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GUEST COMMENT Return to in-person shopping: How data could make it happen

Covid-19 has changed the way we do everything — including how we shop. Even with vaccine distribution in place and normalcy on the horizon, people are still anxious about contact with other shoppers and the potential for exposure in stores. 

Retailers are using technology to ease these anxieties and in-store shopping will look different than it did before the pandemic. Budding technologies like voice commerce and contactless payment are paving the way for more digitized in-store shopping experiences overall. Soon, in-store shopping might become as data-driven and targeted as online.

Embracing this digital future will ensure a swifter rebound for your brand post-pandemic. By building the right data foundations now, you’ll set yourself up to deliver individualized and digitized in-store experiences in the future — meeting the high expectations of post-pandemic consumers.

The shift toward data

Government-mandated lockdowns and anxiety over in-store shopping have caused anincrease in online purchases for grocers and retailers. With fewer people shopping in-store, businesses with strong brick-and-mortar presences are failing to sell excess inventory. Companies losing sales risk permanent closures. From March to August 2020, nearly 155,000 businesses closed, 59% of which were permanent. In response, businesses are adopting data-driven marketing technology to support safe shopping and increase sales by clearing shelves of excess inventory.

The multifaceted nature of data analytics allows marketers to use information in ways we could not have imagined 20 years ago. For example, a company can cross-reference store-specific inventory data from its inventory management system with aggregated internet search data to send customers targeted ads for products they have a surplus of. If you search for a new shovel online, don’t be surprised when you see a local inventory ad for a Home Depot near you. Targeted ads have become vital for driving in-store pickup during the pandemic. 

These tactics are only possible when organizations centralize and streamline their data feeds, enabling real-time product information updates across multiple platforms. With a centralized data feed you can also optimize ad spend across platforms that serve your third-party ads. And keep in mind that different shoppers are drawn to different images. You should use your data feed to personalize images in the same feed for different shoppers. You can also identify ads with keywords that aren’t converting into sales — a cost-saving tactic. These data-driven strategies are all possible now, but only with access to organized data. And marketers and retailers are finding new ways to use that data almost every day.

As classic marketing and advertising strategies evolve, legacy tactics are becoming obsolete: Data is now at the center of modern marketing. As we shift toward a data-dominated omnichannel retail experience, in-store shopping experiences will change and you need to prepare by organizing your data.  

The possibilities for in-store experiences

In the post-pandemic world, marketers will take the basic principles of data-driven marketing one step further. Marketers will use existing data to create in-store shopping experiences, tailored to customers based on their exact location within the store and past mobile searches. The exponential increase in external data makes this easier than ever.

Imagine shopping at your favorite clothing store after eyeing a sweater on the store’s website. When you are standing near the sweater, you receive an alert for a flash sale offering 10% off, motivating you to finally make the purchase. 

This is the type of data-informed experience that marketers envision in a post-pandemic world. Some aspects of these concepts are still speculative: Will shoppers carry a fob to track their exact location in the store, or will having the retailer’s app on their phones be sufficient? Could stores use PIN and DAM product data to know a product’s exact location? 

The data to drive these capabilities is there. The intersection of real-time information with customer data offers a unique opportunity to reach shoppers. Use this as an opportunity to optimize your business’ data feed to prepare for the future of in-store experiences.

Be prepared for the future of retail marketing

Data plays a fundamental role in every business. Organized data feeds can help increase sales, save time and prepare for future marketing strategies. And having a centralized source for your product information in the global marketing ecosystem gives you control over those products.

Companies with large product inventories need to ensure their product data is integrated and optimized to connect with the right channels. Integration and organization help businesses sell and promote their products effectively, whether it’s in-store or online. With the right in-house team, your company can keep technology integrated and up to date. However, it can be overwhelming, and a third-party solution that plugs into your existing tech stack might be the answer for your business’ data organization.

With your company’s data in an organized, centralized infrastructure, your business will be ready for the future of data-driven in-store shopping experiences. The pandemic has forever changed customers’ buying habits. With advanced, digitized in-store experiences on the horizon, the time to start organizing and optimizing your organization’s data is now.


Christopher Dessi, VP of Americas & Australia, Productsup

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