How to integrate customer data across all channels
Retail Data Integration
Stores aren’t just brick-and-mortar buildings in fixed physical locations anymore. Today, retailers exist in physical locations across the country, but also have a ubiquitous presence online through e-stores, affiliates, and widespread ad campaigns. By the same token, customers are no longer just transient sources of income which vanish as soon as they leave your store. Potential buyers maintain an online existence as well, making contact and interacting with your company in a variety of spaces from social media to search engines, virtual marketplaces like Amazon and your own proprietary websites.
As businesses and consumers expand onto the internet, their points of contact are becoming more numerous and varied. People now have access to retail goods from just anywhere, and as a result, the companies that provide them are getting to know more about their customers.
This is a great opportunity for companies using data integration tools. What are data integration tools? Data integration is part of the larger field of retail data analysis which has become increasingly popular in recent years. Companies now use a wide range of data tools and software programs to study customers and their interactions with their business presence both on- and offline. Knowing more about the customer allows these companies to make structural and policy changes which better attend to the wants and needs of the people who buy from them—give the customer what they want and they’ll be more likely to buy from you in the future.
Retail data integration is the part of this process which connects all the data from different sources and locations to create a more complete and accurate picture of the customers who shop with you. Data integration steps up the simple collection of information to provide greater insight into what buyers are really looking for and how your business could better cater to their needs and preferences.
Retail data systems are already becoming common and indispensable in competitive markets. Data integration is a way to further improve these systems. Companies looking to increase customer satisfaction and drive revenue might consider making integration a primary goal.
Ecommerce integration software
The core of all in-store and ecommerce integration software is the CDP or customer data platform. This is a piece of software which takes in all the data collected from your various business touchpoints and starts connecting it together.
Different kinds of data can be gathered from different places in your business model. In a physical store, info on purchase size, content, and frequency can be obtained along with some personal data on individual customers. Similar things can be gleaned from online stores, but in addition, search functions can produce information about what customers are looking for and archives can be kept about all the products customers have browsed in the past.
Huge amounts of data can be collected from just these two sources, and other points of contact can produce still more varieties. The number of data points created, however, is much larger than the actual number of customers any given company has. A CDP can help consolidate all these pieces of information by connecting individual bits of knowledge with the actions of real shoppers.
Integration tools and techniques used in sifting through this data will depend on the CDP you have, but almost all are constructed in the same way. Inside the CDP are thousands of individual customer profiles. The data integration process takes all the new data flowing into the system and pairs each piece with the profile of the customer who produced it. This allows companies to create a comprehensive picture of each buyer, enabling upper management to better understand what individuals or groups of customers like, what they want, and what kinds of relationships they have with your business. Knowing this, they can deploy new policies, promotions, product lines, and other initiatives geared towards improving customer satisfaction and promoting long-term loyalty.
Data integration platform
The CDP is at the heart of the integration process, but is only one aspect of a larger data integration architecture. This more extensive data integration platform also includes the data gathering software itself and an array of analytics tools which provide further insight into the consolidated database content of the CDP.
The data collector programs are fairly simple, taking in as much information as possible from your store’s POS, your online marketplace, and various ad campaigns deployed across the web. They are the first step of the process and the base of your platform.
Analytics programs are where most of the real leveraging of this data takes place, and enable even further integration and analysis of your captured information. Analytics programs can do just about anything, but their job is to search for meaningful patterns in customer behavior across all the facets of your business. Some programs can track demographic information, showing you what kinds of people shop at your stores, who your most loyal customers are, and how much each different segment is likely to spend. Others can track seasonal and temporal trends in your sales, telling you who is going to buy what and when and monitoring how your sales figures have changed over time and in what ways. Still other programs use AI and machine learning tech to produce accurate predictions about data and customer behaviors in the future. These are especially useful in helping companies adjust to likely shifts in what customers will want and expect in the coming months and years.
Many analytics programs integrate these different conclusions with each other, allowing for such complex insights as what teenagers will want to buy from your store next summer at stores located in the western U.S. or which customers will be most likely to switch to a competitor if you increase the price of one of your more popular product lines. While the CDP transforms raw data into real customers, analytics programs work to understand these individuals to serve them better.
Data integration services
To put together an effective platform, you’ll need to have the right software integration tools. Retail software is so varied in the data integration services it can provide because there are so many unique businesses and customers out there. To meet all the myriad needs of these businesses, there are hundreds of system integrator companies which build the specialized tools to handle them.
Companies looking to set up their own analytics and integration platforms have two main choices when building a system. The first involves picking and choosing individual applications and tools from various different companies according to the specific needs of your business. You might combine the data gathering programs from two different software providers (one for in-store, and one for online), the CDP from another company, and a couple dozen analytics programs built by half a dozen additional parties.
This approach is useful in creating a specially tailored system which meshes well with your business model, but it has a number of drawbacks. Collecting a series of special tools might not be too hard, but making them all work together is not easy. Integrating your integration tools into one cohesive system can take a great deal of time and require a lot of troubleshooting. Dedicated programmers and systems analysts will likely be needed, and support from software providers will be needed regularly.
The solution to these issues is the second option for building a platform. Lexer is a unique provider of data software because they tackle every aspect of the analytics and integration process. Collectors, a CDP, analytics tools, and even dashboards and visualizers are all developed in-house by Lexer to produce a single, ready-made system fit for use in any market. Lexer’s all-in-one approach saves companies the time and resources spent on making various proprietary applications work smoothly together and can be easily tweaked to provide the same amount of customization and specialization of a multi-app platform. A monolithic system like Lexer’s is the ideal solution both for businesses just starting out in the world of retail data and more experienced companies looking to update and revamp their systems.
Data integration solutions
In the end, however, you know best what your company needs to succeed and your own priorities will determine the kinds of tools which are right for you.
Luckily, as already mentioned, there are programs currently available to deal with all data integration types. Some companies might just be looking to combine and consolidate purchase data from their physical and online stores. Others might be looking to integrate personal data collected from various different locations in a chain. Or you might be trying to integrate outside data with info about your customers, combining it with knowledge about market trends, competitor behaviors, or internet surveys. Data integration solutions exist for all these situations and many many more.
The end goal of all these tools, however, is a better customer experience. Being able to take data from disparate sources and combine them creates a more accurate image of each individual customer. Understanding what each prospect and buyer wants and needs empowers business leaders to effect real change which will make customers happier and more likely to shop with you in the future. This can consist of revising the products and services you provide, developing new ad campaigns and strategies, offering new memberships or promotions, or even altering your whole brand image. Customers know what they want, and through integration and analytics, you can make it happen.
At Lexer, our mission is to make better communication between customers and the companies they shop with possible. For meaningful experiences and smarter business, Lexer is here to help.