How to Leverage Retail Innovation for Your Brand

Data is gold. Only if you know how to mine it.

On the 13th of June we had the pleasure of hosting Bijou Abiola, Director of Data Strategy at Hudson’s Bay Company sharing knowledge on the importance of retail innovation. The key point discussed was how to get customers to engage with brands in such a way that the brands are collecting enough information to determine what the next course of action is for their businesses.

With the pandemic, there was a seismic shift from consumers purchasing in-store to shopping online and online stores give fashion brands the ability and access to gather customer data much more easily than in brick and mortar stores. 

Bijou described data simply as “enough information”. With the reality being that a lot of entrepreneurs use Instagram as the primary mode of communication with their customers, gathering “enough information” on customers is limited.

“The key about being online vs on Instagram is the ability to collect enough data to then have a better marketing strategy for your business”

The place of Instagram is really to attract customers with great posts, like a hook and then reel them into a brand owned website so you can leverage their information to run your business in the future. 

“When you have ‘DM for price’ you’re not capturing any shopping patterns for your customers”

With a website, you can monitor customer shopping patterns from the purchases they make and use what you find to determine the next batch of products to stock, the best products to promote and the right details to offer targeted discounts; all things that drive retail innovation.

Just before a quick and very insightful demo of how to build a site on Wix, Bijou shared 5 major areas of retail innovation:

  • Omni channels involves connecting your channels; stores and dotcom 
  • Personalisation, she says, is more than sending an email with ‘Hi Bijou, we have this item in your cart waiting for you’. It’s more about using data to understand the customer’s shopping behaviour. An example is using cookies to track customers and personalise their experience on your site based on their previous visits.
  • Artificial Intelligence involves the use of predictive models to pre-determine customer behaviours.
  • Contactless Payments is the ability to transact without needing cash or even a card
  • Clothing Resale is not exactly technology but it has grown 21 times faster than retail for new apparel over the past 3 years, making it a very viable market to explore.

Retail Innovation right now involves figuring out how to take online customer recommendations from tools like Einstein, Evergage, Rich Relevance & Adobe Analytics and shift them to the store side but also how to feed store behaviour back to your site.

Harnessing this is important because the fashion industry in Africa is estimated to generate N2blillion in revenue from e-commerce in 2020 and N4billion by 2024.

“I can’t talk about data without protecting data”

Bijou also highlighted the importance of protecting your customer’s data and keeping it private. With a website, customer purchases and product data are instantly private and the level of privacy can be steeper depending on the data that’s being protected; e.g. debit card information.

However on Instagram, the popularity of your products can easily be tracked by likes and comments and customers are restricted to sending DMs in order to express interest in a product and make purchases privately.

In wrapping up, Bijou spoke about 4 steps in using data retrieved from a brand owned website as a driver of innovation

  1. The first is to actually capture rich data about your customers.
  2. The next step is mining the rich data you get to create value for your business. Basically deciding what you’re going to develop with the data you’ve captured and how you’re going to develop it.
  3. Mined data can be used to create targeted emails, campaigns and sales for the right group of customers
  4. Lastly, data can be used to strategize. It can help provide insights into new opportunities and help develop your business.

Before attendees lingered on the Zoom call, basking in the euphoria of a bunch of light bulbs coming on all at once, Bijou shared some parting advice 

“Having a website guys is the No.1 tool to grow your brand. So don’t just rely on Instagram because you are missing out on a lot of great data if you do that”.

Words by Yolanda Akinola

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