How Technology Is Revolutionizing the Integration of Unstructured Data

Onyeka Nchege, CIO, Interstate Batteries
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In terms of reporting and analytics, technology is revolutionizing the integration of unstructured data (i.e. social, news feeds, weather, among others) and structured data (data warehouses, data marts, to name a few) to help answer questions about—and inform—our understanding of our consumers. For example, we now have access to information pertaining to ‘how’ and ‘when’ the consumer found out about us. We now know all about what they are shopping for, what is driving their purchase decisions, we can predict their behaviors, and of course, we have access to product or service feedback. All of that can be used to better inform our corporate marketing and sales strategies, providing detail-oriented information that enables us to personalize the consumer experience to make it mutually beneficial.

Similarly, e-commerce has made it possible for us to deliver an exceptional and consistent customer experience, executed flawlessly via web, mobile and store. Technology breakthroughs in e-commerce have given us access to information pertaining to location-specific product information, inventory numbers, online shopping, buying, and shipping, alternative product offerings and customer-specific add-on recommendations. Besides, technology has totally reinvented the way we approach online payment.

It is all about having the customer at the core of our business operations. We are laser-focused on the customer experience. We are focused on leveraging both mobile pay and mobile checkout, ultimately trickling down to a faster in-store checkout experience. We are focused on acknowledging customers by name when entering a store (i.e. cell phone ID, key fob RFIDs), yet real-time advertising has barely started to scratch the surface in-store and on mobile. We continue to focus on leveraging analytics (and automation) more effectively via self-service tools utilized by data-driven business leaders and business intelligence analysts who bring targeted business expertise and provide high value insights to business leaders when master, transaction, and customer data is efficiently and effectively integrated. In short, technology is enabling, not disabling key operational processes and procedures.

 ​ E-commerce has made it possible for us to deliver an exceptional and consistent customer experience, executed flawlessly via web, mobile, and store 

1. Shaping Up Business Direction through Big Data

Unsurprisingly, the industry has faced its share of challenges with integrating structured and unstructured data in an effort obtain a more comprehensive view of our customer’s buying habits. Technology is certainly helping in overcoming those challenges via effective integration of third party analytics. For example, it is becoming easier to measure traffic in stores to identify peak traffic times, identify the relationship between traffic, conversion, and shopper-to-employee-ratio to enhance store productivity, identify current performance, and improve metrics–such as conversion, average transaction size, and sales-per-shopper–through visibility to traffic and employee scheduling alignment. Big Data and Analytics are also empowering businesses to make data-driven decisions by delivering master data that is clean, integrated, and aligned to the most important needs of the business critical master data domains and by delivering data in a manner that is timely, integrated and useable. Both also support the sector’s most strategic objectives and initiatives by providing analytics and key insights that are action-oriented that, once identified, hold the business accountable for acting on those actionable insights.

2. Technology Advancements in Retail

The top retail technology trends playing key role in the retail industry are cloud computing, cognitive computing, mobile pay diversity, and omni/cross-channel integration. Moreover, cloud computing will see the rise of better security, dependability and access with a lower cost, SaaS, IaaS and private clouds, as well. Cognitive computing will see more systems using data to learn or predict human (customer) behavior and systems that augment human capability (that is call centers where systems are providing real-time customer insights to sales reps while simultaneously talking to said customer). Increasing number of transactions are being completed via mobile which will require a greater technical investment in mobile applications that are resilient and consumer friendly, and in terms of omni/ cross-channel integration, we’ll see web, mobile and store all delivering a constant brand and customer experience, executed seamlessly (that is order online and pick up at store). Lastly, we will see supply chain re-engineering to support a more flexible, multi-channel fulfillment model in the most cost-effective manner.

3. IoT in Retail

IoT will impact how we cohesively connect our brand to our customers, how we effectively integrate this unstructured data with our structured data to get a single 360 degree view of our customers and–ultimately–our target markets, collecting data to help us sell to our target markets and customers (i.e. ‘home analytics’). Other areas within retail that will see significant impact of IT include home media, home security and video, appliances and utilities (i.e. energy). Connected devices and vehicles will also continue to rise in popularity and complexity. Interestingly enough, I do believe we will see devices begin to ‘cry out’ when failing or about to fail, relying on analytics to track mean time to failure (or replacement) and, once identified, software recommends replacement product(s) and where to obtain those products, or better yet, automatically re-order if approved/authorized.

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