Guest Post: The Digital Transformation of Retail

By ShiSh Shridhar, WW Director of Business Intelligence – Retail Sector, Microsoft

You go shopping; let’s say it’s a national hardware store because you have a painting project you’ve decided to tackle this weekend. You have done your research online, chosen the paint and now you are at the store to pick up your supplies and get started. But, when you reach the section with the paintbrushes, you realize you’re not exactly sure what you need. You stand there for a moment trying to figure it out, and then you start looking around, hoping a sales associate will appear. And one does! She’s smiling, and she’s an expert in paints and yes, she can direct you to the brush you need — and reminds you to pick up some blue tape.

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Shopping miracle?

No, shopping future. This kind of positive customer experience is one of the many ways that artificial intelligence (AI), sophisticated data gathering, and the cloud are being used to empower employees, bring consumers into stores, and shorten the path to purchase. These advancements help brick and mortar retailers compete with online retailers in today’s world. It’s the digital transformation of retail, and it’s happening now in ways big and small.

AI + Data = Retail Revolution

This transformation is driven by data, which today can come from any number of sources. In this example (a product called Floor Sense from Microsoft partner company Mindtree), the data is collected from security cameras already in place throughout the store. The cameras capture footage of how people move through space, where they stop and what they do as they shop. The video feed is then analyzed using AI that has been trained to understand how a customer acts when he or she needs help. When that behavior is recognized, a sales associate with the right expertise is sent to talk to the customer and help the customer make a decision.

But a store’s proprietary data is only the tip of the iceberg. Today, there are millions of data points that are either publicly available or easy to purchase from companies like Experian and Acxiom. Retailers can combine that demographic data with their existing CRM data to model behavior and build micro-segmentations of their customer base. Insights from that narrow analysis allow retailers to personalize, predict and incentivize in ways that are far more accurate than ever before.

Putting data insights into the hands of employees

Already, that kind of analysis has helped make online shopping more productive with relevant, timely offers. The next step for retailers is to learn how to make data-driven insights useful to store employees, as in the hardware store example, so they can enhance the customer’s in-store experience. The data could come from a customer’s interactions with the retailer’s app, chat bots, social media, in-store beacons or Wi-Fi, all of which, when compiled, allows a retailer to make extremely accurate inferences about a given customer’s behavior.

Managed well, those insights help a store employee serve a customer better. Managed poorly, personalized targeting in-store has the potential to spook customers. To handle it well, retailers must do two things: First, any in-store tracking should be done through a consumer opt-in, with transparency about how the retailer will use the information. Second, the customer deserves a good value exchange; it must be clear to her how she is benefitting from sharing her information with the retailer, and how her information contributes to delivering her a frictionless shopping experience.

Using a customer’s digital exhaust to everyone’s benefit

As consumers explore purchasing options and develop their preferences using search tools, social media, apps, and in-store visits with a device in hand they leave behind a digital exhaust. Today, advances in AI, data aggregation, and the cloud allow retailers to collect that digital exhaust to generate a style profile of prospective customers, which can then be used to introduce those customers to other products they might like. In this so-called phygital world — where the physical and digital overlap — retailers can combine data from multiple places to make inferences that will help them sharpen their marketing approach. The techniques are at hand — now, it’s up to creative retailers to find innovative ways to use those insights to inspire their customers, and shorten the path to purchase.

This article was originally posted on Independent Retailer.

The Future of Enterprise Analytics

Over the last couple weeks since the 2016 Hadoop Summit in San Jose, eSage Group has been discussing the future of big data and enterprise analytics.  Quick note – Data is data and data is produced by everything, thus big data is really no longer an important term.

hspeopleeSage Group is specifically focused on the tidal wave of sales and marketing data that is being collected across all channels, to name a few:

  • Websites – Cross multiple sites, Clicks, Pathing, Unstructured web logs, Blogs
  • SEO –  Search Engine, Keywords, Placement, URL Structure, Website Optimization
  • Digital Advertising – Format, Placement, Size, Network
  • Social
    • Facebook – Multiple pages, Format (Video, Picture, GIF), Likes (now with emojis), Comments, Shares, Events, Promoted, Platform (mobile, tablet, PC) and now Facebook Live
    • Instagram – Picture vs Video, Follows, Likes, Comments, Reposts (via 3rd Party apps), LiketoKnow.it, Hashtags, Platform
    • Twitter – Likes, RT, Quoted RT, Promoted, Hashtags, Platform
    • SnapChat – Follows, Unique views, Story completions, Screenshots.  SnapChat to say the least is still the wild west as to what brands can do to engage and ultimately drive behavior.

Then we have Off-Line (Print, TV, Events,  etc). Partners. 3rd Party DataDon’t get me started on International Data. 

Tired yet?

