How to Use Big Data to Transform the Retail Experience

February 29, 2016 Jiordan Castle

retail experience

“Big data” is the term used to describe data sets so vast or complex that traditional data processing applications and software tools aren’t up to the task. With big data comes big challenges, including data capture, curation, storage, transfer, querying, sharing, analysis, and information privacy. Big data is reported in terabytes and petabytes, which are — in case you couldn’t guess — huge. To paint you a better picture, consider this: Facebook stored over 260 billion photos in 2010, which translated to over 20 petabytes; typically, a high-quality song on Spotify is only about 9 megabytes.

Today, data is a core business asset. But the future of big data isn’t just gathering and storing it; it’s being able to leverage it in order to make better business decisions, empower employees, and reinvigorate the Customer Experience your company provides.

Achieving personalization with actionable, real-time insights

Every company has data, every company can benefit from understanding their data, but few can repurpose it as profoundly as those in the retail industry. By using Google for Work to process, refine, and ultimately leverage data, retailers can:

  • Personalize the shopping experience from start to finish. From in-store to online, consumers from anywhere — looking for anything — can find what they need and feel understood by a brand and its employees (be they in call centers, retail stores, etc.).
  • Optimize product assortment by location. By knowing which consumers are buying what where, you can reduce redundancies online and in stores and empower salespeople to more effectively provide high-quality customer service and sell.
  • Understand customers’ wants and needs. This goes beyond knowing how many of the best-selling TV to stock, or how many people in a given demographic will buy the latest Beyoncé album. When customer data is made available to an entire workforce — in real time, across all customer touchpoints — a company can respond to common frustrations (e.g., a broken link in the customer self-service portal), attend to individual customers as individuals, and even reduce inventory redundancies.
  • Predict future trends. It stands to reason that if you can understand what your customers want and need, you can better plan for the future; a proactive — rather than reactive — Customer Experience.

Using Google for Work to solve high-level and granular data dilemmas

There are many different kinds of data out there; “big” is a catchall that doesn’t quite cover it. When you combine your internal data, social data, sensor data (i.e. data gathered at every customer touchpoint), and Google (and other third-party) data, there are often more questions than answers. “How can I combine transactional data with the rest of our customer data?” and “What do customers think of our business? How can we get more customer engagement and create brand advocates?” are just a few that need to be addressed.

BigQuery, Google’s low-cost, fully managed big data analytics platform. Using the processing power of Google’s infrastructure, companies can enable incredibly fast SQL queries against append-only tables and control access to projects and data based on business needs. That means it’s easy to give a specific user or users the ability to view or query data as necessary — all without having to handle the cost or headaches associated with managing your own infrastructure and needing a database admin. It’s as easy as moving your company’s data into BigQuery and allowing Google to take the reins.

Chico’s, the retail women’s clothing chain, saw an incredible transformation in their Customer Experience and communication after only a year with Google for Work. As Chico’s CIO Eric Singleton said, “The best way to explain the impact of Google is discussing the things you see and the things you don’t. We’ve had huge changes in both areas.” Chico’s teams left tedious email processes behind when they switched to Google Hangouts; they saved over $2 million in infrastructure costs by moving to Google for Work and Hangouts rather than building a satellite support center to connect to their Hong Kong and Florida offices; they moved terabytes of high-resolution files to Google Drive; Google BigQuery now allows the company to run predictive models on a decade’s worth of customer data, so Chico’s can better understand in-store, online, and mobile customer behavior and act accordingly.

Google for Work allows a major brand to deliver the products, services, and experiences their customers want, and will want — all at a reduced cost and with less people power. To find out more about creating a seamless, connected experience for your customers, read our ebook, Creating Exceptional Retail Experiences.

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