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Retail analytics: Empirical data helping retailers grow

In-store, online, hybrid, omnichannel, these are just a few faces of the retail industry that can be associated with retail analytics. People need products and they love to shop. However, the competition is fierce and retailers are looking for new and engaging ways to attract customers. 

One of the most important things nowadays in many industries is data. Without it, businesses are not able to understand their customers and predict the next steps. In this article, we are going to focus on retail analytics. How important is data in retail? How can retailers collect and analyze data? The answer to these questions and many more are below. 

What is retail analytics?

Let’s begin with the basics. What does retail data analytics mean? 

Retail analytics is the process of collecting, monitoring, and analyzing retail data, such as sales, inventory, foot traffic, and pricing. This process helps retailers predict outcomes, discover new trends, and make more profitable business decisions. By analyzing retail data, retailers can also understand why their shoppers select certain products and see different shopping patterns. 

Plus, data analytics offers retailers a full overview of their customer, store, and product performance. Normally, every retailer does some type of data analysis, even if it's done on a spreadsheet or with the help of the latest tools and technologies. 

Types of retail data analytics

There are four types of retail data analytics that can offer key insights to retailers:

  • Descriptive Analytics
  • Diagnostic Analytics
  • Predictive Analytics
  • Prescriptive Analytics

1. Descriptive analytics

Just like its name suggests, descriptive analytics helps retailers describe “what” is actually happening with their business. This is the most common type of analytics and it focuses on using raw data to discover the state of the business. 

2. Diagnostic analytics 

The second type of retail data analytics focuses on answering the “why”. When correlated with descriptive analytics, retailers can figure out certain trends and patterns. This type of data analytics focuses on putting a “diagnostic” to a business problem. Why are sales dropping in one of our stores? Why are customers shopping more in certain periods of time?

3. Predictive analytics

With the help of predictive analytics, retailers can figure out future trends. Discovering a pattern and understanding how it can impact the business is extremely important. Predictive analytics shows “what’s next”. However, this can only show a simple forecast, without offering specific insights.

4. Prescriptive analytics

Finally, the most advanced type of analytics is the prescriptive one. Once retailers find the “what”, “why”, and “what’s next”, with the help of prescriptive analytics they can find “what they should do next”. 

Algorithmic AI and machine learning programs can identify patterns and offer recommendations and possible outcomes.  

Benefits of Retail Analytics

Retail analytics offers a range of benefits that can significantly enhance the performance and efficiency of retail businesses. Some of these benefits include:

  • Improved Customer Insights: Retail analytics allows businesses to understand their customers better by analyzing purchasing patterns, preferences, and behaviors. This leads to more effective marketing strategies and product placements.
  • Enhanced Inventory Management: With analytics, retailers can optimize their stock levels, reducing overstock and stockouts. This leads to cost savings and ensures that popular products are always available.
  • Effective Pricing Strategies: Analytics helps in determining the optimal pricing for products by analyzing market trends, competition, and consumer demand. This can maximize profits and improve sales.
  • Personalized Marketing and Promotions: Retailers can tailor their marketing efforts and promotions to individual customer preferences, which increases the effectiveness of these campaigns and customer satisfaction.
  • Increased Operational Efficiency: By analyzing sales data, foot traffic, and other operational metrics, businesses can streamline operations, improve staff allocation, and enhance the overall customer experience.
  • Data-Driven Decision Making: Retail analytics provides actionable insights that help in making informed decisions, reducing the risks associated with guesswork or intuition-based decisions.
  • Competitive Advantage: By leveraging data, retailers can stay ahead of the competition by identifying trends early, adapting quickly to market changes, and offering what customers want.
  • Sales Optimization: Analytics helps in identifying best-selling products and peak buying times, allowing for strategic planning of sales and marketing efforts.
  • Customer Retention and Loyalty: Understanding customer needs and behavior through analytics helps in developing strategies to retain existing customers and increase their loyalty.
  • Forecasting and Trend Analysis: Retailers can forecast future sales and market trends, helping in strategic planning and inventory management.

Overall, retail analytics transforms data into valuable insights, leading to more effective business strategies, improved customer experiences, and increased profitability.

