The Big Advantage: How Small Retailers Can Effectively Use Big Data

Man using a laptop in a coffeehouse.

The month of April sprung loose in global commercial real estate with an announcement from Australia’s biggest bank that The Commonwealth Bank of Australia launched a free big data analytics platform for small and medium businesses to improve their overall sales and performance. Indeed, what retailers around the globe are finding is that implementing big data solutions can help them identify advantages in marketing, customer experience, comparative analytics, and operations.

Big data. What is it, really?

SAS defines big data as the large volume of both structured and unstructured data, which inundates a business on a day-to-day basis. IBM describes it as “being generated by everything around us at all times,” including data collected from “every digital process and social media exchange,” transmitted by “systems, sensors and mobile devices . . . at an alarming velocity, volume and variety.”

For retailers in particular, this looks like generating data at POS, tracking foot traffic using in-store sensors, analyzing data from mobile devices and shopping behavior, and using technology like tablets to engage shoppers.

How can small- to mid-size retailers use big data to their advantage?

* Targeted marketing

Using social media to build a brand is an essential marketing tool in today’s marketplace. Big data technology enables retailers to collect and analyze social media interactions to identify specific audiences that might be interested in a retailer’s product or service. advises, “Use a range of marketing channels to get your customers to come back, through automated email campaigns or pay-per-click retargeting campaigns if they haven’t been in the store recently or to reward them for being great customers. Just remember to collect robust data on your customers so that you know who, how and when to activate them.”

Marketing manager Michael Tate of Eden Gardens, a cafe in North Sydney, attests to the benefits of big data in target advertising. “I'm able to put catalogues in the hands of people who want to come into our business,” he said. Big data technology also helped him identify first-time customers, and evaluate his overall marketing strategy based on who visited the cafe. (Source: SBS)

* Customer experience

Data-driven tools can give small- to mid-size retailers real-time, valuable feedback from customers as they interact with a company. Using chatbots and similar smart-store technologies, retailers can better serve customers with personalized messages and enhanced services and loyalty programs, for example.

* Comparative analytics

While the importance of knowing the competition is nothing new to the retail industry, big data takes this task to a completely new dimension. Implementing big data can mean big advantages for small- to mid-size retailers in understanding how best to compete in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Using information from big data technology can help retailers identify what’s not working for them and what is working for competitors. Big data can also steer retailers toward better positioning within their industry. In addition, as reports,the data-driven technology of “combined analytics have the power to facilitate massive profits for your businesses if implemented appropriately.”

* Streamlined operations

Smaller retailers can access tools once reserved for the big guys to help with resource allocation, reporting and finances, and increased performance. Crunchboards and Microsoft Power BI are two such tools that enable smaller retailers to create tailored reports, plan for the future and make decisions using real-time data, and more. In fact, MarTech cites improving business operations as the primary reason why 72% of small businesses invest in big data solutions.

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