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What's The Use Of Big Data Offline? You'd Be Surprised

Why big data isn't just for the digital world

13Jun

By nature, the information collected by most big data systems just seems like it would be restricted and useless when used offline. Not to mention, how do you convert digital data so it’s useful in the real world? What can the number of page clicks or social shares tell you about your brick-and-mortar game?

Is it even possible to leverage the information and records you are collecting in an efficient and practical way? The answer is definitely yes. In fact, several brands and organizations are already using big data systems to improve their processes, customer base, and sales — in-store and out.

You might find yourself surprised — shocked, even — to see what big data can do for you.

One-to-One Conversions

Moving from a brick-and-mortar strategy to an online one is relatively simple. There’s a lot that goes into it, yes, but you’re still demo-ing your products, selling them to interested parties and shipping them out. When a customer walks up to your cash register, pays for their goods and then walks out with them in a bag, it’s the same exact scenario, just in the real world.

But doing the reverse — taking an online storefront and experience and converting it to a real-world brick-and-mortar one — is a lot more difficult. That process can be made much simpler, thanks to big data and related analytics tools.

You can gauge what products and goods your customers are interested in buying online and what goods would sell better after an in-person viewing. Sound a bit mad?

Bonobos does this with their GuideShops. They are largely a fashion retailer that have showrooms of sorts. Customers can go into the physical stores, try on products and get advice. But the experience is complementary to the online one. When you buy an item of clothing in the GuideShop, it’s still shipped to your doorstep — just like if you had bought it online. That is, you don’t walk out of the store carrying a plastic retail bag filled with your latest catch. It’s all one seamless, familiar experience.

It’s a cool idea, but how does it relate to big data?

Like this — Bonobos is taking their online analytics and data offline by making their items viewable in the real world. It’s a quick conversion, but one that makes all the difference. After opening a changing booth in the lobby of his office building, the Bonobos founder, Andy Dunn, made $1 million in revenue in just nine days.

Real-Time Feedback

One thing that online and big data systems constantly provide is customer feedback, even when the customers don’t say a thing. A data system, for instance, can keep track of what products customers buy, what they’ve added to their wishlists and what type of lifestyle they live.

You get absolutely none of that from brick-and-mortar customers unless you have someone ask every customer that comes in and writes it all down. Can you imagine what kind of messy paper trail that would leave?

Companies like Rent the Runway are using exclusive ‘customer insight reps’ in their stores to better serve their audience. They provide real-time insights into the business side of things but also assist shoppers who are visiting the store. They have access to information like pre-curated garments, item suggestions and recommendations, personalization support and more.

A study revealed that a business’s sign — yes, the storefront sign — can essentially generate between 15% and 45% of revenue alone. Changing something so minor can have a real impact on your business and bottom line, as crazy as it sounds. That’s why real-time feedback is so important.

As you make these changes, you can see how your customers feel and react to them, thanks to big data.

Identify Shopping Traits

Shopping traits can be identified in numerous ways, both in-person and online. Emotions are tough to see online, but, in person, you can gauge how a person is feeling by body language and facial expressions. Online, you can’t really see how the weather affects sales and customer visits, but, in-store, you can see that a rainy day kills business.

Finally, with an online business, you can make assumptions based on the household as to demographics, but, in person, you can actually see who’s shopping, whether that be a senior citizen, a parent or a millennial.

The goal, especially with big data systems, is to turn all this information into usable data that can help you make real-time decisions. But, as we’ve established, there are just some things that can’t be discerned from digital data.

Using a combination of real-time, on-location data and the digital kind, you have a much more accurate picture of your audience, allowing you to appropriately identify shopping traits.

Neiman Marcus, for instance, uses in-store sensors and a mobile app to track customers as they browse stores. This allows management and decision makers to see what associates are resonating with most and what products customer are buying and sometimes even why they passed up an opportunity. This information is then fed into a big data system where it can be analyzed and leveraged later.

Big data is a crucial tool, but, what we are learning is that you don’t have to be online to leverage that data to your business’s advantage. 

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