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Data-driven strategies will render old-style retail techniques obsolete

Rachel Wheeler Archive

Retail organizations in 2014 are actively working to gather more information about their shoppers and the economic climate in which they function. Ideally, they're not just looking to learn more about a broad swathe of the population - they're looking to collect finely tuned nuggets of information that help them hone in on the specifics.

Where are people shopping? What technologies are they using? What kind of deals and discounts keep them engaged? Companies want to answer these questions not just generally, but with a sharp focus on local areas and even individual shoppers.

With a focus on technology, innovators are changing the way vendors become acquainted with their customers. One nation in particular is leading the way.

The India effect
According to Forbes, retailers in India are using digital, social media and mobile channels to gather information on their customers. The ultimate goal isn't more general knowledge, but rather personalization. Simon Hay, global CEO of Dunnhumby, explained that this strategy jives well with the segmentation of retail in the country.

"The western approach to mass retail has involved setting up massive physical stores with complex supply systems," Hay stated. "In India, retail is highly fragmented, with most customer spend going to very small, independent shops called kiranas. The vast physical infrastructure of mass retail has yet to be developed. And it may never be."

These efforts are bolstered by the considerable level of technology talent in India. Because the nation has such a wealth of qualified tech professionals, there's a great deal of opportunity to make more of data - including faster mining of information, higher standards for data quality and more.

The global ripple
There's a great deal of optimism around the world that this mindset, which relies heavily on mobile technology for big data mining, will spread to the rest of the globe quickly. India may serve as a trend-setter.

"India will be the biggest mass retail market in the world to evolve in the digital age," Hay explained. "That web-first, mobile-first mindset will likely give birth to retail innovations as yet unseen in the rest of the world. Because while personalizing the retail experience is not new, doing so at a scale of 1.2 billion people certainly is."

The goal is to understand customers better. The same way a sales rep can gain intimate knowledge of a small handful of preferred clients, a database can become equally familiar with millions of them. The possibilities are practically endless.

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