Collecting data in-store 

Collecting data is one of the biggest challenges for physical retailers. While eCommerce platforms can easily collect data and analyze it, physical retailers have a hard time gathering data from customers. Here are a few things retailers can do to collect more customer insights and raw data.

Point of sale data collection

A POP system offers valuable information about metrics like profit margins, sales trends, and customer counts. This will help you forecast purchases and manage inventory.

Foot traffic

This data helps you find out the real number of customers and their activity in your store. You can find out the conversion rate, the times of day when your store has the most activity, and certain shopping trends during special occasions.

Market research

Performing market research from time to time helps you discover new trends and how the industry has changed. Plus, you discover the impact of those new trends on your business.

Surveys and feedback forms

Surveys and feedback forms are great ways to receive insightful quantitative data. Customers will be able to answer your questions directly and you will be able to figure out what you can change to better fit their needs.

Proximity marketing tools

Proximity marketing tools such as beacons and geofencing can help you collect data from customers and offer them a better, more personalized experience in-store.

How Is Retail Analytics Used?

Retail analytics is used in various ways across the retail sector to enhance business performance, customer experience, and operational efficiency. Here are some key applications:

Customer Behavior Analysis: Retail analytics is used to understand customer buying patterns, preferences, and behaviors. This includes tracking which products customers are buying, how often they make purchases, and their spending habits. This information is crucial for tailoring marketing campaigns and product offerings.

Inventory Management: Analytics helps retailers manage inventory more effectively by predicting product demand, identifying fast and slow-moving items, and optimizing stock levels. This reduces instances of overstocking or stockouts, leading to cost savings and improved customer satisfaction.

Pricing Optimization: Retailers use analytics to set competitive and profitable pricing for their products. By analyzing market trends, competitors' pricing, and customer demand, they can adjust prices to maximize sales and profitability.

Personalization and Targeted Marketing: Retailers use customer data to create personalized shopping experiences. This can include personalized recommendations, targeted email marketing, and customized promotions, which are more likely to resonate with individual customers.

Sales Forecasting: Using historical sales data and trend analysis, retailers can forecast future sales. This is vital for planning inventory, staffing, and marketing strategies.

Foot Traffic Analysis: In physical stores, analytics is used to understand customer foot traffic patterns. This helps in store layout optimization, effective staff allocation, and determining the best times for promotions or events.

Online and Omnichannel Strategy: For retailers with an online presence, analytics is crucial for understanding customer interactions across various channels (online, mobile, in-store). This helps in creating a seamless omnichannel shopping experience.

Performance Monitoring: Retailers use analytics to monitor and evaluate the performance of stores, products, and staff. This includes tracking sales, customer feedback, and employee efficiency.

Supplier and Vendor Management: Retail analytics also aids in managing relationships with suppliers by analyzing factors like delivery times, product quality, and cost-effectiveness.

Risk Management and Fraud Detection: By analyzing transaction data, retailers can identify patterns that may indicate fraudulent activity, helping them to mitigate risks and prevent losses.

Retail analytics involves the collection, processing, and interpretation of vast amounts of data, often requiring sophisticated software tools and algorithms. The insights gained through analytics enable retailers to make informed decisions, enhance customer experiences, and maintain a competitive edge in the market.

Retail Analytics Tools

Retail analytics encompasses a variety of tools and software solutions designed to analyze and interpret data from various retail operations. These tools help in understanding customer behavior, optimizing inventory, enhancing marketing strategies, and improving overall business performance. Some popular categories and examples of retail analytics tools include:

Data Management Platforms

Microsoft Power BI: A powerful business analytics tool offering interactive visualizations and business intelligence capabilities.

Oracle Retail Analytics: Provides a suite of analytics solutions specifically tailored for different retail functions.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tools

Salesforce Commerce Cloud: Offers customer insights and personalization options, integrating CRM data with purchasing behavior.

HubSpot: Known for its marketing automation and CRM capabilities, useful in understanding and engaging with customers.

Inventory Management Systems

Lightspeed Retail: Provides inventory management features along with sales and data analytics.

