Omni-Channel Analytics: Fiction or Future?

By Scott Jennings, director of market development, Retail & Services, QlikTech

Omni-channel is one of the most discussed (and debated) topics in the retail industry. Some proclaim that it is a total game changer, while others say it is simply the rebranding of a multi-channel strategy. I would argue the omni-channel concept is going to redefine the future of retail business intelligence.

The proliferation of shopping channels at most retailers has created a need for visibility across the organization that is fundamentally different from the traditional brick-and-mortar business with an e-commerce presence. In the past, retailers polled point-of-sale (POS) systems once a day across all stores, and housed that data in a single data warehouse. This enabled them to run static flash sales reports in an effort to understand the state of their business.  

Now that retailers have multiple shopping channels and no longer have a store “closing time,” they need to be able to pull data from a variety of sources and analyze it anytime and anywhere. This shift not only changes the way data is used, but it also provides retailers with a whole new realm of possibilities which cannot be addressed with traditional flash reporting.

Unlocking Potential With Data Discovery
One of the most exciting developments associated with the omni-channel approach is the integration of data discovery to analyze and compare information throughout the retail chain. Where business intelligence (BI) was once used primarily as a mechanism to build static reports like flash sales reports; it is increasingly being used to associate customer purchase patterns, targeted offers, and inventory availability in an effort to drive discoveries which fuel the delivery of a superior shopping experience. Retailers now can see how customer loyalty programs impact sales in store, identify shopping habits of key customers to offer targeted marketing plans and ensure seamless customer service whether items are bought online, returned in store or browsed on mobile.

BI technology allows retailers to gain full visibility across a myriad of their data sources such as the in-store POS system or online sales application and associate them with marketing campaigns, inventory availability, shipping options, and customer loyalty systems. The connection of data across disparate systems is of paramount importance for a successful omni-channel strategy and the associations retailers are able to find in the data are what truly help improve performance and the customer shopping experience.

Driving Real Results With Omni-Channel
Today, leading chain stores around the world are beginning to realize the benefits of omni-channel and are starting to employ user-centric BI solutions to empower their front lines to make sense of the data they collect each day.  A great example of this comes from a major British clothing retailer with locations globally. The retailer was looking to improve knowledge of its customer base, communication, and targeting, with the ultimate aim of increasing relevancy, sales, and engagement through data discovery and analytics.  

Initially, the retailer’s focus was on improving in-store data capture to assist marketing’s efforts, which was accomplished with an impressive 60% increase for in-store data capture. However this expanded to include an omni-channel approach bringing together customer data together from multiple sources such as email, in-store, web analytics, mobile, gift cards, and historic sales. The retailer now has a single customer view and the ability to perform comprehensive analysis and reporting of data on more than 1.2 million shoppers and prospective customers, delivering unprecedented insight into their profiles and spending behavior.  

Paving the Way for Success in 2014
It’s easy to see the value of an omni-channel view of the business when you look at its potential to unlock insights hidden away in disparate data sources throughout the organization. When data analytics solutions are used to facilitate an omni-channel view of the business, it creates an environment where any information can be rapidly accessed, analyzed, and viewed exactly as needed, to immediately capitalize on opportunity. I see this as a major trend for the upcoming year and believe that omni-channel analytics could easily be the difference between the winners and losers in the marketplace for 2014 and years to come.

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