Retailers are drowning in data. It’s time to sink or swim.

    Retailers are drowning in data. It’s time to sink or swim.

    In today’s evolving digital marketplace, Australian retailers have access to more data than ever before. New technologies are disrupting the retail ecosystem and transforming the way customers shop, whether it’s online, offline or on-the-go.

    While there is a great capability for data collection, knowing how to use that data can be complicated. The availability of valuable data from mobile devices, analytics platforms, property owners, and social media, combined with the availability of analytics platforms in and out of the cloud, gives retailers the ability to achieve individual customer insight rapidly at any scale.

    Being the competitive market it is, retailers need to focus on making better decisions, faster. There is a huge opportunity for retailers to shift from purely collecting data to leveraging said data to deliver a more personalised customer experience and tap into greater sales opportunities. The key is not only capturing the data from bespoke sources, and collating it, but truly understanding how to harness it and respond to these insights with business strategy.

    Many retailers are responding to these challenges by transitioning to the cloud. With elastic storage, compute and analytics capabilities, cloud-based solutions can power insight into customer habits and purchase history, quickly.

    The digitisation and mobilisation of loyalty programs is a good example. 84 per cent of retailers believe getting their digital strategy right is critical to their business. This is according to Deloitte’s recent Retailers’ Christmas Survey [1], which also found that in order to get ahead of the competition, retailers need to implement a data-driven business model.

    As a result, we’re seeing new types of data. Traditionally, retailers stored only critical transactional data. They’re now storing large volumes of ancillary data surrounding transactions to gain market insights. Combining that with loyalty card data – for example - is one step towards providing a highly-personalised customer-centric experience.

    At NetApp, we’re working with our customers to help simplify this process. For example, some well-known coffee companies have transitioned their loyalty programs from a paper card to a mobile app. The data collected by the app provides insight into the purchasing behaviour of customers beyond just how many coffees they’ve purchased. They now know which type of coffee each individual is buying, where, at what time, and how frequently. The technology can also determine when there will be a peak in demand, and scale accordingly. Through using this data effectively, retailers can quickly adjust product lines and target customers at a more personal level, while maximising customer engagement and loyalty.

    It’s important to remember that retailers are working with personal and financial customer details. In our coffee retailer example above, the knowledge about an individual’s coffee preference might not seem all that personal, however, knowing when an individual is at the coffee retailer, and where, is open to exploitation.

    The concept of the cloud has revolutionised the way retailers work with technology, new products and services can be brought to market faster than ever before with scalable investment in IT, customer buying habits can be analysed and correlated with other data sources easier than ever before. It’s important to realise though, that as with any technology there are risks that come with these rewards and they must be evaluated in due course.

    Briefly, when looking towards the cloud, retailers must evaluate;

      1. What is our data management strategy? - Do we have one?
      2. Where is this data stored? – Should it be only stored in Australia for example?
      3. What format is the data stored in – Is it encrypted? Should it be?
      4. Who has access to the data?
      5. What are our legal obligations with respect to privacy and security?
      6. How easily or costly is it to get our data back from the cloud or move to another cloud?
      7. How will our costs increase as we use more cloud resources? What will this cost us in 1-3 years?

    For 25 years NetApp has been working with its customers to implement data management strategies that enable agility and flexibility. Today our platforms power some of the world’s largest organisations, managing privacy, security and reputational risk whilst enabling the agility required in the digital era. With solutions spanning private, public and hybrid clouds, and products to address ransomware, data leakage and compliance management, NetApp is the retailers’ platform partner for safe, reliable data management.

    As technology continues to evolve, many retailers may feel daunted by rapidly increasing waves of data. Those who jump on board will have a significant ability to drive business growth though insight. Those who don’t, risk drowning. Now is the time for retailers to put the right cloud data management strategy in place and delve into the digital market with great success.

    About Matt

    Matt Swinbourne is a Systems Engineering Manager for NetApp in Australia and New Zealand. He has been involved in the IT industry for the past 21 years with a background in engineering, solutions architecture and consulting across a variety of verticals and technologies.

    Since joining NetApp in early 2012, Matt has been responsible for NetApp ANZ’s regional technical architecture team.  He is a regular speaker at many technology events and is passionate about energising businesses through technology to enable meaningful and powerful change to business strategy.

    Matt continues to work with NetApp’s most innovative customers here in APAC to help them unlock the power of their data, and energise their organisations through technology.

    Prior to his role with NetApp, Matt was Chief Technology Officer for Corpnet, where he was responsible for the company’s technical strategy and direction.

    Matt is a keen aviation enthusiast and pilot, he enjoys building and flying all sorts of aircraft. He has a particular interest in drone technology and its ability to bring about social and environmental change.

    [1]Deloitte Retailers’ Christmas Survey 2016, Stocking up for Christmas.