the source of the revenue.”

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