How Data Can Bring Consumers Back To Brick And Mortar

Amr Salem, Chief Executive Officer and Board Member, Quantela Inc.

While data has the power to disrupt every business in every industry, the disruption in physical retail is happening now.

As digital purchases skyrocketed during the pandemic—an increase of 200% between March 2019 to March 2020—brick and mortar stores struggled to compete. Until today, that is, when more retailers and mall operators are leveraging their data to attract consumers back into physical stores and reclaim their position in the market.

The Rise Of Data

In the past, physical stores had limited access to data—foot flow and volume at best. But as digital technology has increased inside malls through the adoption of Wi-Fi, mobile apps and DOOH advertising to name a few, so too has the data captured for each visitor.

Today, mall operators can track the entire customer journey throughout the mall from the parking lot and back, capturing more than 30 different data points about each visitor. This gives retailers new intelligence about their target audience, including who they are (macro level), how they move about the mall, what content they engage with, what purchases they make, how long they might spend in a certain area of the mall and even habits if they are repeat visitors.

Retailers can use this data to increase personalization. According to a recent report by McKinsey, 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions and 76% get frustrated when this doesn’t happen. Knowing more about who is coming to the mall and how they move around the mall, retailers can use this insight to better adjust their offerings, their product placement within the store, their resourcing levels to respond to on/off-peak hours and target their advertising more effectively through mobile apps and in-store promotions. Once the relevant data is connected, retailers can give customers a seamless, omnichannel experience, wherever and however they choose to shop.

With more than 60% of shoppers feeling that retailers don’t really know them, there is still so much more opportunity in this space.

Data For Differentiation

A recent report by Radiant shows that despite the convenience of e-commerce, almost half of consumers still prefer physical shopping. Consumers love the experience of shopping—meeting with friends, trying things on, feeling products, stopping for lunch—but they don’t necessarily like purchasing items that they must then carry.

In this sense, shopping and buying are very different. In-store retailers are able to use the data they have at their disposal to enhance the buying experience. With the data available today, retailers can find new ways to make the buying experience more seamless and contactless; connecting online with in-store and even offering delivery where possible.

Data For Increased Efficiencies

The average retail mall might consume approximately 23 kWh of energy/square foot. To put that into perspective, an average U.S. household will likely consume approximately 30 kWh per day.

Mall operators can leverage their data to enhance operational efficiencies by driving quicker action to identified faults (e.g., fixing outages related to lifts, escalators or lighting), optimizing energy consumption (e.g., dimming lights when not needed) and implementing more efficient waste management solutions (emptying bins as soon as they reach a certain threshold)—all ultimately in favor of creating a more optimal shopping environment.

Taking Action

The first step to turn your data into actionable insights is to know what data you have available and assess if and how you could capture additional information through your existing sources.

For example, could you add an extra question to customer feedback forms or in-store engagements; could you add an extra customer benefit for providing more information whilst shopping online, etc? Customers are more open to sharing data than we may have thought previously. A 2021 Consumer Experience Sentiment Report by Merkle showed that customers are more willing to give their information if it would lead to more personalized experiences.

Depending on the size of your operations, managing your data effectively will become increasingly important as you increase the amount captured. With increased data proliferation in all industries, it’s no surprise in the retail world that the “average brands use 39 different systems to manage consumer data.” It’s worth exploring now how you can integrate and connect your existing data into a single view to leverage previous digital investments and future-proof your data capabilities for tomorrow.

Once you have a handle on your existing data, you can start looking for trends that enable more effective decision-making—for example, knowing peak times of the day/week can help you to make more efficient decisions about staffing resources. These simple actions together over time can lead to significant efficiencies for your operations and a more seamless, personalized experience to entice customers back into physical stores.

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