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Getting personal with big data

By Retail Technology | Wednesday June 28 2017

James Blake, CEO at Hello Soda, on why personalisation through big data is now essential to retail success

In the past, it was not uncommon for consumers to be on first name terms with their local butcher or grocer. Shop owners would often ask how their customers’ kids were and gauge their mood based on the latest football results. But now, more and more people are choosing to order their food online and engage with brands through mobile apps. The personal touch has been lost and the retail industry is feeling the effects as it struggles to develop meaningful relationships with its customers. In many cases, consumers have become nothing more than numbers on a spreadsheet.  

This move to the digital age has coincided with an explosion of data. Research from IBM showed that 90% of the world’s data has been created in the past two years. Both consumers and businesses are producing huge amounts on a daily basis – it’s simply a by-product of typical daily activity. For years this data was unusable, with traditional processing methods unable to make sense of these large, unstructured, complex masses of information.

This is what’s known as ‘big data’, and recent technological innovations now allow for its analysis – and this creates huge opportunities for retailers across business operations. For example, better decisions around staff resourcing can be facilitated using this information and supply chains can be made more efficient by analysing all available data to identify opportunities for productivity savings. 


But crucially, big data can also help bring the personal touch back to the customer relationship.  

Retailers have constantly searched for ways to better understand their customers’ behaviours. Research carried out by Ometria revealed that 46% of British people would stop buying from their favourite brands if they felt they did not know them, or sent them irrelevant offers. More damningly, only 7% of those surveyed felt that their favourite brands understood them ‘very well’. 

Social listening tools – simply looking at relevant conversations on social media – do provide simple insight into how customers behave, but they only skim the surface. You can understand general trends but you can’t determine who your customer actually is, what their likes and dislikes are, and what makes them tick.

Big data analytics tools on the other hand go beyond social listening, and analyse a customer’s entire digital footprint, providing retailers with complete insight into their customer’s behaviour.

With 99% of customers being happy to share their personal information for rewards, tailoring communication in the digital era is the clear route to strengthening relationships between a brand and its customer. 

New analytics tools can harness digital footprints and reveal customer personality traits, when they are likely to be paid, how they spend their hard-earned money and forthcoming life events. Armed with this information, retailers can deliver bespoke marketing communication. From being made aware of an upcoming holiday to hitting them with a relevant offer at just the right time, retailers can start to build a detailed picture of their customer and establish the foundations of a long-term sustainable relationship.


These deeper relations offer significant benefits to retailers and customers alike. There’s the immediate boost to the top-line based on targeted offers hitting the mark, but proper personalised communication also boosts customer loyalty, which is something every retailer seeks. This is because customers avoid being bombarded with irritating and irrelevant offers, and instead are only exposed to marketing that will be of interest to them.

It’s easy to simply dismiss ‘big data’ as a buzzword, but there are already examples of e-commerce companies harnessing its power to deliver significant results. Entertainment streaming service Netflix is one business that has successfully channelled the potential of big data in a number of ways. By analysing its customers’ viewing habits, Netflix is can make informed decisions on original content investment and govern which popular films and box-sets they should cash in on. is another company that has capitalised on big data. The company enjoyed a 43% increase in profit, which correlated with its big data investment as it focused on creating a personalised and unique shopping experience for each customer. Everything is personalised and it’s all based on its users’ digital footprints. 

People are increasingly living out their lives online, but big data can help brands bring back the personal touch that was previously a key ingredient for success. It’s simple, harness your customers’ digital footprints and develop long-term, sustainable relationships with an increasing number of loyal customers. 

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