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The Visible Value Blog

Big Data and the retail industry

Posted by Mark Thomson

November 14, 2016 at 7:00 AM


There’s no doubt about it, the world of retail has evolved. Digital has taken over… or has it? While many of us choose to do significant amounts of our shopping online, how many actually prefer the experience? It turns out not all that many at all, in fact 90% of people would rather buy from a physical store – including myself if the mood takes me!  This is reflected in the fact that physical sales still account for 89% of all retail purchases (in the UK)[1].

So what does this have to do with data? Well, it should come as no surprise that retailers are using big data to influence the digital customer experience. But how often do you think about the impact that big data has on developing the experience in-store as well?

I’d never really considered it before, until one day, I was happily making my way around the supermarket, and it hit me! The influences were there, hiding in plain sight, yet I, like most, had walked by them, wilfully unaware of the data working behind the scenes, driving us to spend.

As I ventured deeper into the store, it became clear that some customers had already embraced the world of big data. Walking around with scanners in hand, these trend setters were scanning and bagging their purchases, as they shopped. By collecting the necessary data at the point of pick-up, these customers were streamlining their shopping experience and assigning purchase data to their accounts in real-time. 

I continued my journey into the belly of the retail beast, and everywhere I looked, I could see evidence of big data’s influence. Everything from the canny promotion of paddling pools and sun cream on the hottest day of the year, to the placement of related products within an aisle, and the touchscreens providing meal inspirations. Everything appeared to maximise my time in store as well increase my likelihood to buy.

As big data in the retail industry develops the infrastructure necessary to collect further information, the record of our behaviours in store will be broken down in greater detail through beacons, video cameras, facial recognition, RFID tags, guest Wi-Fi and a whole host of other data capture points. Used in the right way, retailer decision making and design will become increasingly customer centric. 

With access to such rich data, my weekly shop is set to evolve at a faster pace than ever before. I’ll walk around as ads customised to my personal interests attempt to grab my attention probably popping up on my phone or a nearby screen. Augmented reality experiences will add a new layer of communication and further enhance the retailer’s opportunities to communicate and sell, while touch screen interfaces will greet me with more product information than I could ever hope to ask for. All based on the personal data the company holds on me and my humble shop. Big data will change the retail experience for us all, it’s just of matter of when, and it could be sooner than you think.

See how big data can work with retail to improve customer service and satisfaction, click here


[1] http://www.verdictretail.com/89-of-all-uk-retail-sales-touch-a-physical-store/


Topics: Retail, Big Data, e-commerce