There is a massive amount of data available to retailers from their eCommerce site also their social media interactions and the key challenge for retailers is to put this information to use to help them to build and maintain a virtual relationship with consumers.  Retailer must first recognize the importance of this data and then develop the tools to first collect the information and then to analyze this data. The data available will allow retailers to understand the paths that retailers take through their shopping and purchasing and this information will allow the retailers to enhance their brick and mortar channel along with the online environment and the information will allow the retailer to identify, understand and track consumer trends in both products and also in practices to search and purchase products.

 

In the brick and mortar channel there is not nearly the volumes or types of data available to help the retailer to track and understand shopping and purchasing practices and these activities were performed by sales clerks.  Unfortunately, large retailers eliminated all but the most essential floor employees and for the most part the remaining employees only have the time to focus on restocking product and ringing up sales. In my opinion this is a major issue for retailers that impacted sales across the brick and mortar channel. In addition to the reduction and refocus of store staff these large legacy retailers the culture of the retailer and the leadership focused on controlling the shopping and purchasing which caused a rift between consumers and these retailers and in many cases driving consumers to the online focused retailers.

 

This leave retailers behind the curve from a consumer relationship perspective and struggling to understand and keep up.  You see this struggle with retailers acquiring operational capabilities over the last few years. Now in my shopping I’m beginning to see a more collaborative relationship building growing with retailers.  These changes are manifested through consumer research groups from the retailer and expansion and simplification of loyalty programs. As an example, it is no longer enough retailers to focus on the email blast to engage the consumer, now they must add to this additional consumer research surveys on advertising, products and placement within the store and the online site. 

 

Retailers can now use these expanded consumer notifications and engagement to enhance and inform the information gathered from the consumer online shopping and purchasing patterns to refine and focus on enhancing the consumer experience.  The consumer experience is the key to relationship building and this requires a focus on collecting and analyzing data available from many different sources to guide the retailer. Another major benefit to the analysis of the data and the enhanced collaboration it encourages with consumers is the regular return of consumers to the web site.  All of these activities should be used to encourage the consumer to return on a regular and frequent basis and not just on the sale. The sale is important, obviously, but the relational data, as I call it, encourages the consumers to continue to return and the more consumers return the more sales will result.