Amanda, a working mom , spotted a summer skirt on the website of a top clothing brand and ordered it. When the skirt arrived it was the wrong color. Instead of sending it back by courier and having to exchange endless mails over the return, Amanda took time off from her work and visited the brand’s store to have the skirt exchanged. But the store was unable to assist. returns and exchanges which had to happen over the same channel that the purchase was made, said the store manager. “Why can’t you refund me and send the skirt back to your warehouse?” asked a miffed Amanda. It is a natural question for a customer – one you must have asked several times yourself. The answer is simple: retailers have been happily adding sales channels without unifying data across them. As a result, one part of the business is blind to the other. And who pays the price? Well, the customer certainly but so does the brand – in dropping customer satisfaction levels. While the growing volume of customer data is good for business, it is only so when managed well.
The growth in digital and Big Data technologies is bringing a deluge of opportunities for retailers. But with it comes operational difficulties.
Amanda makes a good example of a customer who has several needs – none of which are managed well by most retailers. For example, Amanda wants to know why she has to repeat her complaint on the phone to the customer service agent when she has already written a mail to the retailer listing and documenting every detail of her transaction. “Last week, I wanted to buy a bluetooth speaker and found that the price at the retailer’s online store was different from the price on their mobile shopping app. I wonder if I am being taken for a ride.” Of course Amanda is not being taken for a ride. What is happening is this: there is a lack of uniform and coherent omni-channel customer experience due to poor data management.
The chaos from growing channel proliferation can be damaging. There have been many such damaging instances in the retail industry. Poor data management is leading to several hiccups: pricing errors and discrepancies across channels, shipment and delivery errors, lack of visibility into inventory, damaging legal action from customers and regulators with serious cost implications. Conflicts in promotions across channels and inadequate customer knowledge are adding to customer dissatisfaction. The question is: how can omni-channel experience be improved?
Master data management (MDM) is the key. MDM put in place tools that processes and controls reducing errors, improve data usability, enhance the quality and reliability of master data (core information about the business – customer, product, supplier, etc.), offering a “single version of the truth”. A study commissioned by Wipro and conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, called The Data Storm – Retail and the Big Data Revolution (see Figure 1), found that only about one-third of retail CXOs admitted to having a well-defined data management strategy. They want data to enable better product pricing. They want it to enable demand forecasting. They know it can shape merchandizing strategy that results in brisk sales. In addition, with adequate customer data, they know it is possible to reward customers and grow loyalty, cross-sell and upsell with a high degree of success, shape promotions and improve customer engagement. But the problem they face is quite frustrating.
In your business, in which of the following areas do you see big data analytics yielding the biggest gains? Select the top three (% respondents)
Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit study commissioned by Wipro, "The Data Storm – Retail and Big Data Revolution"