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Forbes US: Why Brick and Mortar Retailers Need E-Commerce-Style Data Tracking Methods

As the old saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

This is the newfound mentality for brick and mortar stores taking a massive hit in sales and foot-traffic due to the rise of digital retailers.

In the face of more industry leaders filing for bankruptcy and struggling to survive, traditional shops have decided to get even by taking a page from the playbook of e-commerce giants. Brick and mortar stores are now leveraging big data, a strategy central to Amazon’s success, and applying it to optimize shopping experiences and business management.

For malls today, the fine details of managing a physical space, including cleanliness and security, are taking a back seat for the need to create experiences that simply can’t be replicated online.

As digital retailers stress personalization and price points that can’t be beaten, how can brick and mortar stores possibly hope to compete?

The answer comes in the form of experiences, visceral events that are larger than life and extend beyond the confines of a screen. As a result, malls are starting to employ sensors and beacons which monitor behavior and can assist in optimizing the mall-going experience.

Amazon is already experimenting with experience management in the digital world. Through the likes of Amazon’s Echo, shoppers are finding that their conversations with Alexa are encouraging them to make more purchases through the platform. And the more data that Amazon gains through Alexa, the more personalized experiences are possible.

To help brick and mortar retailers compete, companies can take big data and apply it offline. Miami-based Erea, for example, helps retailers derive strategic insights from the type of big data analytics we see online, and they’re doing it successfully at several retailers across six Latin American countries. They’re also doing it at shopping malls, where opportunities to merge diverse data sets can have even bigger payoffs via multi-store collaborations.

“Our proprietary retail platform, what we call a retail hub, focuses on the key decision-making processes that a retail business faces on a day-to-day basis,” explains Michael Corcuera, CEO of Erea.

“The data had been always there, many times very hard to access, though,” Concuera notes. “These issues led to unresolved questions for managers, who didn’t have the data or insights to resolve important challenges quickly or accurately. Now these digital goggles give executives new angles on how to analyze the data.”

Retail Business Analytics In Action

How can malls translate data into a meaningful, memorable shopping experience? Broken down below are three distinct ways that Corcuera sees retailers doing exactly that.

1. Make Data Less Daunting

Here’s some food for thought: A shopping center is an absolute treasure trove of information. Much like shoppers online, people in non-virtual spaces have their preferences, quirks and behaviors that can be collected and analyzed.

Think of this gathering of data as a sort of assessment of real-life user experience (UX).

With the help of the Sisense business intelligence platform, Erea’s dashboards are taking this seemingly intangible data and turning it into usable, actionable tips for retailers. This dashboard makes it possible to collect, analyze and employ data that improves the user experience to increase sales.

A store manager can go to a management-only dashboard view and see exactly what combination of category, brand or supplier is the one with the worst results against the day before, or against the same day the year before, or any comparison timeframe desired. That way store managers can focus immediately on what needs the most attention that specific morning.

Businesses need specific information presented in an understandable way that leads to fast action.

2. Identifying Shopper Trends and Behaviors

With in-person commerce, the variables of the shopping experience are seemingly endless. Retailers need the ability to analyze a wide variety of metrics to better understand their customers and what impacts their purchasing decisions. Offers, promotions and even something as seemingly minor as the weather could be a major factor in buying behavior.

With the help of business analytics, detecting these variables and how they impact customers can help maximize revenues. At a mall setting, everything from in-store events, the temperature, each shop’s location, level of noise and marketing activities deserve the attention of retailers. These considerations have always existed, but retailers are just now starting to analyze them using data.

“The game changers are accuracy, availability, relevance, thoroughness and standardization,” he says. “These metrics are complemented with specific analytical frameworks for each key area of the business.”

By breaking down factors both internal and external, mall and store managers can better understand what needs to be done to create more optimized shopping space. In other words, managers have insight as to why certain locations thrive over others and can use that information to benefit their shoppers.

3. Boost Supply Chain Efficiency

Having a robust business intelligence (BI) dashboard also provides assistance to suppliers regarding inventory. In other words, smarter suppliers are a byproduct of smarter retailers.

With real-time data, storefronts can replenish inventory on the fly, without second-guessing what they need or what will be wasteful.

“We tell our clients that we can help their suppliers to better understand what works and what doesn’t inside the stores in a much more holistic way,” Corcuera says.

Erea’s clients have seen firsthand improvements between 10 and 15% in inventory savings, and the same degree of improvement when reducing operating costs. As a result, storefronts can restock on a predictive basis and outpace the competition.

How Retailers Are Regaining Their Edge

Just as big data has transformed the world of online retail, brick and mortar shops are quickly adopting the exact same sort of tech. The result? Brick and mortar retailers no longer have to feel that they’re staring up helplessly at the giants of e-commerce.

With the help of business intelligence tools, retailers can take their storefront data and transform it into an optimal experience for their customers.

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