Big Data and Cyber Monday: how retailers need to stay ahead of the curve
The first industrial revolution began just over 250 years ago. Another followed just under 150 years ago, and now we are in the midst of a new revolution - rather than using steam power or electricity, this revolution is now being driven by big data and data analytics.
Data analytics is essentially defined by its use, so, what is retail analytics? The answer is refreshingly simple: employing data analytics in a retail context.
Black Friday has just passed and Cyber Monday is in full swing. Traditionally this is a time when retailers offer their best deals on products, and is significantly the most important date in the retail calendar.
With technology changing, retailers need to adapt the equally changing needs of their customers. They can use newer technology to enhance the customer experience, deliver a more personalised experience and in doing so increase customer loyalty, and ultimately customer retention.
By creating a more loyal customer base a retail organisation can then develop a unified view of the customer activity and in turn begin to anticipate changing customer needs, therefore increasing subsequent sales.
This is not the only way retail analytics brings benefits to organisations; stock control and availability is another key ingredient to a successful customer engagement. Too much stock is inefficient use of display or warehouse space, too little stock means customers go elsewhere, and once gone can be lost forever.
Therefore, the streamlining of all operations from customer presentation through the sales cycle, stock control and even delivery becomes a key component of business today, especially during period of high traffic such as black Friday, which the intelligent use of data enables to happen efficiently.
This is where big data solutions come in. It lets companies take advantage of several data sources, potentially in-store, online or external to the business. To benefit from its potential, companies must ingest data from multiple sources, then create a suitable data platform (commonly known as a Data Lake) and the transform the raw data into business information and, ultimately, to usable knowledge.
These processes allow retailers to gain new insights into customer behaviour, develop an understanding of their activity through loyalty cards or online activity, and ultimately allows targeted marketing to individuals based on previous behaviour.
Of course, some time immediate decisions need to be made. For example, one of the most critical decisions an online retailer can make is when to put up a holding or busy page on their website to protect it from being overwhelmed by sheer load from visitor traffic, or when to deploy additional capacity to cope with traffic created by Black Friday trading, for example.
This decision has profound implications for key success factors such as customer experience, ability to trade, and brand credibility. Using data analytics for real time insight enables retailers to see immediately, and predict in the future, these trends and make well-informed decisions ahead of time, often saving the business from potential trading disasters.
Real-time insight into data is enabled through the deployment of the correct technology solutions, these solutions allow crucial retail decisions to be made to maximise business opportunities. The quicker you can put enlightening information at the fingertips of decision makers, the more effective the decisions they make can be.
However, it’s not just in predicting trading patterns where retail analytics can add value. There are several emerging trends that can be identified in every day retail scenarios. Computacenter has worked with many retail organisations to provide solutions creating targeted offers that can be received at a kiosk or on a receipt as a result of the day’s shopping. Video analytics are also becoming commonplace to gather information on the flow of shoppers in-store, measuring how shoppers observe product placement and to gain insight on how best how to lay out displays. Finally, sentiment analysis solutions are becoming an important business tool, examining the language and extracting that data from blogs, social networks, reviews etc. to gauge customer feeling towards a product or service.
It may take a little longer for retailers to transform themselves into precision analytical machines and whilst the initial investment may delay some retailers from exploring their analytic capabilities, these investments in analytics can generate income quickly, improve productivity and lower costs. Not only that, the ability to predict buying trends, customer preferences and trading patterns helps to safeguard business against future disruption.
The overall trends are clear: retail is a data-intensive industry, and taking advantage of all that data to operate and manage the business better requires the combination of technology solutions and retail analytics.
Most retailers have only scratched the surface of what is possible, and now it’s up to decision makers and business owners alike to fully realise and embrace the potential of this new Digital revolution, enabling both their users and their business, and ultimately enabling their customers.
Companies need to embrace the digital revolution during this seasonal rush - the future of retail depends on the intelligent use of data.
By Bill McGloin, Chief Technologist – Information, at Computacenter
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”