The three-second window: How big data creates new on-demand marketing options for retailers

Posted By Kristin Flandreau
Americas Business Group Lead

As we prepare for “retail’s big show,” next week’s National Retail Federation’s (NRF’s) Annual Convention & EXPO in New York City, we are sitting down with our intelligent systems partners and listening to their thoughts on the challenges faced by retailers—and how intelligent systems built on Microsoft technology can assist. I recently spoke with Sweeni Ponoth at Symphony Analytics, a division of Symphony Teleca, one of our new intelligent system partners, about how big data delivers new marketing options.

Ponoth, who is global practice leader of retail and brands, noted that a major challenge for retailers is the limited time they have to connect with each customer. “Retailers today have about three seconds to inspire a customer,” Ponoth says. “They need to literally provide on-demand marketing.” Symphony Analytics offers predictive analytics based solutions to give retailers new options for engaging the shopper within that three-second window.

Symphony Analytics enables on-demand marketing and real time digital engagement via technologies like Near Field Communication (NFC) tags, QR codes and geo-fencing that lower the barriers in the use of smartphones. Imagine a customer walking into a retail store and tapping his phone on strategically located, uniquely identified NFC tags to trigger timely and relevant information, such as surveys, maps or coupons. In addition, the consumer’s “taps” leave behind digital footprints that can be mined for insights. The retailer can also leverage feedback from the shopper at the moment of purchase and predictive analytics to enhance the in-store experience. The customer may receive a mobile coupon on his phone or be pointed to a sale on a sweater he was viewing online. The goal is to drive a new level of brand loyalty and trust.

For the retailer, data collected from new endpoints like NFC tags, as well as from social media, websites and connected devices such as phones, point-of-service (POS) devices, kiosks, industry tablets and digital signage flows into a backend data center. This data, once analyzed and responded to—often in real time—can help improve conversion of the sale.

How can retailers stay on the leading edge and implement new approaches like on-demand marketing with NFC tags? After my conversation with Ponoth, I came away with several recommendations for retailers:

  • Experiment with interactive technology. Expand omni-channel approaches to reach the customer where it makes sense. Evaluate NFC tags, social media and new approaches like geo-fencing. (Geo-fencing is a technique that personalizes the shopping experience. For example, a retailer could set up a geo fence, using GPS data or RFID tags, so that when a customer enters a store and approaches the watch case, they receive a text message on their phone with a promotional code for a discount on a watch.)
  • Capture and organize data. Select a Big Data platform for structuring, organizing, analyzing and acting on the data that flows in from end points within a retail intelligent system. • Integrate predictive analytics. Implement predictive models to sense and respond to user behavior. This is the heart of on-demand marketing.
  • Provide seamless usability. Make all consumer interactions easy and fast. Create a customer-experience strategy based on a Microsoft platform, and then take advantage of expertise from analytics consultants to implement and execute the strategy.

The potential insights and revenue upsides of systems like these for retailers are amazing, and partners such as Symphony Analytics are delivering on the promise of omni-channel retailing with intelligent systems built on Microsoft and Windows Embedded technologies. I am personally looking forward to a more personalized and interactive shopping experience as retailers experiment with implementing these new approaches.

We’re looking forward to seeing you all at NRF this year. Visit Microsoft in booth 2703; visit Symphony Analytics in booth 110. Read more about Microsoft’s vision for intelligent systems in the retail industry here.