LAS VEGAS — Collecting data is not limited to e-commerce, mobile and social shoppers; before there was the Internet, there were physical stores — and now those stores are taking a cue from the analytics culture of the web by using tech to take notes in analogue.
A group of experts shared thoughts on capturing and making sense of off-line data at the Shoptalk conference here today. If there’s a message to retailers, it’s that although they might be — somewhat — aware of the possibilities, those who are utilizing and deploying them effectively are, as Westfield chief data and analytics officer Raghav Lal called it, in the minority.
Or as InfoScout cofounder and chief executive officer Jared Schrieber said, “One hundred percent of retailers are aware of 10 percent of the technology.”
Clearly, there is room for growth.
Joining them were RetailNext cofounder and ceo Alexei Agratchev and Placemeter founder and ceo Alex Winter. Among the key points of the discussion were what exactly is possible in collecting data in the real world, who benefits from this knowledge — and how.
Agratchev compared the evolution of physical retail stores to e-commerce sites from 15 or 20 years ago and emphasized that many brick-and-mortar retailers look the same as they did 15 years ago. “A customer doesn’t have to come to your store. You have to give them a reason, and it can’t be product availability and price. It has to be based on experience.”
That, ostensibly, is where the benefit of data plays a role.
Winter explained that although the data they can gather is intentionally anonymous, they are able to make observations about shoppers like gender, if they are carrying bags, walking in a group or walking quickly or slowly. “We don’t recognize them. We could, but we don’t do it,” he said, adding that instead, observing shoppers was about understanding movement to understand factors like the impact of the weather on pedestrian traffic.
Panelists agreed that the retailer and shopper can benefit from this type of analytics.
“It’s all about channeling it to enhance the customer experience,” said Lal, who said he found a “significant asymmetry” between what he sees in digital properties compared to physical stores.
In other words, collecting information about a customer, although appealing to retailers, can ultimately be appealing to shoppers. “In the physical world, if you get the experience right, it can be a massive differentiator,” Agratchev said, adding that the possibilities surpassed those of an online experience. “It can be amazing. Fighting crowds is not what people go into stores for.”
As far as getting customer buy-in, Lal said the burden fell on retailers to create a value proposition. “Customers control what they will share and we have to be there in creating these compelling experiences. A store is no longer a store; it is for purchasing goods and services, but that is just one component.”
But physical retail isn’t always lagging behind the digital shopping data capabilities. One example, Schrieber said, was the impulse purchase. “Physical retailers,” he said, “have done great work in merchandising on natural adjacencies and that’s not being leveraged fully in terms of the e-commerce experience.”
Finally, Lal said that next year, he hoped that the digital versus physical shopping experience was less of an either-or conversation. “I predict convergence,” he said of the physical and the digital. “Hopefully we will be talking about the ‘phy-gital.’”