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Five Big Data Trends Revolutionizing Retail

BY CSA STAFF

By Kelly Kennedy, Senior VP of Enterprise Sales, Infogroup Targeting Solutions

Big Data means big changes for retail marketers. The amount of data generated across channels has significantly altered how retailers reach their target consumers. In addition to planning and execution, marketers must sift through enormous amounts of data. This in-depth process, along with the overwhelming amount of information, makes it difficult to decide not only what’s most valuable, but also to discover what information gets lost in the mix.

The amount of Big Data has not only grown in size, but also the variety of data has widened as well. Demographic information, such as name, ZIP code or gender, is now paired with an array of social, website and purchase information. These additions offer marketers insights into how and why consumers make purchase decisions, allowing them to look further into the purchase cycle than ever before.

Although the sheer amount of data alone may seem like it would be easy for marketers to decipher the best consumers to reach, without proper data hygiene to interpret information, Big Data does not offer much value. Interpreting data and identifying quality customers through data hygiene and analytics is far more important than storing tons of data.

The retail industry faces a number of challenges. From a lackluster economy to the entry of mobile commerce, retailers have been forced to step back and re-evaluate how they communicate with consumers. The insights Big Data provides can be used as stepping stones to a more streamlined marketing process for retailers, helping them to coordinate their data alongside the right technology and best practices to get the most from their marketing communications.

Growing Mountains of Data
The volume of information available to retailers is unprecedented, even for large brands that have been aggregating this information for years. But the misconception is that marketers must catalog and keep every last piece of information to get the most out of their efforts. You have to be collecting the right data and using it in a way that lends insight into behavior and drives intelligent customer interactions.

Technology Evolves and Investment in Technology Increases
In the past, marketers were concerned with storage, investing as much as they could in storing data for future use. Since storing data is no longer an issue, retail marketers must now invest in technology and analytics to best utilize data rather than just investing in data management. Many retail leaders have begun investing in centralized databases and focusing on data hygiene and analytics, allowing them to predict consumers’ purchase activity and identify the most valuable customers.

Tackling the Omnichannel Puzzle With Data
Never before have retailers had so many opportunities to interact with customers within so many different channels. The rate at which mobile, tablets and social media have been adopted into the market has left retailers with an enormous influx of data that they are using to create a better, more consistent customer experience across all channels. Retail marketers are using the combination of channels to find their individual “niche” in the customer communication experience. They can identify the best ways to keep their marketing efforts consistent throughout channels and most of all, the key points of purchase within each channel. They can pinpoint when a customer will shop in the store for certain products or only purchase certain types of products online.

Improving Personalization
Relationships with customers were simple when almost all shopping was done face-to-face in a small shopping environment. A salesperson could figure out a customer’s tastes, interests and budget easily. With large chain retailers and online shopping, personal relationships with shoppers are rare, if not nonexistent. According to research cited in the Harvard Business Review Blog, personalization can deliver five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend and lift sales 10% or more.

Personal relationships with customers are invaluable. Data-driven personalization is the key to how retailers can get back in touch with their customers on a deeper level. By knowing what a customer has purchased, down to what they enjoy looking at most often, retailers can use data to drive a personalized shopping experience.

A Renewed Focus on Profitability Segmentation
It’s no secret that finding and prioritizing the most profitable customers is essential for success in retail. Unfortunately, it costs more to gain new customers than it does to retain some of the best customers. By analyzing customer behaviors and needs through improved data-crunching initiatives, marketers can develop programs and deals for shoppers that drastically increase their value. For example, marketers can offer incentives and specialized programs tailored to low-value shoppers during a peak spending period.

Take Advantage of What’s in Front of You
Many retailers fear the size of Big Data. Rather than running away from the unknown, retail marketers must take advantage of this opportunity to harness data and apply it to where it’s most needed. It’s about enforcing the idea that it’s not about how much you have, rather how you use it. The industry is more competitive than ever, and retailers need to take this chance and differentiate themselves from the competition through a data-driven approach.


