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Retail data plays a role in identifying key sales trends

In the retail sector, achieving high levels of data quality can be a major difference-maker in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Every company is looking to close as many sales as possible, and they have to joust with a large number of rivals to win the favor of every customer.

One way that retail companies try to get ahead is by identifying trends. Where are people going to shop? When are they going there? Are they showing up to physical store locations or going online instead? Are they using their computers, tablets or smartphones?

The answers to these questions are in a constant state of flux. And in order to reach customers at the right level, companies must always stay abreast of the current climate. If they lose touch, they risk letting consumers slip away and do their business elsewhere.

That's where data comes in. Merchants must be constantly collecting information about the state of the current marketplace, and it needs to be accurate. If there are errors in a company's information, or if it's out of date, then they run the risk of losing their competitive edge.

According to Forbes, this is a never-ending pursuit. Alexander Weiss, team leader of processes and business warehouse at Globus, told the news source that at his department store, sales have suffered in the past because data wasn't collected effectively or quickly enough.

"Previously, it took 22 minutes to generate a basic slow-seller report that did not include the whole product line," Weiss said. "Access to these reports had to be planned in advance because of the processing."

Clearly, the key here is real-time data collection. Sellers need to know the relevant purchasing trends now, not yesterday or two weeks ago. If they know what's driving the current market, they can deliver customers the services that matter most to them.

Paula Rosenblum, managing partner of consulting firm Retail Systems Research, told Forbes that fast access to data from a variety of sources is key.

"Discovery, education, research, payment and delivery can happen in all channels," Rosenblum said. "You need real-time analytics to mash up the data and discern the patterns in them."

Accurate data can help vendors uncover a variety of consumer trends. A new report from Accenture recently uncovered a few examples.

Consumer protection
What if a shopper is about to buy something
- either in person, in the checkout aisle at the store, or online, submitting an order on a website - that they shouldn't? Maybe a product is defective. Maybe it's wrong for a certain customer because of their diet, their religious beliefs or just their personal preferences. By tapping into data, companies can keep consumers from making purchasing mistakes. Accenture found that more than 40 percent of shoppers would appreciate such a mechanism.

Customized discounts and deals
Should price points be uniform for all shoppers, or should products' values vary based on customers' purchasing histories and loyalty? There's clearly a market for tailor-made discounts and deals that target specific shoppers - 55 percent of respondents have said they want offers made especially for them. Data-driven analytics can make such creative pricing strategies a reality.

Tailored product suggestions
Did you purchase item X? You might also enjoy item Y. Online merchants like Amazon are already making such suggestions on a regular basis, but small-time sellers should be equally capable of doing so. The tech tools are already in place, and the demand is there too - 63 percent of shoppers want retailers to make suggestions for them. With more information and pinpoint-precise levels of data quality, this is now possible.