“Big Data” – the vast troves of deep information about customers and their buying experience – is now becoming something that not only the big boys can do, SMB’s can also and, if they want to remain competitive, they must also develop an operating model that incorporates Big Data. But many SMB owners feel overwhelmed by what is a time and money intensive investment requiring the technical and marketing expertise most of us lack. So, is capturing Big Data really something that is within the grasp of a small to medium sized retail merchant?
The answer is yes. Not only is it within your grasp – if you let it slip through your fingers you’re going to find yourself regretting that you let it get way.
Big Data is here to stay. Used properly, it enables a merchant to capture information that allows marketing and other actionable behavior, leading to quantifiable results. But many SMB merchants are unaware of just where to start. They are already limited in terms of the resources that they can throw at things such as social media and, adding Big Data into the equation can seem too much to tackle.
How Can Big Data Really Make a Difference to Your Bottom Line?
Here’s just one obvious example. Normal systems capture a sale, right? We know when someone buys. But what about when they come to your establishment, looking for something and they don’t buy – what kind of data are you harvesting from that? What data could you harvest? Wouldn’t it be nice to know why they didn’t buy? Did you have the right product but the price wasn’t competitive enough? Or was it that they couldn’t find the style or color they wanted or they couldn’t find the product at all?
Or what if, in your online store, a product is receiving many page hits but the sales aren’t there. Why? Not having the information that enables you to ascertain why, you might discontinue the product if it’s not selling. Big Data could change that decision.
At the moment, there is no one-stop-shop simple solution to the collection of Big Data. The burden of building out a platform with custom tools and queries and trying to patch together an infrastructure to connect channel-specific data sources falls squarely on the shoulders of the merchant or their IT department head, and it’s a heavy burden to bear.
But even if there’s no simple solution, it behooves the SMB owner to put an oar in the water and start paddling. There is so much data to be harvested – data that can lead to an increase in sales and profits. Customer data enables a merchant to identify patrons via their cell phone number, credit card numbers, loyalty cards or even their e-commerce profiles.
Some retailers have the infrastructure in place but haven’t gotten the delivery part down yet. They are collecting customer data but they are unprepared for execution of action to monetize the customer information they have collected.
Others have successfully utilized solution integration experts to traverse the treacherous terrain of data collection and have leveraged this information to increase sales while providing a unique and interesting customer buying experience.
Everyone is fighting for the same slice of the pie and you can get your fair share if you are armed with accurate data and you provide the incentive to buy. Retailers are selling merchandise to their customers online, in-store, by catalog, by phone and other mobile devices.
One aspect of Big Data that can perhaps be more easily within the reach of all SMBs is what is being termed “Payments Intelligence” – information that often goes un-mined, but can be gleaned from payment processing information. Bala Janakiraman writes compellingly about this in Internet Retailer.
The most un-mined, most valuable data available today is not floating around on the Web from website interactions… It’s real, it’s here, and it’s found in the customer payments coming through checkout experiences everywhere, processed through the complexities of the “card” business and returned to merchants, often listless, unstructured, and never acted upon, let alone optimized… it’s called payments intelligence… it captures all that payments transactions tell us about the people behind the card swipes and card-not-present transactions.
The article provides some good examples. If you’re selling a product that’s billed in three installments of $6.99 and someone buys with a reloadable, prepaid debit card with a balance of $14.19, that’s information you probably want to have – actionable intelligence that could result in a prompt for a different form of payment. Seen more broadly, the payments intelligence component of big data can help preserve and enhance revenue, while also reducing risk.
There’s no doubt about it. It’s a brave new Big Data world out there and being a small-medium business (SMB) doesn’t give you a pass to ignore it. In fact now more than ever merchants need to get with the program, starting with the more accessible aspects of Big Data like payments intelligence – but that’s only the beginning.
Rick Berry is the president/CEO of ABC Mobile Pay, a Valencia, CA based provider of mobile POS payment technology and solutions.