The explosion of E-commerce during 2020 and 2021 has caused retail brands to focus on improving customer experience more than ever in order to retain revenue and market share. According to a Forrester report, a lack of customer insight is the #1 challenge retailers face in providing high quality experiences.
So how are top retail organizations addressing this insights challenge, generating actionable intelligence, and prioritizing business initiatives?
First let’s address barriers to generating quality actionable insights within retail.
Download the slide deck: Retail 2022 - Barriers to insights
Barriers to insight
1. Small centralized teams outside of business units
- Have difficulty connecting with business unit leaders to share impactful insights
- Priority misalignment between insights and business units
2. High volumes of data to dig through, with heavily overlapping lingo used across different types of customer journeys
- Terms like “service” could be “in store” or as part of “click and collect” or even when getting support for a “digital” order.
3. Siloed data related to point of generation (CX, Research, Marketing, Service, HR) not stored in a data warehouse
4. Mixture of specific product feedback and service experience feedback across channels
- Information about product like price, quality, and packaging
- Information about the experience of picking up / ordering the product (the retail outlet / website), both?
5. Multitude of channels customers experience the products and services through (website, in person, click and collect, delivery)
- Is data from one source skewed to give a certain type of feedback
Best practices for leaders
Insights leaders in the retail industry are faced with a challenge of increasing complexity from a multitude of customer contact channels and no clear way of delineating what part of the service or product the feedback is about. Large retailers struggle with centralized insight teams that are not part of the business units, while small retailers struggle with which team should own the creation of the insights function. Furthermore, organization of the multiple streams of data is not something that has come naturally to the retail industry with its roots in physical locations.
1. Unsilo-Data - move into a data warehouse to make use of it
We are seeing the demand for insights across business units and a need to leverage data from across the business to answer questions. Feedback about products and services in retail are notorious for having a mixture of information about different parts of the experience or products no matter the collection channel:
- Aggregate a single view of customer in a data warehouse like Snowflake or Google BigQuery
- Enhance data by using advanced text analytics techniques to understand what themes are in the verbatim
- Make data from Support, VoC, Insights, Research, Brand Analysis available to any business unit that wants to make use of it
2. Insights Matrix
Insights teams not well connected to the business can suffer from a lack of legitimacy and are often looked upon as doing research in an “ivory tower”. Information shared from the team can seem disconnected from everyday operation and will have a hard time getting action taken on the insights they share. Make sure either insights analysts are embedded in the team who has responsibility to take action, or that there is a matrix style reporting structure
- Centralize responsibility for insights and have the direct lines of reporting through the operations group.
- Encourage the insights team to collaborate by sharing data, best practices, strategy, and tools.
- Give analysts responsibilities for specific parts of the business and physically locate them within that area. For brand analysis, sit the analyst with marketing, within the product team for user experience, and the support center for understanding front line interactions.
3. Same Data Multiple Lenses
We are seeing a diversification in organizational demand for text analytics results. Having started in Voice of the Customer programs organizations are now learning how to leverage the same NPS (likelihood to recommend and why) data used across departments:
- Marketing with responsibilities across competitive brand analysis.
- Product with responsibility for web / product / interface user experience.
- Support with responsibility reducing customer contact, shortening support interactions, increasing first time resolution.
- Customer Research to identify and prioritise deep research topics for focus groups.
- HR / People Analytics - particularly to identify front line training opportunities and improve employee satisfaction.
4. Double Diamond Insights Impact
Insights professionals are often looked to for recommendations about how to interpret results and best actions to take. Take this responsibility to the next level by building a structure to revisit the impacts of actions taken on the customer experience. The Double Diamond customer centric approach helps in designing, testing, and evaluating impact.
The design thinking double diamond is coming to insights work as a best practice.
- Starting with divergent discovery: having a text analysis tool that allows for unsupervised concept discovery across large datasets is absolutely vital to avoid analyst bias.
- Converge with theme isolation: Form a hypothesis and quantify impact by relating themes in natural language to available segments within the dataset. Quantify and prioritise based both frequency, score, and segment value.
- Diverge again by collaborating with the business to leverage the insights and create an action plan, time frame for testing, and when to begin looking for results again.
- Bring the cycle to a close by investigating the impact of actions taken with the business. Typically this takes the form of a monthly customer counsel meeting.
Bringing it all together
It is clear that insights leaders in the retail industry are faced with increasing complexity from a multitude of customer contact channels with few ways to delineate what part of the service or product the feedback is about. While large retailers struggle with centralized insight teams that are not part of the business units, small retailers struggle with which team should own the creation of the insights function. Furthermore, organization of the multiple streams of data is not something that has come naturally to the retail industry with its roots in physical locations.
But these challenges are not insurmountable. Tackle them one at a time, set clear measurable goals, and identify milestones along the way, just as you would manage any other type of project. In the end, not only will you be the hero of your organization internally, the end customer will win because their voice will resonate through the halls helping to chart the path forward in every department. Don’t feel alone in solving insights issues! Stand on the shoulders of others in the industry, we are all trying to lift each other up.
- Slide deck: Retail 2022 - Barriers to insights