Data Integration is the process that allows combining heterogeneous data from different sources in the format and structure needed for the final applications. Thanks to Data Integration different types of information spread in an organization can be collected and used for everyday purposes. Usually, Data Integration is performed in a Data Warehouse using a specific tool. The Data Integration tool is capable of extracting, transforming, and loading (ETL) these data to end up with unified information.
In Retail companies, it is a common pain to have data spread around different tools, systems, departments, databases, such as CRM, ERP, POS, Business Intelligence tools, Big Data platforms, etc. Big retailers deal with a complex architecture of technologies, which are for the most part unconsolidated and with legacy systems in it, that makes it costly and difficult to gather and consolidate information. Data Integration brings retailers an opportunity to leverage the data they are currently generating and transform it into relevant insights for growing their business.
Every department in a retail company might benefit from an integrated and holistic vision of their customers, sales, and operations. But it is especially valuable for departments such as Marketing, where having a real picture of the customer and the customer journey is vital to design successful strategies and campaigns.
The benefits of Data Integration
Optimized resources: by integrating data, we will end up having a single and accessible location for our data. In order to unify and reduce the need for resources for storing this data. Instead of having costly storage for every department or system, we can have lighter storage systems and invest in a single location where we will dump our integrated data.
Standardization: because the integration not only means to put all our data in one place but also to homogenize these data and have it in a unified format that makes it ready for anyone inside our corporation to leverage it.
Leverage historical data: its difficult to get historical data from source systems, but with Data Integration we will generate a “lake” of data from where we will be able to access to our historical data, which is crucial for many analytics and intelligence purposes.
Accessibility: In the end, the final aim of all our data strategies must be to make it accessible to everyone inside the company that wants to generate insights and value from it. By integrating our data, we will make it more convenient and enhance the leverage of our corporate data.
Why is Data Integration important for a Retail company?
Retail companies need a strategy of Data Integration to overcome their data silos and enjoy a unified source of information. Especially nowadays with the omnichannel explosion, retailers, including banking, energy and telco retailers, interact with customers via different channels and touch-points. So we cannot have a unique source of truth. We have many registers from these interactions with clients, in many different places, that we can integrate to transform it into the consolidated customer intelligence we need.
Data integration is vital to be able to ensure the traceability of our client interactions, primarily if we work in an omnichannel retail company. Retailers need to offer a consistent user experience to their clients, and that’s only possible if we understand our clients in an omnichannel dimension, in an integrated way.
For retailers, having a good understanding of the customer behavior and the customer journey is a key competitive advantage, as it will allow improving our product and service to be precisely adapted to our customer aspirations, needs, and expectations. But for many companies having this holistic view of the customer is still a challenge. According to a recent study published by Salesforce, only 17% of retailers had customer data integrated.
If we want to understand the customer journey as a journey, not as an unconnected set of touch-points, then we need to have in place the strategies and technologies required for this Data Integration.
Data integration for Retail Intelligence
To have strategies and technologies for integrating data and generating timely insights is vitally important for retailers. By leveraging customer data and integrating it, retailers are capable of building the Retail Intelligence they need to be able to provide the services today’s consumers are expecting.
Personalization: Customers want to have a consistent experience when interacting with a brand or retailer, no matter the channel or type of interaction. The holistic view of the customer will allow the retailer to unify the customer service and brand experience at any given touch-point, creating an authentic omnichannel experience.
Inventory optimization: Having real-time and consolidated data for every sale and inventory movement across all the retailer channels is critical for improved inventory management, and even more if we want to be able to make predictions over our inventory (stock break, over-stocks, etc.).
Identify customer needs: As the customer journey had extended through different channels, we need to trace the behavior of our customers along all these channels to be able to identify customer segments, needs, aspirations, etc.
Data is at the core of Retail Intelligence
During the last few years, retailers realized the enormous potential of data in their business. Data-driven retailing starts by having the right data, at the right time and in the correct format. This is impossible without a proper data integration, where we are sure that we gather the data from all our relevant data sources (even the hidden ones, the temporary data, etc.) and we transform it into the intelligence we need to remain competitive.