The stakes have never been higher for retail businesses: from rising staffing costs, to big name brand bankruptcies, the competition for share of consumer spend is intense. To drive performance in this high pressured environment, most organisations understand the value of big data in retail – yet most of them restrict access and analysis to head office personnel. How can businesses make best use of data to empower store and centre managers?
Too many retail organisations understand the value of metrics like people counting at a macro level, but fail to apply it to daily decision making. To truly make the most of the data available, retailers and shopping centres must embrace information sharing at all levels of their business, particularly with store and centre managers.
Fundamentally the reputation of a business lives or dies on customer-facing personnel. This doesn’t mean every store or centre manager must become a data analyst – leave that to the professionals – but it’s a valuable exercise to ask front-line staff what information would help them to do their job better. Their priorities may be surprising, and they will be entirely different from the metrics required at CEO or COO level.
So what are store and centre managers interested in? Ultimately anything that will help them deliver a better service, to convert more sales and keep customers coming back. Of course, this is the same objective as senior staff, but the data they require to make it a reality will differ in one critical way: timescale.
While head office can pull data on a weekly, monthly, or even quarterly basis and still do something productive with it, customer-facing staff need it on an hourly basis to make a difference. Part of the reason big data is not being used to its full effect in retail is the time delay between when the information is being generated, and when it’s being used.
A great example of this, for retailers, is when a store experiences a surge. If the shop floor isn’t sufficiently staffed, research shows that 75% of consumers will walk away rather than wait in queues, transforming what is on the surface a prime retail opportunity into a customer service problem.
If managers have access to timely information they can avoid this by optimising the staff to customer ratio at times liable to queues forming, or by redistributing staff to underserviced areas.
And there are added benefits to sharing key data at store or centre manager level. By delivering intra-day insights, retailers and shopping centres give their front-line staff greater autonomy to optimise the customer space. It also empowers stores and centres to improve their own performance, which is in the best interest of the total retail estate. Beyond measurement, benchmarking performance between sites can be used to incentivise staff, giving each individual site something to strive for.
However, with access to analytics comes the danger of over-complicating the store or centre manager’s role. With retail intelligence at managerial level, the key is to focus on the essential metrics to do their job better – and nothing extra.
Rather than overwhelming staff with statistics, the best insights are those delivered in an actionable form. Retailers and shopping centres should focus on delivering the right shopper information to the right decision maker at the rightmoment. Data can be converted into metrics that are meaningful on the shop floor or precinct, which can be accessed in a format that managers will find easy to interpret and act on, and delivered through a mobile platform.
Data insights add huge value if they are delivered in a timely manner and in an actionable format. To get the best return on measurement spend, retailers and shopping centres should be maximising the number of benefits they get from their data. From head office to onsite management, good analysis should be able to support every function within a business.