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How much retail intelligence don’t we capture?

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From sales per hour to basket size and gross profit there’s a mountain of transactional data that our IT systems will be capturing for analytical purposes. But what about the non-transactional aspects of our retail environment. Is it here that we might find some real gold when analysing our mountain of data?

From sophisticated customer traffic insight solutions to simple door counters the amount of information a retailer can capture is only limited by the investment in technology.

Recently a major US retailer embarked on a program to track customers via their mobile phones as they entered the store. Unknown to the customer the retailer would scan for any smartphone with Wi-Fi turned on scanning for networks. The sensors would then make note of the device's MAC address (an address that's unique to a mobile phone) and use it to identify and follow the device as it moves about the store. Utilising this information they were able to analyse how frequently that device visited the store, how long it spent in the store and even which departments it stopped at.

OK, a mobile phone is not a person but if you were able to include this data with surveillance video and transactional information patterns begin to arise and this is what major retailers are looking to capitalise on.  

With the rise of Big Data or large amounts of data/unstructured data there has been an increase in market insight not seen previously. Big data has been linked to predictive analysis, take for example discussions regarding your business or the market captured via Twitter or Facebook that can pick up on what customers are saying to predict the latest trends in fashion or technology. This is extremely valuable information but because of the nature of Big Data it requires infrastructure not normally found in traditional IT environments. This technology can come at an elevated cost and might not match the budgets of many retailers.  

Then there’s pieces of information that are not as easy to capture via technology. Take for example the weather or average localised temperature which can provide valuable insights into buying patterns and supports benchmarking. A snapshot of the number of car spaces available throughout the day, events such as sporting matches or local theatre may cause spikes or dips in spending that might not be otherwise be referenced when reporting weeks later. Depending on the reporting toolset there might be scope of adding an option to enter these bits of information via the POS which can then be used as a matrix against transactional data. With reporting it’s not always the most sophisticated capturing methods that picks up on the greatest pieces of information. Retailers might discover that sophistication comes in the form of simplicity.

Whether it’s a complex solution or simple data entry the key is discovering that piece of information that as retailers we don’t now capture that may assist in accelerating decision making and strategic planning. 

Stephen Duncan

Stephen Duncan

Stephen Duncan is a Technology Retail Specialist.

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