This is an image of a woman looking at her phone with the text "retail needs a human touch".

Why Retail Data Needs a Human Component

This is a guest post by Devon Kelly, VP of Operations at Wiser Solutions.

In the brand and retail world, people spend hundreds of hours (thousands, in some cases) crafting the “ideal” retail experience. What should this planogram look like? How should we display this promotion? How do we train our employees so the customer keeps coming back? What new strategies do we need to implement to make the customer’s experience better? All of these questions require retail data and drive towards one goal: a larger bottom line.  

To answer these questions properly, you have to consider the human component of shopping and retail data collection. It cannot be underestimated, especially in today’s ever-evolving retail landscape. 

The Retail Landscape in 2018 

CNBC reports through GPShopper that 86 percent of shoppers like “experience stores,” where they can test products in-store and order online. Think “store-in-a-store” concepts, like Lowe’s B8ta Display or the Samsung store concept. Additionally, 78 percent of shoppers like stores that started as online-only and moved into showrooms, like Warby Parker and M Gemi. 

This is an image of a pair of glasses on top of an Apple laptop.

Shoppers are also migrating more and more toward buy online and pick up or ship to store (aka click-and-collect). A survey conducted by the Opinion Research Corp. for the International Council of Shopper Centers shows that 73 percent of shoppers have bought a product online from a mobile device and picked it up in a store. This number jumps up significantly for the younger generation. Among millennials, this retail data survey suggests that 87 percent have made a click-and-collect purchase. 

Traditional retailers need to use this information to their benefit, to turn shoppers’ new habits into more revenue-generating activities. In an interview with eMarketerRetail, Crate & Barrel COO Michael Relich noted, “We introduced buy online and pick up in store and buy online and ship to store. We are trying to use that to drive store traffic. When they come in, we give them bounce-back coupons. They use our stores as a showroom first. We actually see a lot of transactions start in one channel and finish in another. Brick and mortar is good for us.” 

For brands that have a strong unified commerce strategy, brick and mortar and online channels don’t have to compete against one another. Instead, they can work together to encourage shoppers to check out on whichever channel works best for them in that instance. Making retail human again means reviving the relationship-based nature of the industry. Customers may be checking out on their tablets while lounging on the couch, but remembering their past orders and products they’ve browsed lately will help bring back that connection. In-store it’s easier to forge that relationship since your associates get face time with shoppers. But being able to combine in-store customer data with their activity online is the final frontier to helping shoppers comprehensively.  

Beyond the customer relationship, in-store retail data collection is requisite for brands and retailers alike. The importance of collecting in-store data from actual humans (not beacons, robots, or the like) grows as shoppers’ preferences evolve. As retailers change their selling strategies, store layouts, sales associate training programs, etc. they need a consistent feedback loop to measure the changes and react fast. To do this, you need actual humans inside the store giving their opinions on their in-store experience. This will take customer data to the next level. Not only will you know what they bought, you’ll also understand their sentiment about your store.  

An image of a woman walking down a path with canvas shopping bags.

How to Measure and React to Retail Data

What are the best ways to measure how shoppers are acting, both inside and outside your brick and mortar locations? Traditional market research, focus groups, etc. are all good options here, though most don’t provide an in-store element. Wiser provides both online and in-store data at scale for brands and retailers. We get answers to the questions that you need insight on most, such as: 

  • Where are people finding my products online before they come to the store to buy? 
  • What’s happening inside the brick-and-mortar location once a shopper enters?  
  • What do shoppers think of my buy online, pick up in-store offering? How does it compare to my competitors’?  

Wiser is able to answer those questions quickly and collect near real-time retail data, providing a consistent feedback loop. Data is provided systemically, to measure how your stores perform over time. Additionally, Wiser can measure any new processes you’ve added to see what shoppers like or dislike, help you optimize the process, and increase your bottom line. 

Final Thoughts 

We all know that the retail landscape is changing, but it’s more complex than just “people are shifting from buying in-store to buying online.” Shopper preferences are evolving. Shoppers do more research before committing to a purchase, as many want to see the product in action before buying. When they do decide to make the purchase, they don’t want to wait for shipping. Retailers need to accommodate these new preferences and continue to track the human side of retail data to keep up with new shopper preferences as they appear.

Devon Kelly | Guest Author

Devon Kelly is the VP of Operations at Wiser, the leading provider of actionable data for better decisions. She’s spent over five years in Market Research and the past three years focused on in-store research. She holds a BS in Business Management from Boston College.  

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