Data merge ahead

A single customer database and integrated systems are paramount for grocers looking to advance their multi-channel strategies.

In their quest to better service shoppers, supermarket retailers continue to add customer touchpoints—both in-store and online. However, this endeavor is impossible for companies that still operate with disparate databases and silos of information. By integrating data from all aspects of the shopping experience into one centralized location, grocers are primed to better understand consumer preferences, create more relevant shopper relationships and optimize the shopping experience.

Grocers are learning that multi-channel shoppers are more profitable than single-source shoppers and as a result they continue to invest more in their cross-channel experience. “While U.K.-based companies outpaced American companies regarding their commitment to multi-channel efforts, domestic companies are making significant movement,” says Andrea Morgan-Vandome, vice president, retail strategy for Oracle Corp., a Redwood City, Calif.-based hardware and software provider. “In fact, adoption has jumped from 3% to double-digits.”

Successful companies are also creating a cross-channel experience that they monitor as an enterprise vs. isolated transactions occurring across different channels or touchpoints—not an easy task with so many silos still existing in the retail enterprise.

“When operating in silos, the decisions never benefit the collective good of the company,” says Randy Evins, retail industry principle for food and drug for SAP America, a business management software provider based in Newtown Square, Pa. “Instead, associates end up doing extra work without the collective vision and larger picture of what is facing the company.”

Historically, retailers cobbled together solutions to create the groundwork for their multi-channel approach. But this is not ideal when planning for the next five years and beyond.
“When the store of the future is about the customer, there has to be transparency across touchpoints,” says Jeff Weidauer, vice president, marketing and strategy for Vestcom International, a Little Rock, Ark.-based supplier of customized shelf-edge communications and specialized marketing services for the retail industry.

“This transparency touches pricing, promotions, product availability, among other details. These issues did not exist a decade ago, but today’s internal structure needs to provide this single version of insight.”

Similarly, grocers need to track customer purchase behavior, whether they shop in-store, online, through a mobile device or at a web-enabled store-level kiosk. Minneapolis-based Target already sees the big picture, say industry observers.

The retailer identifies shoppers based on the credit card or coupon (both paper- and email-based) they use. With that information, then Target delves into demographic data, including marital status, an estimate of household size to brand preferences and channels they use to make purchases.

Between its guest marketing analytics department and predictive analytics tools, Target has a huge data pool to learn consumers’ shopping habits and better service them. “The possibilities are huge, but they need systems integration—and all store systems working together—to keep abreast of all consumer trends,” says Weidauer.

To make the task easier across its future Canadian operations, the hypermarket chain is adding the Retalix 10 integrated platform, say officials for the retailer. The infrastructure will unify and streamline deployment and management of in-store systems. The result: to ensure Target can deliver a consistent and personalized shopping experience enterprise-wide.

Retailers across the board call systems integration one of the biggest budgetary and resource constraining projects they are currently dealing with. While there is no one silver bullet that will ease the pain, the overall goal remains the same: replace old, disparate architecture with new, open solutions that support a simpler retailing strategy and better engage with shoppers.

Observers say there are often two paths, one tactical and the other strategic, on which retailers blaze their integration journey.  A strategic plan can be described as “a fully harmonized platform that can integrate all touchpoints from point-of-sale to mobile and other self-service options,” says Todd Michaud, president of Retalix USA, a Plano, Texas-based enterprise software firm. “Even a single view of customer loyalty transaction data is a must and all data can be shared on this common platform.”

The other option when integrating a multi-channel experience is taking a tactical strategy. Here, grocers essentially stitch together best-of-breed software for touchpoint solutions, including mobility and kiosk applications, with existing POS to enable an enterprise-wide experience.

“The problem is it is complicated to ensure everything works together,” he adds. “Retailers need to step back and consider how they service customers. Then they need to decide how to synchronize the experience before, during and after the shopping trip.”

These challenges make strategic integrations more appealing. Groupe Casino, a retailer based in Saint-Etienne, France, has successfully executed a strategic approach using a single integrated platform from SAP.

Groupe Casino is a multi-format company with a strong focus on food. Groupe Casino’s e-commerce site allows shoppers to order merchandise from their desktops, laptops or mobile devices and then pick up groceries from the store within two hours of placing orders.

Working from a single source of data linked to customer and product information, the platform gives Groupe Casino a complete view of its customer base, say officials for the retailer. As a result, Groupe Casino gives multi-channel shoppers online access to real-time stock levels and personalized product recommendations based on their shopping habits.

This centralized customer view also enables Groupe Casino to deliver targeted one-to-one marketing messages; an optimized shopping list based on history and preferences and it also pushes upselling and cross-selling opportunities directly to the customer’s device, say officials for the retailer. It allows the retailer to connect with shoppers as they move between aisles—when they are ready to make their purchase decisions.

Looking ahead, the retailer plans to use the integrated platform to link all operational functions. Among the top priorities: linking the enterprise’s marketing, human resources and financial functions.

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