Drowning in Data? Or Thirsty for More? Omni-Channel’s Biggest Challenge
There is no doubt that retailers recognize the value of knowing their customers better. Whatever the merchant sector, geography, or business model, understanding customer buying habits, payment and channel preferences, and satisfaction levels can drive sales, boost customer loyalty and raise revenues. But, in the ever-changing world of the omni-channel shopper, how easy is it to really know your customer?
The single biggest key to this challenge is data – and lots of it. Not just ‘big data’, but smart, consolidated big data – and this only comes from the ability to bring massive amounts of information together from multiple sources, and analyze it to build a comprehensive picture.
Data: Here, there and everywhere…
Merchants capture varying amounts of customer data from different touchpoints across the organization but, with many of today’s tech-savvy consumers using multiple channels, devices and payment types, the real task lies in bringing all that information together in a cohesive, coherent way. This is a task for which many merchants do not feel adequately equipped.
In a recent survey Payment trends in the European retail sector, published by ACI and Edgar, Dunn & Company, data integration emerged as the biggest challenge respondents face when implementing an omni-channel strategy. 69 percent of survey participants rated this high or very high on their list of obstacles to omni-channel success.
Anecdotal feedback from retailers identifies a number of reasons why data integration is such a difficult task. For instance, merchants often feel regulatory constraints are a major barrier to better data collection. Channel and internal team siloes are certainly also a major hurdle for data integration since many merchants started out with just one channel, adding others over time, often using separate systems for each, and working in separate, channel-based, operations teams.
Making use of untapped sources
Aside from the challenges merchants face with collating their data, there are also several areas where vital customer information is available, but not always used. For instance, a recent guide from ACI and Retail Week reveals that, whether or not they have a loyalty scheme themselves, retailers recognize the value of such a scheme as a source of information on shopper preferences, providing a “tremendous opportunity to target them and market to them specifically based on their unique needs.” Certainly a missed opportunity for merchants who don’t run a loyalty scheme, but also for those who do not use the information to best effect, by integrating it with their other cross-channel customer data.
Merchant systems are usually capable of capturing masses of formal, or structured, data such as transactions and conversion rates, which can help to build customer profiles, or at least point to broad trends and preferences. However, the use of unstructured data – such as information from social media interactions - is far less common, despite the wealth of actionable customer knowledge it can provide.
Can data really deliver one view of the customer?
So with all these challenges around consolidating information from across the business, to what extent can you really know your customer?
Data consolidation is difficult, no question, but some of the challenges are not as insurmountable as they may seem. Bringing data together is at the heart of an omni-channel payments platform. A common system across channels with a single data repository can provide the holistic view of customers that retailers are looking for. Having this single repository also reduces regulatory complexity, enables siloed teams to work together more productively, and provides the ability to market to customers on a more personal level.
There’s no doubt that consolidation is critical for retailers who want to make full use of the data available to them to deliver superior customer experience, remain competitive in their existing markets or expand into new ones. A unified payments platform makes this not only possible, but efficient too – providing the ability to innovate once and deploy in multiple locations without additional investment – ensuring that the payments infrastructure both enables growth and supports a seamless customer experience.
Download the full report: ‘The role of payments in the customer experience’, by Retail Week and ACI Worldwide.
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