To transform your retail organization and be more customer-centric, you need to improve in areas where it counts: areas that impact your customers’ experience.

The lifeblood of any retail organization, your customers expect a lot from the industry, especially with all the recent changes in shopping habits and the economic landscape in general. Customers are more discerning these days, and it will be up to retail organizations to cater to their needs and expectations.

But before you can address customer needs, you need to know exactly what they are first. Doing that requires getting insight from different sources of data—and this is where data integration comes in handy.

Customer insights can be unlocked from social media, purchase history, preferences, survey answers, customer service inquiries; the list goes on. To truly get value from this wealth of data, retailers need a holistic and unified view of information—a single source of truth.

Related: New normal for retail: Adapting to shoppers with Predictive Analytics

 

What is Data Integration?

Data integration involves combining data from disparate systems and sources into a single, unified view: a golden record. This process results in a central repository through data warehousing and involves extraction, data transformation, and loading (ETL) to arrive at master data, a holistic view of enterprise information.

Let’s say you have a customer who recently purchased an item from your retail website. They might have communicated with your organization through multiple touchpoints and platforms and so information about them is likely spread across the organization in sales, marketing, operations, and other silos.

So, what happens when this customer calls for an inquiry? Without a 360-degree view of the customers’ data, customer service will pick up the phone and might not be able to provide the support and consistency expected. In fact, 42% of service agents claim that they are unable to efficiently resolve issues because of inaccessible and incomplete customer information. The result is a disjointed and frustrating experience for the customer.

 

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Why retailers should leverage Data Integration

Aside from addressing customers’ needs and expectations, why else should retail organizations leverage data warehousing and integration.

1. No more rogue, inaccurate data

Data that isn’t thoroughly cleaned and prepared is essentially useless for any organization. It only leads to polluted results and misleading insights. Not only does the integration process unify information, but it also involves homogenizing data into a unified format and cleaning data for analysis. This way, you are sure to extract meaningful and accurate insights for strategic decision-making.

Related: Data Management: A guide to data collection and preparation

2. A cost-efficient place for all your data

Through data synchronization and integration, your organization will have a central repository of clean, accurate, and consistent data about your customers, product, business, and so on. Aside from the holistic view this provides, this also means you can reduce costs on storage. Instead of having to store data for every silo or system in your organization, you can invest in lighter storage systems and a single, secure repository for all your integrated data.

3. Easier access for the right people

A unified data warehouse not only reduces storage cost but also reduces silos. In the example above, the customer service department faced issues because of the inability to access the right information. With the single source of truth available to the appropriate users across your organization, data discovery and data modeling is made faster and more convenient.

4. Management from a single pane of glass

An enterprise-wide view is critical for efficient and effective decision-making. Data integration allows you get a consolidated view of processes and movements across the retail supply chain—from inventory to sales. With insights at a glance, you can monitor operations, ensure consistency in strategies, and facilitate alignment across departments.

5. A shift to omnichannel retailing

The modern retailer offers different touchpoints and channels for communication and as mentioned in the example above, this might lead to an inconsistent experience that can impact brand reputation and retention. To ensure that you provide an authentic experience regardless of where the interaction takes place, a holistic view of the customer is necessary. So, whether the customer is talking to your website chatbot or commenting on your social media post, they should get a consistent experience and response from your organization.

5. Marketing that's timely and targeted

Speaking of an omnichannel experience, the same approach should be applied to your marketing efforts as well. By integrating customer, operational, and other kinds of data, you’ll have better visibility into the needs, aspirations, and expectations of your target market. In turn, you’ll have better insight into the kinds of campaigns and messages that will get the attention of your customers and shoppers.

Must-read: Can reviews help your retail firm? Find out with Advanced Analytics.

 

Driving intelligence through Data Integration

Data integration and data warehousing is all about bringing different systems together. You might be generating a wealth of data, but with unconsolidated and legacy systems, you won’t be able to get the information and insights you need.

Transform the way you do business and interact with customers through quality, integrated data and a 360-degree view of your customers, operations, and organization as a whole.

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