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A.Boon says:
Sep-18-2013 03:10 pm

Retail and Big data
Interesting article. Combination of omnichannel and big data analystics will definitely create value for retailers in several ways. Read another interesting whitepaper "Thinking about tomorrow: Post recession strategies for retailers" about a few points discussed here that readers may find useful @ http://bit.ly/10XoIQa

A.Boon says:
Sep-18-2013 03:10 pm

Interesting article. Combination of omnichannel and big data analystics will definitely create value for retailers in several ways. Read another interesting whitepaper "Thinking about tomorrow: Post recession strategies for retailers" about a few points discussed here that readers may find useful @ http://bit.ly/10XoIQa

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Tips for Optimizing Customer Service This Holiday Season

BY CSA STAFF

By Anna Convery, OpenSpan

With the kids back to school, retailers are counting down the days to the busy holiday shopping season. This means doing an overall assessment of your staffing needs, determining training plans and onboarding seasonal workers to handle the flurry of activity during this most profitable time of year. From the retail floor to the contact center, what is your strategy this year for offering your customer the highest level of service while maximizing the profitability of each customer interaction?

In the contact center, the year-round goals revolve around operational efficiency, revenue generation, managing risk and compliance and delivering a world-class customer experience. During the holidays, these overall goals remain constant and the challenge is to meet these goals with significantly more customer interactions. There is the added pressure to get seasonal employees trained quickly at a minimal cost. Additionally, competitive pressures for retailers grow fiercer each year, as stores fight to maximize the profitability of each transaction.

Here are a few tips to help ensure your contact center is ready to deliver the best possible customer service throughout the holiday rush, as well as the rest of the year:

One screen to rule them all
A number of companies rely on repeat seasonal customer service employees as their main staffing pool for the holidays. This is a convenient, less expensive means to fortify the frontline to your customers during the busy holiday call spikes to the contact center. These workers have worked for your organization in the past, require little training and understand the expectations of the job.

New seasonal agents are a different story. Training for contact center agents is costly and time-consuming. While classroom training remains the principal method to educate and ramp up agents, these new employees are not producing any value to the company while they are sitting in the classroom. Time away from the phone means less time interacting with customers, taking orders and making sales.

Forward-thinking retailers are taking a step back to analyze and understand why training takes so long for new employees. They are finding the crux of the problem is technology and the agent’s computer workspace. Over the years, many retailers have collected a hodgepodge of customer management, order and inventory systems. These systems may have been tweaked to work together, but they rarely are optimized to work well together. With so many different applications and systems to learn, the need for training is at a maximum.

Companies are reevaluating how agents access customer information, perform certain transactions and interact with the applications on their desktops. Are they providing fast and friendly service? Is the order information they are typing in accurate? If they have to enter data into more than one system, are they copying and pasting the correct information?

For example, let’s consider approaches from two different companies. Company A’s contact center agents are required to learn seven different systems during their new-hire training. Customer identification and security reside in one system, order history is in another, inventory data is housed in a completely separate system, and so on. Ramping up the agent so they are proficient in all of these disconnected systems requires time – quite a bit of it – to ensure they are handling calls correctly.

Company B, on the other hand, has created a customer 360 view, which taps into the different systems that contain customer information and presents this in a single window. In that one window, the agent is presented everything he or she needs to answer questions about the customer’s account and perform all relevant customer service transactions.

Training for agents at Company B takes a half-day. These agents then spend the other half of their training day observing a more seasoned agent. Training for Company A’s agents takes three full days, followed by an evaluation to ensure the agent has mastered all of the screens, fields and processes to navigate all seven applications.

Access to customer data is critical!
When it comes to preparations for the busiest retail time of the year, agility is key. Technology and big data initiatives today enable companies to have minute-by-minute pricing data, which means companies must be on top of their game to analyze, reconfigure and push pricing data to all channels to remain competitive. The holiday season is starting earlier and earlier every year and online shopping enables consumers to access virtually any product from the comfort of their home, so companies need to be ready early for pricing wars.

