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GUEST COMMENT Retailoring the shopping experience with mobile data

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As we’ve seen first-hand through a series of changes to the retail shopping experience in recent years, many brands are now using information pulled from their customers’ shopping habits to drive sales, with powerful results. But this barely scratches the surface of what’s possible when it comes to big data analytics. In today’s hyper-competitive sales environment, where consumers can compare prices at the click of a button and share their experiences across the internet, it’s more important than ever to discover new and unique ways to stand out from the crowd. Finding the right partners can make this a reality, and given the reliance we all place on our smartphones it’s no surprise that mobile operators are now being considered for this role.

There’s no doubt that mobile is an important channel for driving sales. Retailers of all sizes are waking up to the opportunities presented by mobile marketing. PWC’s 2014 ‘Total Retail’ report suggests 47% of global consumers use their smartphones to make purchases, with 11% doing so at least once a week. Mobile apps are becoming a must-have route to raise profits, and there’s no avoiding the fact that the proliferation of connected mobile devices presents an opportunity to sell to consumers during their personal time. However, is this current approach targeted enough and does it meet the customer’s needs? Many would say no, which is a view supported by figures in a recent Internet Retailing column: Shoppers keen to use mobile while shopping, but retailers don’t show them the point.

To combat this and drive sales through highly targeted and relevant promotions and offers – based on both content and location – retailers are now beginning to discover the potential of data hidden within mobile networks.

Customer in sight

Many traditional techniques deployed to date to support retail marketing and advertising efforts – including counting footfall, consumer surveys and focus groups – are inefficient, inaccurate and obsolete. This information is small in scale and does not consider individual consumer tastes and preferences. Retailers, therefore, are missing out on vital opportunities to drive sales and better differentiate themselves from competitors.

Mobile operators can pull advanced and highly targeted big data from their networks and package it for retailers, offering a detailed picture of consumer location, mobile internet usage and behaviours. Mobile operators can provide this data in real time, continuously and in mass, as consumers do more and more and more on their mobile devices.

Mobile customers, mobile sales

All major retailers already have access to their own big data, which lets them target users with product-specific information based on online activity and purchasing history. However, you can do this with significantly more precision and accuracy using mobile data.

Research from Teradata and Celebrus has shown that, across all age groups, 63% of shoppers are happy to receive personalised offers on products, and a recent survey by Accenture found demand for real-time offers and promotions is 60 percent. Retail intent is in line with consumer demand for personalised, localised services.

The mobile revolution

A powerful advantage for any retailer, for example, is the ability to pool data insights with a user’s location to open up a range of previously inaccessible opportunities. For example, a shopper who has recently been browsing online for shoes could receive a discount via push notification when walking past a shoe shop. Accessing this data through mobile operators, retailers can apply a true multi-channel approach, driving footfall and conversion rates in physical stores while capturing additional sales via their online platform. Combing these resources lets savvy retailers ‘push’ notifications or relevant discounts to customers in close proximity of the store, when they have opted-in to receive promotional offers.

Retailers can combine their own user insights with mobile data, generating new conversions that bridge physical and online shopping portals. Research from PWC also suggests 70% of consumers are now ‘web-rooming,’ which means they use online applications to browse and compare products before purchasing in store.

Mobile network data can also help retailers to conduct valuable competitor analysis, gauging if customers visit a rival store before or after shopping in their own, how much time the customer spends there and how often they visit, among other data. This information can help inform decisions about when and where to place promotional offers and discounts, both online and offline.

One stop shop

There’s no escaping the fact that mobile is a huge resource for retailers, and many have already woken up to the opportunities presented by mobile sites and applications. Understanding how to unite the various retail streams with accurate, unobtrusive and relevant, targeted offers is key to successful mobile campaigns for retailers. Retailers now agree, by and large, that a multi-channel approach is the direction in which the industry is heading, and big data drawn from the mobile network has the potential to be that glue that will hold the multichannel approach together.

Guillaume Le Mener, office of the CTO at Tektronix Communications , a NETSCOUT company

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