Vend by Lightspeed: A cloud-based POS and retail management software that includes inventory analysis features.

Point of Sale (POS) Systems with Analytics

Square: Offers POS services with built-in analytics for sales trends, inventory, and customer preferences.

Shopify: Known for e-commerce, but also offers POS systems with analytics for omnichannel retailers.

E-commerce Analytics Tools

Google Analytics for E-Commerce: Tracks and reports website traffic and user interactions on e-commerce platforms.

Adobe Analytics: Offers detailed insights into customer journeys on digital platforms.

Foot Traffic Analytics Tools

RetailNext: Specializes in in-store analytics, including foot traffic, customer journey mapping, and behavior analysis.

Dor: A tool for measuring foot traffic and store performance.

Predictive Analytics Tools

SAS Retail Analytics: Provides advanced analytics with predictive and prescriptive capabilities.

IBM Watson Commerce Insights: Utilizes AI to offer predictive insights about customer behavior and inventory management.

Each of these tools offers unique features and capabilities tailored to different aspects of retail operations. The choice of tool depends on the specific needs of the business, such as the scale of operations, the type of data to be analyzed, and the level of insight required. Integrating these tools effectively can lead to significant improvements in customer satisfaction, operational efficiency, and overall profitability.

Retail Analytics Best Practices

These practices ensure that the insights gained are accurate, actionable, and beneficial to the business. Here are some key best practices in retail analytics:

Data Quality and Integrity:

  • Prioritize the quality and accuracy of data. Ensure that the data collected is clean, relevant, and reliable.
  • Implement processes to regularly clean and update data to maintain its integrity.

Comprehensive Data Collection:

  • Collect data from all relevant sources, including POS systems, e-commerce platforms, customer feedback, social media, and inventory systems.
  • Use omnichannel data collection to get a holistic view of the customer journey across all touchpoints.

Customer Privacy and Data Security:

  • Adhere to data privacy laws and regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA.
  • Implement strong data security measures to protect customer information from breaches.

Actionable Insights:

  • Focus on deriving actionable insights from data analytics. It's not just about collecting data, but about translating it into actionable strategies.
  • Regularly review analytics to identify trends, opportunities, and areas for improvement.

Integration of Systems:

  • Integrate various data systems for a unified view. This includes integrating CRM, POS, inventory management, and e-commerce platforms.
  • Use APIs or data integration tools to ensure a seamless flow of information between different systems.

Customer-Centric Approach:

  • Use analytics to understand customer needs, preferences, and behaviors. Tailor your offerings and marketing strategies to meet these insights.
  • Engage in personalized marketing and product recommendations based on customer data analysis.

Skilled Personnel and Training:

  • Employ or train staff with expertise in data analytics and interpretation.
  • Encourage a culture of data-driven decision-making within the organization.

Predictive Analytics:

  • Invest in predictive analytics to forecast trends, customer behaviors, and market dynamics.
  • Use these predictions to make proactive business decisions.

Regular Reporting and Review:

  • Establish a routine for reporting and reviewing analytics insights.
  • Use dashboards and visualization tools to make data more accessible and understandable for decision-makers.

Continuous Improvement and Adaptation:

  • Continually assess and refine your analytics strategies based on changing market conditions and business objectives.
  • Stay updated with the latest analytics tools and technologies to maintain a competitive edge.

By following these best practices, retailers can maximize the benefits of analytics, leading to improved decision-making, enhanced customer experiences, and increased business efficiency and profitability.

Summing up

In conclusion, retail analytics plays a crucial role in the modern retail landscape, offering a wealth of benefits that include enhanced customer insights, improved inventory management, effective pricing strategies, and personalized marketing. By employing a range of tools and software solutions, retailers can gather and analyze data from various sources to drive informed decision-making.

Adhering to best practices such as ensuring data quality, respecting customer privacy, integrating systems, and focusing on actionable insights is essential for maximizing the benefits of retail analytics. By doing so, retailers can enhance operational efficiency, better understand and serve their customers, and maintain a competitive edge in a dynamic market. Ultimately, the effective use of retail analytics is a key factor in the success and growth of retail businesses in today's data-driven world.

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