Online retailing. Can we use their technology to fight back?

Topics: Channel / Retail, E-Bulletins / Newsletters, FMCG, Home Previews

Peter Huskins (ShopAbility) and Glenn Davies (Info Partners) discuss the retail revolution nobody can ignore, for Retail World Magazine.

Every bricks and mortar Retailer in Australia is fully aware of the enormous challenges of the current economic conditions.  Declining loyalty, increased price consciousness and general cautiousness are contributing to tough trading conditions for all.  In a new series of articles for Retail World, I have asked ShopAbility’s technology consulting affiliate, Info Partners, to comment on how technology can be readily accessed to help you fight back.

Info Partners specialise in multi dimensional information analytics and technology that readily connects businesses to people via their mobile phones.  Info Partners have advanced capability in mobile connectivity and scanning systems and as discussed in my last article, mobile phones are fast becoming the technology of choice for the savvy shopper.  Uses extend to tools and apps for broad based searches, fine tuning to assist the final purchase intent and in some cases consummating the transaction or acting as a portable cash register.

Glenn Davies, Managing Partner of Info Partners comments as follows:

“To retain customers, most Retailers constantly alter product range, adjust prices, manage service offerings and refocus customer experiences.

But how often are these actions based on meaningful consumer insights?

For Retailers to consistently drive value, data collected must provide a clear, relevant, measurable and trusted view of the customer.   Such “insights” however are not all that common.   Recent US based studies have found that nearly 40% of retailers with loyalty programs fail to use data to fully understand their customers!.”

ShopAbilty  knows fully well  that Retailers see these types of problems every day. Maybe an individual store increases sales with an innovative approach, but lacks a way to quickly transfer that knowledge to other outlets. Sometimes floor staff and point-of-sale data come up with information that points in the same direction, but often the insights are piecemeal.

Collect customer data from multiple sources, but manage the data and information in an integrated manner.

Info Partners’ experience demonstrates that collecting consumer data from multiple sources and analyzing the data on a combined basis is a key element of success.

Mr Davies:  “Data on consumers can come from multiple, disparate sources:  POS systems, loyalty programs, website trackers, social media and customer feedback. Segregated information, however, resists synthesis.  But there is strong merit in a single approach (or platform) to collecting customer feedback, managing outbound communication, incorporating social media and analysing and reporting on all of the above.”

Key data of merit includes:

  • Capturing customer commentary on pricing, promotions and store policies;
  • Polling customers how they use competitors ;
  • Collecting feedback from customers who do not make a purchase;
  • Info via social media or website pages;
  • Developing a quick and easy process for information sharing; and
  • Leveraging data that comes from loyalty systems or POS.


When data sources corroborate with each other to generate a connected, holistic view of the customer, then information becomes “insight” of value.  This helps you build connectivity to your customers, it helps you build understanding of your customers and it helps you build their loyalty. The on-line folk are powerful users of data, however, data collection, integrated analytics and digital communication when properly leverage can be of significant assistance to you.

“The mobile revolution isn’t coming, it has already happened”. (Google, May 2012)

Research mobile phone purchases indicate that more than half the population of Australia now own smartphones, one of the highest levels of smartphone usage in the world.

The mobile revolution is here to stay and interactivity impacting Retailers includes the use of smartphones to compare prices and inform users about products, purchasing from on-line stores and development of digital customer relationships.   Walmart, who according to Gibu Thomas, Senior VP of Mobile and Digital have embarked on a global multi channel strategy, believe that “mobile allows (them) to have a similar personal relationship (their) customers that Sam Walton had with his customers 50 years ago when he opened the first Walmart store”.

It’s not just smartphones, but all mobile phones that have become ubiquitous in our society. A 2011 Victorian Survey of Year 11 students profiled two typical Gen Y users: Mikayla and Simon.


Woke 7.30am
Turn on the device Used alarm on the phone
Number of texts sent during the day 105
Telephone Calls 1
Time on Smartphone (texting, internet, facebook and music) 7 hours
Went to Bed 11pm



Woke 8.00am
Turn on the device 8.15am checked for messages
Number of texts sent during the day 23
Telephone Calls 7
Time on Mobile phone 2 hours
Time on Laptop 4 hrs
Went to Bed 12 midnight


The multidimensional use of the mobile technology is clearly in evidence in the above and importantly users don’t confine themselves to one type of use. While smartphone applications are growing fast for single purpose use, a Global Study by research power house, TNS, reveals that sms is still the predominant method for non-verbal of communication for all users.  It is not just about connecting with people’s mobile phone, but engaging with them in a manner which more closely emulates the way people naturally communicate.  Mr Davies: “We abide by the business mantra that digital business-to- customer communication must allow people to communicate in:

  • their own medium (e.g. sms / email / app);
  • their own time;
  • their own words (where required); and
  • through the digital device of their choice (e.g. mobile phone, smartphone, tablet)


This is the way to optimise an engagement and be seen as genuinely authentic.”.


QR Codes can also help.

QR codes can be a good place to accelerate your customer engagement journey.  QR codes can be readily integrated into loyalty and communication programs.  In particular, they allow your customers to engage instantly, give them an incentive to visit your store and enabling you to learn more about them.

With point-of-sale software plug-ins a QR code can be printed at the bottom of every receipt along with a call-to-action encouraging customers to scan it. Alternately QR coded cards can handed out at POS.   Importantly the QR code automatically links customers to your digital world which enables you to optimise communication with them.

Some studies have shown that the use of QR codes helps Retailers increase revenues by 5-10% by increasing frequency and spend per visit.

Once connected, Retailers can follow up with the shoppers using specific survey applications, create fully-customised loyalty programs, distribute mobile coupons and tailor promotional messages.

Overall, tracking QR codes enables Retailers to connect with their best customers in more meaningful ways. Importantly, customers engage with QR codes on a self-serve, opt in, basis.  This means that you avoid the dreaded hint of spam that undermines all on-line relationships.


If you don’t have QR code capability on your phone as yet, download a QR reader App to your smartphone, or if you do have a QR code reader – scan this to see where it takes you.


To sum up, you can see that the new  world for bricks and mortar Retailers is about leveraging  the data collection and communication abilities of the digital, mobile and social technologies for a more one-on-one and intimate relationship with your shoppers.  We believe these are important tools that you can use to help you fight back.