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Spinning the plates: why data analytics drive the digital store


22 March 2017

Alison Wiltshire

Blogs by author: Alison Wiltshire, Global Practice Lead, Retail and Consumer Goods, BT.


Retailing has always been a bit like the old circus trick of keeping lots of plates spinning at once. Only in the digital age, there will be many more plates and they’ll spin much faster. Retailers are going to need real time data and a continuous thread of insight so they can understand what’s going on, what’s working well and what needs urgent attention.

What has made online retailers so successful online is their capacity to track, monitor and respond to shopper behaviour in real time. Right now, not many bricks and mortar retailers can measure customer behaviour to the same extent. For example, only six per cent of bricks and mortar retailers can currently identify people when they arrive at the store[1]. Without this basic data, it is impossible to personalise the customer experience and influence their choices.

Retailers must collect and analyse data from multiple sources (customers’ smartphones, inventory, digital touchpoints in store, third party services, social media), in near real time, throughout the shopping journey. An essential component of the digital store is specialist business analytics that can spin piles of raw data into golden insight, and deliver those insights to whoever needs to know securely.

As industry analyst Forrester puts it: “Technology must connect devices, collect and transmit data back to the enterprise, and feed insights to customers, associates, and store managers in a meaningful way. Without this foundational layer in place, most digital store experiences won’t meet the needs of customers or the retailer.”[2]

It has to be said that data collection on this scale, along with advanced analytics and rapid dissemination of insight is no small undertaking. How many retailers have the capability (and appetite) to go it alone for such a critical aspect of their digital transformation? That DIY is not the best option is the thinking behind the Acuitas Digital Alliance, where six industry leaders come together with the deliberate aim of making it easier for retailers to collect and analyse data as part of a single digital store platform.

When it comes to giving today’s digital consumers they want from physical stores, it’s not about how many high definition video walls, memory mirrors or innovative digital touchpoints you have on the sales floor. It’s actually all about collecting, analysing and interpreting a mountain of data …and keeping it securely.  How well bricks and mortar retailers use their data will ultimately sort the winners from the rest of the pack.

[1] Boston Retail Partners 2015 CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey

[2] The Future Of The Digital Store: Retailers Are At The Beginning Of Their Digital Store Transformations, Forrester, July 2015