Big Data: Curse or blessing for retail?

Understanding the customer - that is the goal of every retailer. Because the better the customer behaviour is examined, the more precisely needs and expectations can be met. The result: rising sales figures.

In e-commerce, customer analysis using Big Data has been common practice for some time now. This is also necessary in the technology-driven industrial age in order to remain competitive. As the name suggests, Big Data is a huge amount of data. Structured and unstructured data is captured and stored. They originate from Internet activities such as streaming and social media, or from publicly accessible data sources such as the EU's open data portal. 

Big Data is not about how much data is collected, but how it is subsequently processed. By analysing these data sets, costs can be reduced, time saved, entire products developed or business decisions made.
In addition to the opportunities offered by digital development, there are also challenges: Shops have to close, operators have to reorient themselves or fundamentally change their product range . With the exponential increase in online shopping, the question of whether the retail trade will die out has been raised for some time. 

For businesses to survive, they must adhere to certain rules of e-commerce, and digital signage plays a significant role in this.


Big data and digital signage as saviors of retail?

How does Digital Signage in combination with Big Data help retailers? Digital signage has large overlaps with Big Data and can positively influence various business sectors. In order to be fully effective, an already implemented IT infrastructure consisting of an app, beacons and a CRM system is required. Beacons can be small Bluetooth transmitters, status messages from a WLAN access point or tracking pixels on a website. Through integrated analytics, digital signage  can use optimized marketing data to display personalized and exclusive offers.

The predictive and target group specific analysis capabilities are the standard in online business and can also be used at the point of sale through digital signage. The retailer gains more flexibility as the management of the digital displays is centralized. Real-time analyses also help to optimize advertising more quickly and save resources (e.g. printing costs) that would be required for conventional advertising signs. 

Customerexperience - the Do's and Don'ts

The customer wants a unique shopping experience at the point of sale and Digital Signage has the ability to do this through entertainment and information. For the success of a campaign to improve the custom experience, it is important to adapt the information to the needs of the consumer on the basis of Big Data Analytics. For years, online retailers have had the advantage over stationary retailers of being able to track every customer action. With new emerging technologies it is also possible to play out personalized offers and recommendations in the retail trade.

In order to offer the customer a positive shopping experience instead of driving him away, there are a handful of things that need to be considered.

Data collection

Data collection is a sensitive issue from an ethical point of view. Store operators must be aware that security and privacy are the top priorities when using Big Data. On the one hand, a successful cyber attack can cause considerable damage. Not only the data itself is at stake, but also the trust of the customers, which is why IT security must be guaranteed by the best possible technical support.
On the other hand, the privacy of guests, visitors and customers must be respected. Nobody wants to feel observed all the time. The correct handling of the data ultimately leads to success. The example of facial recognition shows the following: The technology should only identify the gender, age and other details and not the identity of the person itself.

Content follows the customer - and vice versa

It is clear that people are much more responsive to and influenced by information that is relevant and tailored to them. This is the desired effect when moving from a one-to-many to a one-to-targeted communication model. However, the effect can also go backwards: the customer feels exposed due to targets that are too precise, which does not exactly ensure a sense of well-being. The target group analysis involves a further risk - the segmentation of the target group. If the retailer performs this too precisely, he misses certain groups of people and thus potential sales.
The retailer now knows which messages work for certain groups, but not how intensively he has to address them. The rule is: Customers should not be bombarded with information from apps and digital signage, even if they are personally relevant. In the event of a flood of information, the customer switches off and the hoped-for effect does not even occur. When reproducing information on digital signage installations, it is not only important to target and convey messages in a healthy mediocre way, but also to provide the customer with added value. The content must contain an advantage in order not to scare off people with tailor-made content. Offering discount coupons or good entertainment would be a common approach. This creates an exchange transaction between customer and store operator - data for value. 

Conclusion for the optimal use of Big Data in the retail trade

In the data-driven time we are in today, stationary traders should be aware of the following: 

  • Keep an overview: With a top view of the situation, the analysis can be carried out more easily. Is the IT infrastructure sufficient? Where is the ideal location for digital signage modules? How many displays should be installed so that information is present but the store is not overloaded?
  • Do not blindly trust data and evaluate it correctly: As the saying goes, caution is better than indulgence. Big Data lives from a huge data pool, but some of them are too unstructured to draw any conclusions. It is therefore important to decode this pool of data in subsequent analysis steps and to evaluate it correctly. In the end, there should be a database that serves as a basis for targeting.

Big data and digital signage - that works. Provided you pay attention to the Do's and the Dont's. With personalized content and a sensitive approach to the issue, sales figures can be boosted and the endangered retail trade saved. The responsible use of data can drive entire industries - just like oil used to.