Clearly, business success depends on making smart decisions. This axiom applies as much to retail as it does to all other industries. And the best way of making the right choices is to have the right facts and figures. But reliable statistics are not always easy to get hold of. So, retailers often rely on reports, expert opinions, experience – and gut instinct. Which is very human. Yet often wrong. After all, studies have shown that the businesses that base decisions on hard facts are the most profitable.
Big data gives you the facts
Retail analytics opens up entirely new digital possibilities. Just consider this: 65 percent of all Germans aged 14 or older use a smartphone. In the 14-to-29 age bracket, that figure soars to 89 percent – as a recent survey by leading German ICT industry association Bitkom has established. The data generated by these mobile devices can be harvested and evaluated, creating genuine transparency that outperforms experience and gut instinct every time. The key is new technologies that allow the analysis of unstructured data on a massive scale (big data).
Cell-phone data as a source of actionable info
Nowadays, people are rarely separated from their smartphones. And this creates a simple, low-cost way of tracking their movements – as activated phones regularly log onto their nearest network cell, indicating the owner’s approximate position. In accordance with Germany’s strict data privacy legislation, T-Systems processes this information – in anonymized form – in its own, certified high-security data centers in Germany. This guarantees compliance with both German and European data protection requirements, and means bullet-proof protection of individuals’ privacy. Yet customer analysis still delivers important, actionable insights. In particular, they provide three key metrics:
- Traffic flows: How many people are in a given position in a given time period? How many people pass a given point?
- Time data capture: How long do people spend where?
- Movement vectors: What groups of people move from where to where?
And while safeguarding privacy, it is possible to add attributes such as target group, gender and even zip code. This greatly enriches the information – for even better decision-making.
Tracking of movements as the basis for in-store and out-of-store analysis
When retailers can monitor customer traffic, including flows, timing, and even the stops they make, they can draw extremely valuable conclusions. Retail analytics tools deliver meaningful insights. Motionlogic, a T-Systems solution, captures and analyzes movements, helping bricks-and-mortar retail to better understand the routes people take, and why. Traffic patterns can be correlated with specific triggers to identify particularly attractive positions and destinations. This offers traditional retailers tangible benefits: in real time, they can see when customers come to their shops, and in what numbers, and fine-tune their opening times accordingly. And they can precisely gauge whether advertising, such as billboards, has the desired effect of drawing people in through the front door. Plus they can detect customers who leave their store without making a purchase, and to which rival they subsequently turn – a highly useful, but low-cost form of competitor analysis. Moreover, when choosing a new store location, the retailer will know where the footfall is highest.
Monitoring in-store customer flows also makes good business sense. Within a known, relatively confined space, this can be performed by other means than anonymized cell-phone data. It is possible to leverage WLAN, near-field communication (NFC), cameras, motion detectors and Bluetooth to determine the number of people and their movements. In some instances, these methods require the consent of the individuals being observed (opt-in). What can a store manager do with this technology? They gain excellent visibility into customer volume, broken down by zone and dwell time. Traffic flows are clearly visualized, with an intuitive heat map showing aisles with the largest number of stop-and-stare shoppers. What’s more, they can pinpoint departments that are being overlooked, and reconfigure the store layout to optimize traffic flows and improve visitor numbers. They can identify the best place for promotional displays and advertising boards – and precisely measure their impact. Analysis of customer traffic patterns through the various departments is also an extremely good basis for effective staff roster planning.
Many retail analytics systems generate useful information. But the right combination, and their seamless interaction, are all-important. With this in mind, retailers should partner with proven integration specialists in order to implement the technology that best meets their real-world imperatives.
ConnectedPOS: all sales channels combined
A digitized bricks-and-mortar store enjoys an infrastructure with completely new interfaces for in-store communications, such as ConnectedPOS. This is an Internet-based platform from Wirecard, a T-Systems partner. It allows the capture and analysis of data – and is ideal for retailers who wish to improve the customer experience at the point of sale (POS), and forge connections with the online world. By means of a small device placed between printer and cash register (or software integrated into the register itself), the cash register is connected to a cloud-based platform that allows real-time access to shopping data. This enables retailers to gear their online, offline and mobile offerings to customer wants and needs. ConnectedPOS creates a seamless link between shopping at the physical POS and the online consumer world. And there is no need for changes to the existing cash register system. This quick, simple multichannel solution guarantees a future-proof infrastructure in bricks-and-mortar shops – that allows additional value-added features based on retail analytics, such as couponing and loyalty bonus programs, plus mobile payments.