Where art thou Big Data? Everywhere!

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BarcodeFor decades, brick-and-mortar stores were information deserts, devoid of customer-facing technology, while consumers raced ahead, shopping online and adopting smartphone technology.  The tools and apps available to consumers today is a prelude of what is soon to be available.  Throw in some Big Data and watch what happens.  People tend to be creatures of habit.  If retailers were to take a look at our shopping history, they would know what we need and when we need it.  Taking that insight and turning it into real value means retailers can give customers what they want, rather than just pushing product customers are not really interested in.  It means pulling the customers to the store (virtually or physically) versus pushing what you want the customer to buy.

Big Data turn us loose and set us free!

What is Big Data?  Simply stated, it is a densely populated accumulation of statistics detailing actions, behaviours, trends and measurements.  When analyzed, it uncovers ways to leverage and link relationships.  This allows the development of predictions to understand what is likely to occur given a specific set of parameters or behaviours.    What does this mean to retailers?

Buying into Big Data will allow marketers, and retailers, to create models which will closely shape the behaviour of shoppers in a multitude of buying scenarios.  Big Data will allow retailers to customize pricing, buying dates and product suggestions at the exact time these consumers are most likely to buy or source these items.   This, in turn, will be viewed by the consumer as a ‘personalized happening’ making them feel unique and closer to the retailer who is reaching out to them.   Big Data will include as much information about as many transactions as possible including; buying patterns, product patterns, locations, pricing models, in store sales, online sales, pre-shopping, traditional buying and any other special features (i.e. free delivery) associated with the overall purchase or event.

Big Data is watching YOU

The old saying “nothing comes for free” has never been more relevant.  While Big Data collections will allow for unique and customized shopping experiences, it will mean that consumers will need to let go of their private information.  In order to get Big Data you need to track Big Sources and plenty of them.   Every time you connect to a Wi-Fi location you are providing some database with Big Data input.   Pre-shop inside a mall, check pricing inside a big box store, use your GPS to locate a store at a specific hour on a certain day – all of this feeds into the Big Data warehouse.   Retailers who offer something back in return for the privilege of having your data will ultimately be more successful.   Consumers may opt to “No Tracking Allowed” messages unless they are actually getting something worthwhile in return.  Trust between both parties will be the key to the launch and adoption of this strategy.

Welcome to the future.  It’s nothing short of a fundamental disruption of how shopping works.  From a consumer perspective, it’s all about the customer experience and the promise of the brand – the new differentiators in the retail game.

By: Chris Johnsen, National Partner, BDO Canada LLP | Solutions

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