Why retailers should unify online and offline consumer data - Retail Council of Canada
Marketing & Merchandising | Digital Retail & Technology

Why retailers should unify online and offline consumer data

November 18, 2021

This article is provided by Reshift Media, a Canadian-based digital marketing and development organization specializing in retail businesses.

Gathering consumer data is like striking gold in the retail world. Not only can it help retailers better understand who their customers are, but it can also help create a more positive shopping experience because it allows business owners some insight into what influences a purchase, among many other benefits.

Acquiring consumer data can help retailers create a more personalized shopping experience for current and potential customers through product recommendations and targeted communications, such as retargeted advertising or email marketing.

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing a shift in focus from in-store purchasing to e-commerce, and now with a mixture of both, there is a whole new slew of consumer data that retailers can access to improve the consumer shopping experience.

Types of Online and Offline Consumer Data

There are several types of data that can be important for retailers to access, the most essential being first-party data. Gathering first-party data can be a great way to get to know your customers and understand how they engage with your company. By definition, first-party data is the information collected by a company directly from the consumer.

Rather than acquiring data from an external source (third-party data) or purchasing someone else’s first-party data from a seller (second-party data), first-party data can be collected by you, the retailer, both online and offline. This can help build a bit more security around the data you collect since you are the one that owns it. Gathering the data yourself also allows you to be confident in its accuracy.

There are various ways to collect data on consumers within the retail sphere, including transactional data based on customers purchases (which can be gathered online and offline), questionnaires/surveys that customers can fill out, or loyalty programs that customers can sign up for (which can provide some data from the consumer). E-commerce retailers  can also utilize tracking pixels and cookies to help supply important data.

Online data is much easier to collect because when a consumer makes a transaction online from a retailer, their information is recorded and there to access. Offline data that you gather in-store is more difficult, as many transactions can be done anonymously. However, offline data should not be taken off the table, especially as more consumers are going back to in-store shopping as COVID-19 restrictions are lessening.

Foot traffic is one example of offline data that retailers can track. Although it may not be at its all-time high right now or similar to how it used to be pre-pandemic, gathering data on how many customers enter your brick-and-mortar store and recording who makes a purchase can help retailers with KPIs such as conversion rates.

Offline, in-store data can also help inform retailers what areas of the store are most visited, which can determine if certain products need to be arranged differently, and it can also help keep track of what days and hours consumers visit your store.

Importance of Unifying Online and Offline Data

In order to truly provide consumers with an optimized online and in-store experience, retailers must understand their customers’ behaviour in both areas, which is achieved through data collection. Once you have this data, it is important to unify or join this information together so that you can deliver an omnichannel retail experience.

Omnichannel retail refers to a seamless shopping experience across all platforms, such as a mobile device, desktop, app, in-store, etc. Since 73% of consumers use multiple channels when they shop, it is important to ensure there are no gaps in performance and that consumers can easily jump between platforms without any hiccups from the retailer.

Another reason why blending online and offline data is important is because it can improve both experiences. For instance, if you know that your customers enjoy looking at a product before they purchase it, you may want to integrate AR or VR technologies on your website so that they can feel more secure in their purchase. Or if you know that your customers value having multiple ways to pay online, you can bring that into your brick-and-mortar store. Accordingly, in order to really understand your customers’ needs and wants when shopping both online and in-store, gathering online and offline data and meshing them together to get a full picture of who your customers are, is a great way to do so.

Customer Expectations

Now that more consumers are going back to in-store shopping, there are many new expectations that consumers will look for. In the past year and a half, e-commerce skyrocketed, and it was the primary channel for consumers to purchase. There are several benefits to e-commerce that many consumers have become accustomed to such as ease in purchasing and the convenience factor of it all. In fact, more than half of consumers put convenience at the top of their list of reasons why they shop, which e-commerce certainly provides.

However, in-store shopping also provides consumers with the ability to see a product before they purchase it, making them feel more confident before purchasing. Though tracking customer data based on in-store activity may be more arduous than tracking ecommerce, it is still an essential task in order to see the full picture.

Data collection is key to determining how your customers engage with you as a retailer, and it can provide a more in-depth look at the best ways to meet their needs. Combining both online data and offline data can provide a full picture which is invaluable to succeeding in the retail world.

About Reshift Media

Reshift Media is a long-time partner of the Retail Council of Canada. The company is a Toronto-based digital marketing and development organization that provides leading-edge social media, search and website/mobile development services to retailers around the world. Please visit www.reshiftmedia.com to learn more.