Megan Moyer — Should companies consider data an asset? Recognizing the value of translating big data into something meaningful that informs product, marketing, customer service, distribution, sales, and operations decisions has been a hot topic this year.
Managing this “good” data rather than disparate data can have a significant, positive impact on business. From improving operational efficiency and profitably, to increasing customer loyalty and providing a competitive advantage, giving data its due can pay off across the organization.
There are a number of ways managing data assets can offer operational efficiencies. Think of product categorization alone. Keeping track of where products fall in taxonomy/hierarchy is important for retailers in streamlining inventory management. It’s just as important in enhancing the shopping experience by making sure products are logically categorized so they are easy for shoppers to find in the store or on your website.
Keeping that information up-to-date across all systems can make spotting trends, monitoring product assortment, and sales reporting, for example, more meaningful and impactful.
Another way accurate product data can streamline operations is making sure that item data, including all of the products’ attributes, are current. Imagine if item dimensions or weights are incorrect and how that can impact planogram execution at shelf as well as shipping costs.
With approximately 30% of health, beauty and wellness product packages changing every year, taking measures to ensure your system is updated with the most current data and images leads to operational efficiencies as well as customer satisfaction.
Speaking of customer satisfaction, the amount and sources of customer data available has exploded over the last decade. Social media sites and mobile computing have provided the forums for collecting real-time feedback and input on your service, selection and prices, to name a few.
While loyalty programs offer tremendous shopper insights, feedback gathered through social media can provide more detailed information regarding your customers’ opinions about everything from the convenience of your location to whether you are carrying their favorite flavor, color, size or formula. Collecting, analyzing, and using that data to guide your product selection, store layout, service offerings and more can get you closer to providing the shopping experience that your loyal customers are looking for and will keep coming back for.
In another example of data impacting customer satisfaction, making sure your product attribute data is up-to-date is of utmost importance when it comes to accurately identifying and accounting for any Flexible Spending Account-eligible items. One wrong UPC of a popular FSA-reimbursable item can cause a near disaster in customer trust and loyalty.
Next, let’s look at how data can provide an edge over your competitors. When it comes to building a competitive advantage, data can offer insight into what is and isn’t working. Standard reviews of sales reports, warehouse pull data and inventory levels provide factual information about what is being bought, but they don’t tell you why. There are other data sources to use to gather that information, depending on what you employ — loyalty programs, market research or promotions tracking, perhaps.
Social media can be used for competitive intelligence as well. An advantage of social media is that it is accessible to all. In addition to gathering insights about your own shoppers’ experiences, you can view what customers of your competitors are saying as well. In a SmartBrief on Social Media article, “Top 3 reasons you must follow your competitors on social media,” they list tracking competitors’ customer sentiments as a top tactic you can use to improve your own products and services.
Then there’s profitability. For organizations that have found themselves in the midst of migrating from legacy systems to new platforms, significant profit opportunities have emerged. All rooted in better data management and reporting, some have used pricing insight to improve the bottom line. Others still have unmasked hidden organizational costs and duplicative efforts which have led to better profitability. At the end of the day, anything that provides visibility, accessibility and clarity to business information is simply good business.
There are many additional ways you can use your accumulated data in addition to what has been mentioned above. It all depends on the type of data you have access to and how easily you can translate it into actionable information. Making it a priority will pay off.
MEGAN MOYER is an industry writer and researcher with Hamacher Resource Group Inc., a research, marketing and category management firm that specializes in consumer health care at retail.
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