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While sales and marketing organizations see the value of analytics, they are hindered by what is accessible from the agencies they work with and by the difficulty of accessing internal siloed data stored across functions within the marketing organization – this includes central corporate marketing, divisional/product groups, field marketing, product planning, market research and operations.

Marketers are hindered by access to the data and the simple issue of not knowing what data is being collected.  Wherever the data lies, it is often controlled by a few select people that service the marketers and don’t necessary know the value of the data they have collected.  Self-service and exploration is not possible yet.

Layer on top this the fact that agile marketing campaigns require real-time data (at least close real time) and accurate attribution/predictive analytics.

So, you can see there are a lot of challenges that face a marketing team, let alone the deployment of an enterprise analytics platform that can service the whole organization.

Now that I have outlined the business challenges, let’s look at what technologies were mentioned at the 2016 Hadoop Summit that are being developed to solve some of these issues.

  • Cloud, cloud, cloud– lots of data can be sent up, then actively used or sent to cold storage on or off prem.  All the big guys have the “best” cloud platform
  • Security – divisional and function roles, organization position, workflow
  • Self-Service tools – ease of data exploration, visualization, costs
  • Machine Learning and other predictive tools
  • Spark
  • Better technical tools to work with Hadoop, other analytics tools and data stores
  • And much more!  

Next post, we will focus on the technical challenges and tools that the eSage Group team is excited about.

Cheers! Tina

 

 

 

Executive Evening Out with eSage Group and Microsoft

On March 10th, eSage Group held its first Executive Evening Out at the exclusive Rainier Club in Downtown Seattle. The event was sponsored by Microsoft Advanced Analytics.

On March 10th, eSage Group held its first Executive Evening Out at the exclusive Rainier Club in Downtown Seattle.  The event was sponsored by Microsoft Advanced Analytics.

15 Seattle area executives, from the likes of Starbucks, Trupanion, Allrecipes, Alaska Air, Disney and their guests joined us for a short presentation by Shish Shridhar, Worldwide Director for Business Intelligence Solutions – Retail for Microsoft, then sat down to a 5 course meal with wine pairings presented by The Rainier Club sommelier.

Microsoft has a powerful offering, from Azure Machine Learning, Cortana Analytics Suite, SQL 2016 and PowerBI. It was definitely a learning experience along with a wonderful meal and wines.

 

What is the Internet of Things? Why should marketers care? RSVP Now to find out!

Internet of ThingsPlease join us in this lively evening event sponsored and organized by eSage Group with co-sponsors Pointmarc and Cloudera. Hear a panel of industry experts from the areas of Wearables, Home Security/Automation, and Automotive:

Duane Bedard from eSage Group, a thought leader in the marketing analytics space, will moderate a discussion delving into the Internet of Things, where are we today, what the future holds and how marketers can best be prepared to take advantage of it to improve effectiveness of marketing campaigns and develop new revenue streams.

The Learning Lounge is presented with PSAMA and DAA.

Details:

When: May 15, 2014 Time: 6:00pm – 9:00pm
Where: Club Sur 2109 First Avenue South SODO, just south of the Starbucks Center
Cost: $25 includes beverages (alcoholic and non) and appetizers Parking is free and readily available after 6pm on First and side streets.

RSVP Now IoT

 Check out the cool digs!

SUR Montage

DONT MISS IT!

 

Just announced! eSage Group’s Internet of Things Learning Lounge – May 15th

iot3A First-Hand Conversation on the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things will profoundly re-shape marketing. As objects in all corners of our lives become connected to the web what does it mean for brands and customers? To help provide insight, and a lively discussion, eSage Group and PSAMA has arranged a premium collection of senior-level thinkers from some of the area’s strongest brands, all together on one panel.

See first-hand how Alaska Airlines is evolving air travel, how Vivint is revolutionizing digital homes and how Nike continues to be an innovator in wearables all through understanding the opportunities from the Internet of Things.

Learning Lounge: An All-New Event Format

At the Learning Lounge, Seattle Marketing Analytics Group, PSAMA members, and non-members alike are invited to join together for an evening at SUR, one of Seattle’s most talked-about venues. Enjoy food and drink (ticket prices includes cocktails and light hors d’oeuvres) while learning from some of the Northwest’s most innovative brands how the Internet of Things is starting to re-shape marketing.

Expert Panel:

Details:

Date: May 15th, 21014

Location: Club SUR, SODO, 2901 1st Avenue S

Time: 6pm

Tickets are $25 for all Seattle Marketing Analytics Group members!

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Register here!

Special Thanks to our co-sponsors!

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The Learning Lounge is replacing the normal monthly MeetUp at Fado’s for the month of May. We will return to normal in June. 

If folks like it, The Learning Lounge will hopefully become a quarterly (or so) event.