Data is the rocket fuel that powers the success of a retail organization. It impacts marketing, supply chain management, resource consumption, assets and investments, customer experience, workforce management, productivity and more. There is not one area of retail that isn’t influenced by data.
Arguably, customer data is the most important of all data collected and managed by a retailer. That is why companies invest so much time and resources in customer data for business intelligence. However, without accurate data collection at the point of sale, the entire data pyramid is impacted creating a ripple effect across the organization.
Why Accurate Data Collection Is So Important: A Scenario
Why does accurate data collection at the checkout line matter so much?
Let’s say Jon Smith walks into a department store he’s never shopped before and buys winter clothes for his son. He had a wonderful experience and happily provides his email address to the associate before swiping his card at checkout.
“JonSmith at email dot com,” he says.
But the associate enters “JohnSmith@email.com.”
Notice that the associate added an “h.” Now, Jon-without-an-h Smith’s purchase is attached to John-with-an-h Smith’s account. The wrong John receives a thank-you email for a purchase for boy’s clothes he didn’t make (he doesn’t even have a son or a nephew). Those products and Jon’s credit card are permanently attached to the incorrect customer profile.
Meanwhile, Jon never receives a thank-you email for his purchase nor does he receive any sort of follow-up communications to draw him back to the store. He comes back now and then, but not as often as he might have, since he’s not being nurtured. And each time Jon does come back, his purchases are credited to John.
Now it looks like John is buying more than he really is, impacting his “personalized” communications from the store. They aren’t communicating with him at the right frequency since he seems to be buying more than he is. And when they do communicate, they send him deals for boy’s clothes – which he does not actually buy.
Mistakes like this are easy to make and the bottom line isn’t in danger if it happens here or there. However, if it happens over and over again to different customers, the impact on the retailer’s data becomes very real. Without accurate data, everything down the line becomes inaccurate. Customer preferences are off, customer profiles are wrong, customer segments inaccurate, communications become irrelevant, marketing becomes much less effective and customer relationships can be lost or fractured.
Accuracy Begins With The Point of Sale
How can retailers eliminate issues like the Jon-John situation? By focusing on accuracy at the point of sale and prioritizing accuracy over speed when training and evaluating store associates.
1. The Right POS
A retailer’s POS system is critical for operations. That system should integrate seamlessly with other systems and should provide associates with an efficient means of collecting customer data without disrupting their ability to checkout customers effectively.
2. Verification steps at POS
An effective POS system should include a short verification step during checkout. If an associate is entering new information, it is wise to have that data displayed on the keypad for the customer to verify. If the customer is a returning shopper with a profile, they should also be asked to verify that the profile in the system is, in fact, theirs. In the example scenario above, Jon Smith probably would have noticed the “h” in the email if he had been asked to verify the information.
3. Leadership Buy-In
The fact is, collecting customer information at the point of sale can slow down an associate. If a retailer measures associate performance based on speed, employees will be far more interested in moving a customer along than collecting accurate information, especially during busy periods.
Accurate data collection must start with buy-in from leadership. Accuracy should be prioritized and it should be instilled in new associates during the onboarding process and through ongoing training and development to reinforce the idea that accuracy is just as important as speed. Explain the “why” behind the priority so associates do not feel as though they are being pushy or being made to engage in a worthless step. When accuracy is part of the company culture and when employees understand how accuracy impacts the organization, they will be more likely to comply.
4. Customer Loyalty Cards
Loyalty cards are an excellent stopgap against inaccurate data collection because it guarantees the purchase is credited to the right customer. That is, of course, if the data is verified with each purchase. If a customer does not carry their card, they are often asked for a phone number. If the associate transposes digits or enters the wrong number, the purchase could be attached to the wrong customer. Loyalty cards, when used in tandem with a POS system that requires customer verification, ensures much more accurate recordkeeping.
5. Store Credit Cards
Store credit cards can provide similar insurance to a loyalty card. Unless a credit card is stolen (in which case purchases are erased), odds are extremely high that the customer – or someone from their family – is the one making the purchase. All of their data is then attached to the correct profile, when a verification step is also included.
Data Trickles Down
The accuracy of marketing, forecasting, supply chain management and more depend on accurate data collection at the point of sale. Everything trickles down from there. By focusing on standards, procedures and best practices to help employees understand the value of accuracy at the checkout, retailers can ensure accuracy through their entire customer data pool.
For more ideas on collecting accurate customer data – and for help leveraging your retail data for insights, talk to our team today.