Retail’s Next Generation Of Customer Experiences Is A Data-Driven Affair

Paul Clark

Consumers are evolving faster every day. From interaction preferences to product expectations, retailers must tee up their customer experience to respond to every shift and fast-emerging norm. But at the same time, shoppers are far from tolerant and forgiving when a brand cannot remember their preferences, engagement history, and personal behaviors.

It’s clear that genuinely understanding customer needs is not only about winning a sale, but also an opportunity to build a bottom line that is sustainable. However, keeping up with such market volatility and vulnerability gets in the way. In a joint report, IBM and SAP observe, “The proliferation of geographies, channels, and changing customer expectations has led to highly complex organizational structures that often operate independently. The result is inefficiency, high operational costs and inventory, increased markdowns, and suboptimal margins.”

Retailers that unify all their silos of customer data are the ones achieving a competitive advantage better than any laggard competitor. More importantly, they gain a complete picture of every customer, which grows more potent with intelligent insights and services enabled by technologies such as the cloud, real-time predictive analytics, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence.

Connected data, powerful insights, and intelligent services

When consumers choose to interact with a brand, they expect to achieve a specific outcome. Whether it’s a pair of socks, home appliance, or car, what they want most is not the product itself – it’s the realization of the brand promise.

In essence, consumer experiences cannot be predicted, manufactured, stocked, or distributed. But with coordinated insight across all channels, functional organizations, product suppliers, logistics providers, and online networks, they can be adapted quickly to fulfill a consumer’s need the moment it arises.

By seeing how all elements of the consumer experience impact each other and profitability, revenue, and growth, retailers can get the insights they need to uncover new opportunities and mitigate emerging risks proactively. Take, for example, Dansk Supermarked Group (DSG). Denmark’s largest grocer is thriving in a tough market of slim margins, extensive supply chains, and 24×7 operations by paying strict attention to customer preferences and operational efficiencies with the assistance of precise, timely customer information and analytics.

Every morning before DSG’s retail locations open, store managers review in detail what customers purchased the day before. These comprehensive, personalized reports empower them to make the best possible inventory-stocking decisions to satisfy customers, increase revenue, reduce spoilage and waste, and, ultimately, ease pressure on the company’s profit margin.

This level of connected data and powerful insights empowers DSG’s executives to pursue growth goals by enabling intelligent services. Now that decision-makers know how to avoid the waste and financial loss of overstocking products and when to adjust prices, the company is opening additional stores, introducing a new convenience store format and taking on e-commerce opportunities.

According to DSG CIO Alan Jensen, “We have faster data loading and faster reporting, providing the information and access we need for better decision making.”

Data: The new currency raising the bar on customer experience

Retailers can no longer afford to guess what customers want nor wait a few hours after the store opens. They need to own and maintain complete, direct control of all their data. Doing so opens an opportunity to derive predictive insights on consumer behavior, interest trends, and potential operational improvements and risks and possibly even automate responsive adjustments.

As Capgemini states, “From finance and procurement to product lifecycle and supply chain, you can automate, accelerate, analyze, and predict across all your core processes. You gain a foundation for digitization and real-time business across your geographies and lines of business. Plus an intelligent platform for AI-enabled applications and digital assistants.”

Find out how data can help you deliver the personalized experiences customers want – and the privacy they demand. Explore SAP C/4HANA.

About Paul Clark

Paul Clark is the Senior Director of Technology Partner Marketing at SAP. He is responsible for developing and executing partner marketing strategies, activities, and programs in joint go-to-market plans with global technology partners. The goal is to increase opportunities, pipeline, and revenue through demand generation via SAP's global and local partner ecosystems.