Within contact centers, it is critical for agents to have real-time data to provide accurate pricing and inventory availability information to the customer. Agents must be able to access the many systems driving their customer service operations without having to navigate back and forth from system to system.

A common practice among retailers today is to present “next best offer” guidance to the contact center agent. There is substantial opportunity to drive increased revenue leveraging cross-sell and upsell promotions within the contact center through real-time guidance at the agent desktop. This strategy involves collecting and analyzing purchase history and transaction data, and then providing agents with real-time offers to the customer during the interaction. This “next best offer” practice has proven successful in maximizing revenue per transaction.

Holiday worker incentives
Today’s seasonal employees are mostly made up of Millennials. It is important for retailers to understand this type of employee and their behaviors related to incentives. During holiday sales drives, contact centers often set sales quotas and upsell and cross-sell metrics for incentive pay.

“Gamification” – using gaming techniques in the workplace to achieve specific levels of performance – has become the en vogue concept to engage the millennial generation. Having real-time performance statistics and access to cross-sell and upsell metrics enables agents to see how well they are performing and what they need to do to meet or exceed their targets for performance bonuses.

In summary …
The holiday season is a hectic time for consumers and retailers. As you can see, there are steps that contact center managers can take to simplify and streamline operations in order to maintain a consistently high level of customer service with the added temporary holiday hires. As you are planning for the holiday rush, consider some of these tips and practices to bring these seasonal workers into the fold. Train them, provide them with the information and tools they need to effectively do their jobs and motivate them to go the extra mile for your customers.

Anna Convery is the executive VP of strategy for OpenSpan, a provider of desktop automation and desktop analytics solutions that improve performance, drive revenue and increase efficiencies in contact center, back office and retail storefront environments. An industry expert in customer service technologies and solutions for the enterprise, she previously held senior executive roles at NICE Systems Ltd., ClickFox, Inc. and Nexidia Inc., as well as global marketing and business development roles with IBM Corporation, Jacada Ltd. and Unibol Inc.


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G.Hearn says:
Sep-24-2013 11:47 am

A very informative article
A very informative article and lots of really honest and forthright comments made ! This certainly got me thinking about this issue, thanks all AC Dealer in mumbai

G.Hearn says:
Sep-24-2013 11:47 am

A very informative article and lots of really honest and forthright comments made ! This certainly got me thinking about this issue, thanks all AC Dealer in mumbai

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BJ’s announces adopt-a-school program beneficiaries

BY CSA STAFF

BJ’s Wholesale Club has selected the elementary schools that are to benefit from the company’s 2013-14 Adopt-a-School Program.

In its eighteenth year, the program has served more than 2,575 elementary schools across the company’s 15-state footprint. Each school chosen this year will receive a $500 check to use for field trips, special events, new equipment or curriculum enhancements, as well as a one-year membership to the wholesale club.

"Supporting educational programs is an important focus area for BJ’s Wholesale Club’s charitable giving," said Jessica Newman, assistant VP of community affairs at BJ’s Wholesale Club. "Our hope is that the schools use this business-to-school partnership to help provide students with opportunities they may not otherwise have."

The Fred C. Underhill School, BJ’s 2013-14 adopted school in Hooksett, N.H., will use its donation for a community barbecue, which is intended to provide families with connections to local resources and which the school hopes will become an annual event.

"There is a lot of evidence that links a safe and positive school environment, coupled with an engaged local community, to successful students, and part of that positive school environment is to help children learn better communication and collaboration skills," said J. Andrew Bairstow, principal of the Fred C. Underhill School. "The more our schools and businesses can provide opportunities for children to utilize and see these skills modeled by all members of the school community, the better prepared the children will be on their journeys to college and career readiness."

BJ’s carries more than 7,000 items, including supermarket-sized staples, USDA Choice meats, all-natural and certified organic products and stock-up items. BJ’s touts itself as the only wholesale club to accept all manufacturers’ coupons and offers the most payment options, including EBT.

Click here to see the list of schools.

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