Analytics & Data Science Customer Data Management Insights & CRM Marketing Retail Targeted Analysis

Turning retail data into insight.

How marketers can start to benefit from working with data.

For anyone working in the vibrant world of retail marketing, data is perhaps the dullest topic to read about. It’s just as tough for me to sit down and start writing about it.

Dudley snoozes
Even Dudley was bored.

In fact, if I want to keep my blog on marketing ideas exclusive, I just have to mention data and that should keep the readers away. The evidence from market research supports this too- SAP’s industry insight Retail Report 2012 found that just under half the retailers surveyed admitted that they found it hard to do something valuable with their data.

But recently we’ve been working on transforming data into insight, and that’s where it gets interesting. It has been a real pleasure to present some of our findings and once we’ve reached the insight stage, a retailer should be able to ‘feast’ on results that make them look at their business in a different light. Stay with me.


We start out by getting hold of all the customer data we can get our hands on- web transaction history, in-store purchases, emails, customer service enquiries and so on. We’ve even had competition entries sent to us in bin liners to add to a clients’ main database.


We then begin the process of tidying up the data. This starts with us getting rid of all the duplicate entries (the dedupe), correcting email addresses that have been mis-keyed (changing Homtail to Hotmail) and update the address book for anyone that has moved or deceased since the last contact.

A quick taster:

Once we’ve got all the data we can lay our hands on, we put it all together in one report, called the ‘Single Customer View’. At the basic level, this gives you a simple report that gives you the helicopter view- how many customers do you have, how much is their average spend, how many times a year do they visit and how much revenue do they generate. Basic stuff, admittedly, but with so many disparate systems, it can be quite difficult to get hold of this data in a single summary format.

The starter:

What can we tell you about your customers and therefore your business?

Customers on the Strand

We have a simple rule with insight reporting- tell retail clients something they don’t already know. Sharing insight is to share some essential information about the business we uncover through our analysis of the customer data. Some of the recent insights have been:

–       How many customers shop once and never return?

–       How many VIP customers do you have that should be carefully nurtured?

–       What’s your most important market outside the UK, scored by revenue, traffic and social media activity?

–       What products drive your stores?

–       What products demonstrate lifetime customers?

–       When does a discount start to negatively impact revenue?

retail insight chart

The main course:

Once we are able to share insights such as these, the next question is simply- ‘What could we do about it?’

One approach to this is to divide up all the customer data into ‘opportunity segments’. By doing this, we are suggesting to a retailer that we can communicate to each segment differently with a view to influencing the behavior of each of these groups in different ways.

The recent article I wrote for Bluepost Digital’s travel industry clients show how that might look in practice. (2019: No longer available online)

We work with the retailer to come up with proposed actions for each segment that turn these insights into additional revenue.

And for dessert:

We’ve now begun to form a fairly clear view of the retailer’s customers. So can we find some new customers who are likely to be just as valuable? Using demographic profiling we begin the hunt to track down this new audience. I’ve heard this called the ‘Sniper Approach’- but I’m on the lookout for a better description, as we want to capture these new customers alive and build lasting relationships, not kill them off.

I love the Mosaic illustration which illustrates these different demographic groups:

Mosaic Segments

Still here? If you’re now ready to turn retail data into insight, ask everyone you can within your business and see what data you have available. Remember the data protection laws before contacting customers and then ask an analyst to tell you something you don’t know. You might be surprised what they serve up.

(Featured photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash)

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