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Retailers using real-time data to improve shopping experience

Richard Jones Archive

Retailers of all kinds are excited about the potential of deploying data in real time to help them cater to shoppers' needs. If they have plenty of information about each customer and a high level of data quality, the possibilities are endless. They can provide better service, accurate price points and perfect product recommendations to consumers who will appreciate them.

Imagine the possibilities - the moment a shopper walks into a store, a data-driven solution recognizes the individual, taps into his or her shopping history and preferences, and delivers valuable service with up-to-the-minute accuracy. It sounds crazy, but according to the International Business Times, this fantasy is quickly becoming a reality.

Recognizing people
Before a retailer can deliver information about a given consumer to store employees, it needs to identify the person first. That's why IBM is developing new technology that can look at a shopper walking into a store and ID the person within seconds.

Farrukh Khan, an IBM Big Data analytics manager and advisor to SoloInsight, told IBTimes that with this new technology, stores can tap into consumer data faster than ever.

"The original idea was actually based on the [film] 'Minority Report,' where you see that Tom Cruise iris identification thing in retail stores," Khan told theĀ  news source. "That's where the idea started, but the first application was in workforce management."

Originally, the idea was that such a computer system could identify employees as they walked into their office each morning. Now, the game has changed. The new goal is to find shoppers and dip into their data.

Khan told IBTimes that the technology is currently "in a pilot phase," but by the end of the first quarter of 2014, "quite a few orders" are expected.

Predicting sales
Once they've identified their customers, the next step is for retailers to grab their data. IBTimes also profiled Adam Wilson, chief marketing officer at startup Euclid Analytics, who's working on using sensors at retail stores and fast food restaurants to dial into people's buying histories instantly.

"We might start to be able to understand things like: What percent of my customers do yoga? What percent of my customers tend to shop at high-end specialty retail?" Wilson told the news source. "All of these things start to paint a more complete picture."

Indeed, it's an exciting time in the retail sector. As companies focus more heavily on data quality and data velocity, they are becoming much more advanced in their sales strategies.