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Data is the new oil – Putting data to work

The COVID-19 pandemic is pressuring shopping centres and retailers to innovate in the face of new customer behaviours, many of which have never been seen before. When observed across shopping channels, consumer behaviour is complex, constantly changing and becoming more unpredictable than ever before.

“In the past retailers may have been able to purely invest in hardware sitting at their storefront but today’s dynamic is totally different. Without the correct retail analytics, decisions are virtually being made blind. Retailers need essential data and technology to sense and respond to changing patterns” says Wahl Bartmann, Group Chief Executive Officer from Fidelity Services Group.

A new generation of shopping centre is emerging, one that is not only in tune with changing consumer leisure and shopping habits, but also driven by tenant collaboration and hard data.  “If shopping centres want to understand customer behaviour and act on it, they need to look deeper into existing data and draw on new sources like lifestyle expectations and other demographical inputs,” he says.

Bartmann says one of the biggest trends impacting retailers right now who have geared their businesses with online shopping portals is BOPIS (Buy online purchase in store).  RFID technology has never been more critical to assist with inventory management and in the management of customers inside the stores due to the new restrictions.  “All you need is one online sale not to be available in store at the time of collection and that could be a lost customer forever,” says Bartmann. He says it does pose a challenge as many retailers don’t have inventory management tools that necessarily update instantaneously and this is where the gaps start happening.

Acting effectively requires new and relevant data, lots of it and from many different sources,” says Bartmann. He says unless the insights are applied at speed and scale to catch immediate opportunities and plan for future ones, retail recovery may take longer than expected.

“It has never been more important to study intelligent traffic benchmarking tools to better understand consumer mobility patterns and people’s comfort with public places to help understand when and where retail will recover,” he says. Bartmann says they are seeing that while many retailers have existing shopper personas, they are often unsure if these are accurate or relevant any more. Of interest experiential retail appears to be taking a back seat. “If we look at our global data which tracks pretty similarly in SA, in-store experiences were less important in June 2020 (11%) compared to April 2020 (13%) – a 15% decrease month-over-month – as consumers are becoming more intentional with their shopping visits.

“We always knew there would be a shift to online shopping but the timeline for substantial adoption was more like 3 – 5 years. COVID has definitely fast-tracked this trend,” says Bartmann.

The correct inventory management hardware and software right now is essential for bringing visibility into the store, as is tracking footfall for better shopper engagement.

Bartmann says they have realised the best way to manage all these diverse but interlinking factors is to pull all of them onto the same software platform. “We have just launched Sensormatic IQ which combines three hardware solutions onto one platform and can integrate with any other third party devices. It is essentially a data lake that data analysts can draw from and report back on.”

This integrated approach allows retailers to make much smarter stock decisions, manage their inventory risk better and with the mobility data, manage staffing, cleaning and maintenance more effectively to support shifting shopping patterns.

“There is no doubt that retail analytics should be a core solution for any retailer or shopping centre to help deliver superior shopper experiences and the best commercial outcomes for all. Retailer who rely too long on traditional concepts without innovating may find themselves out in the cold,” concludes Bartmann.

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