Harnessing Big Data has remained a daunting challenge for retail marketers working to create more relevant messages, offers and product recommendations for consumers.
Due to the sheer breadth and depth of data being generated in-store, online, and via mobile and social media, retailers still are struggling to collect, integrate, analyze and apply customer information efficiently.
In the following interview, Brian Bazer, AVP, Loss Prevention and Risk Management within the Dressbarn division at Ascena Retail Group Inc., shares his views on how Big Data is shaping the retail industry, and the role data collection and analysis plays at Dressbarn.
Retail TouchPoints (RTP): What are your perspectives on Big Data and the role it plays in all areas of retail organizations?
Bazer: It’s interesting to see how Big Data touches all areas of a retail business, and how that information, when integrated, can be used in multiple areas of an organization, from marketing to inventory. Retailers that truly understand this concept are breaking down the silos that exist within their companies to better share, interpret and react to a common data pool. Emerging trends of Big Data and predictive analytics are topics we [Bazer and other segment leaders] discussed very thoroughly in an NRF BIG Show panel in January 2013, hosted by Profitect.
RTP: What role does Big Data play in your position at Dressbarn?
Bazer: I am responsible for creating the vision and strategy for the loss prevention and risk part of the business. Therefore, I’m constantly tracking data to understand what products are at risk for being stolen, as well as monitoring performance across stores to see what items actually are being stolen. In my world, the process starts with inventory integrity. If the stores don’t have the information they are supposed to have, how could we ever know if items are missing? These activities, of course, are aside from time slated for inventory tracking/management that takes place during the year.
RTP: In what ways does data collection and analysis impact how retailers communicate with consumers?
Bazer: I believe that constant data collection and analysis is starting to move into the marketing and allocation end of businesses. The ultimate goal for today’s retailers is to build and maintain relationships with consumers. If merchants don’t have the products and deals consumers want ― when and where they want them ― those relationships are eroded.
At this point in time, I think there only are a few key examples of retailers that are leveraging customer data to personalize the entire retail experience: Target and Amazon are the first that come to mind.
RTP: Do you believe retailers are maximizing the value of customer data to personalize shopping experiences across channels?
Bazer: Overall, I think retailers need to do a better job of using Big Data to create a more relevant and compelling experience, especially when it comes to marketing. However, it’s important that they don’t go into that “creep zone,” where personalization is used so much, or incorrectly, that it makes people feel uncomfortable, and the strategy backfires. For example, if I go to a store and buy cat food and other cat-oriented products, I would be annoyed if later I received marketing materials about dog items. In addition, if I got messages that included very personal information — such as my cat’s name — I’d be a little freaked out and turned off from visiting that retailer again.
RTP: What personalization trends do you believe will come to the forefront during 2013?
Bazer: In the coming year, retailers will better understand the tools and strategies they must leverage to better connect with customers through each step of the browsing and buying journey. For example, more organizations will harness mobile technology to send targeted messages when people are close to a store location. Those messages will contain relevant deals and offers based on consumers’ past purchases.
In addition, I think retailers with similar target audiences will begin to partner to gather detailed Big Data about their consumers, develop compelling offers, then cross-promote them.
It’s important to note, though, that I’m still very much a student in this new era of retail: Even though I’ve been involved in this industry for more than 25 years, there’s always a lot more to learn.