According to the July 2022 statistics from Statista, around 5.03 billion people are using the internet on a daily basis, and each of them is generating an average of 1.7 megabytes of data every second. A huge chunk of this data is being stored and managed by retail companies all around the globe. To use this data profitably, almost 97.2% of organizations are currently investing in Big data and AI solutions.
However, just using these solutions is no longer enough. AI and big data solutions only solve a part of the problem and do not reveal the whole picture. As a result, retailers miss a lot of hidden opportunities and possibly quite a few hidden threats too. The key to discovering these growth opportunities lies in data unification or integration.
Unifying data from several channels and systems can help retailers find out hidden market potential. It will allow retail executives to make just-in-time decisions to generate more revenue and profit. Unfortunately, there are several barriers that can appear, making it almost impossible to achieve true data unification.
Let’s explore a few critical challenges to data unification, and see how intrepid retailers can overcome them. Let’s get started!
The Barriers to True Data Unification
Retailers will enjoy many benefits by unifying business data. For instance, it can improve customer retention rates, help businesses provide a seamless customer experience, and boost the company’s revenue. However, retailers still need to overcome these hurdles before truly achieving data unification.
There is No Single Source of Data
A retail enterprise uses multiple software solutions to manage data. For example, a company might use customer relationship management (CRM) systems, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and different marketing tools. Each of these applications collects and manages data in its own unique and siloed way.
Next, a retailer also receives tons of customer and sales information via different marketing and advertising channels, such as Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and other Ad networks, as well as sales data from each channel - online and offline. And that’s not all. It might also receive third-party data or data that comes from sources that aren’t directly related to its business. These can be used to validate, update, and enrich the organization’s own data.
The problem is that data is scattered across different systems. Retail companies find it extremely difficult to centralize data and make it accessible to everyone who needs them from a single source. This is a big barrier to data unification, making true just-in-time decision-making nothing but a pipe dream.
Retail corporations are usually divided into multiple departments, such as sales, supply chain, warehouse management, delivery, marketing, technology, and many more. Naturally, each department collects and manages its own data to fulfill its needs, creating a vicious cycle of data silos.
While the siloed structure of retail organizations might seem like a natural thing, in reality, it’s silently killing these businesses. Because with data silos, each department is limited by its own view of data, which creates inconsistencies between data stored by two different departments, making inter-departmental collaboration a herculean task.
It’s clear as day that data silos are one of the biggest barriers that are making it difficult to unify a company’s data. As a result, the business can never truly practice unified commerce, which will cost it a large chunk of its revenue.
Data Cleanup Problems
In the retail industry, trends, and customers’ tastes often change in the blink of an eye. So, retailers must separate outdated data from the data of current active market trends, which is known as data cleanup. However, if a retail organization has no company-wide standard for data entry and maintenance, its database can end up with loads of inaccurate, duplicate, and outdated data.
For instance, if the sales and marketing departments of a company input the same data twice, in two different systems, it will result in duplicate information. On the other hand, manually organizing the company data or not maintaining the company database for a long time may result in the accumulation of many outdated data points.
Obviously, not cleaning up the database for a long time will make the corporate data inconsistent and unreliable. Nobody can trust the insights derived from these unreliable sets of data. If a company doesn’t have a way to clean up outdated or inaccurate data on a regular basis, data unification will do more harm than good.
Breaking Down the Barriers
Truth be told, the barriers to data unification are truly frightening. Each and every single one can cost the retail companies their market share and revenue. Fortunately, there are a few effective ways to eliminate these barriers to achieve true data unification. And this allows the right people to make just-in-time decisions, and respond to recent market trends quickly.
Clean up the Corporate Data
It’s critical to clean up data before retailers can even think about data unification. They need to merge and purge duplicate files from the systems like CRM and contact management tools. Scan and eliminate outdated and invalid data. And finally, optimize the data inflow channels. This way, the retail enterprises can filter in the data they actually need.
Introduce a Clear Process of Data Management
Next, businesses need to introduce a clear data management and maintenance process. They can create teams who will be responsible for the quality and management of the corporate data. This team will ensure that every single piece of data that enters the system follows a certain protocol.
If that’s not possible, the leaders of each department must teach the team members how to manage data in a specific way. In short, launch a company-wide data management protocol to avoid inconsistent, incorrect, or unreliable data.
Choose the Right Tools to Make Data Unification Easier
Finally, retailers need effective data management software or tools that can help their companies unify the data flowing in from different sources and make them accessible to each department. Before selecting a data integration platform, consider the following things:
- Types of data that need to be integrated.
- The applications a retail business uses.
- How should the data flow within the company?
There are very few tools that can take care of most of the data integration needs. MECBot is one such data integration and management platform. It collects data from different data management tools and sources to create smart data folds. Thanks to it, businesses can:
- Discover any data in seconds.
- Democratize data access across the company.
- Enrich the company’s database with trusted data in real time.
With MECBot, retailers can say goodbye to all the technology and infrastructure hassles from day one. After day 15 of its deployment, MECBot will complete the assimilation of every data point of a company to provide a seamless data integration service. It will allow the CXOs of the company to make just-in-time decisions by adapting to new market trends faster.
But how does it really affect retail organizations?
Let’s look at a hypothetical. Color Me Blue (#CMB), is the hottest retail outlet in men’s fashion. They offer a humongous range of men’s couture fashion. All in numerous shades of blue. Mumbai sales data shows that Periwinkle Blue button-down shirts, size 38, paired with royal blue silk ties are flying off the shelves from the Peddar Road branch. However, in a mall outlet 5 kilometers away, the same shirt in size 42 with French Blue ties are selling like hot cakes. In an ideal world, the head of retail has time and access to a team of data scientists. Graphs and reports, and sales data are tabulated and compared. A plan was formulated in about a week. It’s 10 AM on Friday. How do they plan for a weekend surge, expected in less than 24 hours? How can they ensure every outlet is well stocked, based on outlet- specific sales data from the last few days? Now multiply this by numerous showrooms, across a number of cities and a mind blogging number of SKUs. That’s enough to give the retail head a bad case of the blues.
Enter MECBot, a Low code/No code data unifying product. The team can make just in time decisions and ensure no customer walks out empty handed.
It’s blue skies all the way!
Unify Data for better business growth
The volume of data collected by most retail companies doubles every year, increasing data sanctity and management concerns. As a result, many retailers find it increasingly difficult to unify data across multiple systems like CRM, warehouse management, ERP, finance, e-commerce platform, etc.
While unifying data isn’t an easy job, it’s a necessary one. Businesses can take the first steps by:
- Starting proper data cleanups.
- Creating a clear data management protocol and enforcing it within the company.
- Choosing the right data integration and management tool.
Once businesses overcome the challenges, they can acquire a real-time flow of reliable data that can help them gain actionable insights. By using these insights, they can make just-in-time decisions to adapt the business operations according to the recent trends to reach more customers and boost the business’s revenue.
It will not only help the retail business grow but will also eliminate many unnecessary costs to improve the business’ ROI, helping it become recession-proof.