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What lies ahead for data-driven retail marketing?

Paul Newman Archive

The retail marketing sector has come a long way in the last five years, thanks to the growth of real-time customer data.

Companies were already collecting plenty of information about their customers long before 2009, but recent innovations have changed the game. Now that merchants can use high-tech tools to tap into information faster than ever, they can target individual consumers and deliver the perfect marketing messages to make for easy engagement. They're gathering more information, ensuring higher levels of data quality and taking action in real time.

All this growth in the last half-decade has been a thrill to watch. It makes you wonder - what's to come in the next five years?

It's interesting to think about what the retail world will look like in 2018. As mobile solutions and data science continue to evolve, vendors will likely have far more advanced strategies in five years than they do now.

According to the National Retail Federation, the goal in the coming years is to establish a stronger connection between consumers and their brands. Aptaris CEO Tom O'Reilly told the NRF's BIG Blog that soon enough, companies will look to work more quickly to deliver personalized service to the individuals that demand it.

"Connection is the key," O'Reilly said. "Retailers need to connect to shoppers. Strategy needs to connect with systems and data. And it all has to happen fast. Planning will always be important. The six- or 12-week, even quarterly, traditional planning rhythm will never go away. But you need to add agility to that mix."

O'Reilly elaborated that while the "big-box retailers" will still be dominant in the years ahead, smaller businesses will use data to find their niches and thrive in their own ways. Big data will keep getting bigger, and companies of all sizes will use omni-channel marketing strategies for connecting with loyal customers.

Data-driven analytics and personalized customer service aren't going anywhere. O'Reilly told the NRF that in fact, these trends will only gather more steam in the next few years.

"The promise and the challenge in each of those trends will require retailers to be agile - connected and coordinated, with fast visibility into data and the ability to speed execution," he said. "That is what makes the industry exciting and what motivates me personally and our company."