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Insight and analysis of technology and business strategy

Black Friday is coming. Is your customer data ready?

As a retailer, Black Friday can make or break your end-of-year sales targets. It’s when customers expect savings on their favorite products, and you expect deal-seeking customers to line up at your door or flock to your website.

But special offers alone won’t be enough if your systems aren’t ready to handle a sudden traffic spike, or your competitors have a better understanding of your customers than you do.

With the massive growth of Customer Data Platforms (CDP) and more sophisticated ad server technologies, retailers are becoming more intimate with their customers’ interests, preferences and buying habits. But getting your data strategy right is core to your success with these advanced marketing analytics tools.

One of the biggest challenges in ensuring these tools deliver is providing them with cleaned, transformed and unified data. Because marketing data is everywhere – in your sales systems, marketing automation systems, inventory systems, point-of-sale systems and other retail databases – to truly unify it, you need more than just a CDP. By putting an analytics platform in place to clean and unify your data, your CDP can deliver a more complete picture of customer behavior.

Whether your customers visit brick-and-mortar stores or shop online (or both), there are a few powerful things you can do with your data and infrastructure to ensure you deliver what your customers want, when they want it.

1. Adopt a cloud analytics platform to break down data silos

By adopting a cloud-native analytics platform like Pythian’s Enterprise Data Platform (EDP), you can more easily solve the data silo problem that could be in the way of a 360-degree view of your customers. By automating the capturing, curating and preparing data for consumption, EDP helps you get full value from analytics investments such as your CDP or BI tools, letting you enable easy data consumption and sharing across your enterprise.

Recently, we helped a century-old fashion house get a clearer picture of customer and sales data. They were dealing with billions of dollars in sales from a range of channels: their own brick-and-mortar retail stores, their online stores and third-party retailers. They needed to cut through data complexity to get a clearer picture of omnichannel sales performance across widespread regions to make more informed decisions about what to sell, where to sell and to whom and how to promote their products.

The company’s marketing department had vast volumes of data at their fingertips but was getting few reliable insights from it. They had all the data they needed for a complete picture of sales performance across regions and channels, but couldn’t bring it together to get the timely insights they needed to improve on all aspects of their marketing efforts – from developing products to meeting market demands to promoting their products to reach the right buyers at the right time.

The problem was that their data was in multiple systems and databases, and didn’t follow a common format or reside on the same platform.

We implemented a solution to integrate, transform and unify the company’s multisource sales performance data. Pythian data experts automated a process to deliver timely reports in Tableau to replace time-consuming manual integration and analysis in Excel. The solution has set them up for success, as they can now see trends that let them better understand customer behavior. It also enables them to spend less time on basic reports and more time exploring data and answering new business questions.

2. Turn your wireless network into a customer research tool
Mapping customer behavior helps to focus sales efforts. If you know which displays shoppers are most drawn to or which parts of a store they visit first and how long they spend there, you can shape strategies around those insights and potentially tweak everything from merchandise placement to staffing levels.

So how can you find that out? Turning wireless access points into tracking mechanisms is one way. We recently did this for a major clothing retailer with more than 3,000 stores worldwide. Capturing beacons from customers’ smartphones, we helped our client obtain a stream of information showing where customers went, what they stopped at and what they ended up purchasing.

All that data allowed the retailer to customize their locations to match customer preferences, shopping habits and traffic while optimizing staffing and encouraging repeat business through tailored merchandise and targeted in-store promotions. This approach also allowed the company to fine tune its approach to account for a lot of variation in customer patterns from store to store.

3. Tune up your e-commerce engine
Heavy online traffic, even when expected, places a huge strain on servers and databases. This affects the customer experience, reduces conversions and causes downtime that can take a bite out of the bottom line.

We saw this with a leading clothing company with 12 e-stores doing business in seven languages in more than 30 countries. Its business-critical systems were struggling to keep up with its online success, and it lacked the in-house resources to manage its environment proactively.

One easy fix in a case like this is outsourcing database administration. For this customer, Pythian provided 24-hour support to keep issues from snowballing into downtime. We also implemented real-time monitoring and analysis solutions to identify potential problems before they could actually compromise the system – keeping transactions flowing while reducing bug reports and improving response times.

Another strategy is using virtualization and the cloud to roll out new types of applications, evolving them continuously and more easily than on a fixed physical infrastructure. This approach allows you to constantly streamline the e-customer experience and keep your data platform as solid and stable as possible.

These are just a few ways you can maximize sales performance for Black Friday and beyond.

If you’d like help optimizing your IT environment, or would like to adopt an analytics strategy and platform, we’d be happy to talk about your needs.

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