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Growing importance of data in retail


About Visionstate • Visionstate is a Canadian leader in delivering interactive information portals in public spaces. • Interactive directory technology is installed in some of the most prestigious shopping centres across Canada. • Clients include Ivanhoe Cambridge, Oxford, Primeris, and RioCan, to name a few. • Focus initially on efficient delivery of on-site customer service information, and advertising using interactive touchscreens • What we discovered was that data was just as important as delivering better customer service.


What information we collect • Each interaction with our products records information. • This can include, popular keyword searches, top categories, stores, brands, etc. • Our customers never had access to that type of data before, mostly collected aggregate data. • Our data provides insights into trends – what people are looking for and when. • Although it is not precise data counting every visitor and their sex, our product provides important information on those trends that influence decision making. • Example, is the retail makeup within a shopping centre what customers want based on what they are looking for?


Why is this important? • Broadcast advertising is increasingly shrinking as companies harness the ability to better define customers. • Technology can accomplish this, and is doing so increasingly. • Example, Facebook. Why is Facebook so valuable? Because of the information it collects from its users, then leverages that for advertising. • Mobile apps have raised the bar further, enabling retail to track people through GPS, and even customize ads based on shopping history.


Data is also about efficiency • Through our experience in delivering customer service, and realizing the importance of data, we expanded our offering to customers. • In the last few weeks launched WANDA, which replaces the ugly white paper and plastic in washrooms. • Customer service component – yes; when the washrooms were cleaned and flag management if necessary. • The real story? If our customers get sued for something that occurred in the washroom, it means digging through mountains of this paper. • Visionstate changed all that.


Why is that data important? • It’s not just about customer service and giving the people what they want. • It is also about creating better efficiencies. • Washroom example: Not only risk mitigation but also, resources and supplies used versus traffic. • Customers can now produce reports that provide an overall efficiency rating on the bathroom. • So savings are found both in liability, but also in being more efficient in cleaning and maintaining.


Challenges in customer data • PRIVACY – the biggest challenge will be determining how much data is acceptable to collect. • Example in the US over Christmas. Product launched to track your every movements, how long you spent at stores, products, etc. • Facebook recently got sued for using a person’s information in an advertisement where they indicated they “liked” the product. • There has to be a balance between privacy and collecting meaningful data, which will always be the challenge.


Conclusions • Data collection will become increasingly important in defining customers. • Data, a least for our customers, is a powerful tool for becoming more responsive to customers and more efficient. • The challenge is collecting pertinent data without compromising privacy. • Visionstate has benefited greatly from this trend toward bigger data, and continues to develop products with an emphasis on this.

John Putters - Growing Importance of Data in Retail  
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