Retailers must harness data in the most efficient way to come out of the pandemic era unscathed, says Alex Cresswell, regional sales director for retail at Tableau.

The retail industry has faced mounting pressures in recent years, which have only been amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic. From the declining high street and the shift to online, to the focus on sustainability, no other industry has seen such fundamental shifts, not just in the way it does business, but where it happens.

Pivoting your business strategy can reap new rewards, but at the same time present additional challenges. In a world of high expectations and demands, retailers need to anticipate customers’ needs regardless of where they purchase, while maintaining a competitive edge.

Retailers also need a robust supply chain that works alongside their organisation and is equally customer focused. It’s no mean feat, but it is achievable.

By using the right data at the right time, businesses can make better, flexible and more profitable decisions. Through our work with hundreds of retailers around the world and here in the UK, here is what we have found:

1. Under pressure: the supply-chain demand

Continually shifting consumer demands means that finding efficiencies becomes increasingly challenging. Having to readjust your supply chain to meet these needs means retailers are losing valuable time. To stay agile and adapt at speed, it’s imperative to have a full view across all aspects of your supply chain, from procurement to delivery.

“A full picture of the real-time data you collect will help you stay ahead”

Driving efficiencies will pay major dividends in the long run. Spotting and responding to changing customer trends and needs in real time gives retailers a significant advantage over other retail brands vying for their attention.

A full picture of the real-time data you collect will help you stay ahead, reduce waste in your procurement process and keep pace with your customers.

2. Outstanding (cross) channel experiences

It’s no longer enough to have a great physical or online experience. Customers want – and expect – the same experience and level of service, whatever their point of purchase.

Ease of use is key. The Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the convenience and necessity of online retailing, making it unlikely that the real-world shopping habits of old will continue.

The way for retailers to win in this new world is to fully understand their customer, predict their behaviour and give them what they need, before they even know it themselves.

3. Work the customer core

Successful retailers unify their operations, supply chain, merchandising and marketing. Striking the balance across your organisation can be difficult, but to maintain competitive advantage, the customer has to be at the core.

Harnessing your data to root your decisions in real-time facts and figures will enable you to prioritise the needs of your customers and your business.

“Successful retailers unify their operations, supply chain, merchandising and marketing”

In a post-pandemic landscape, it is inevitable that retailers will see expectations and preferences continue to evolve as the market continues to shift.

Staying ahead of the curve and taking decisive, informed action are the only ways to ensure continued success. And the only way to do that is by having a clear understanding of your data.

4. Price to win

Better value and quality are key customer demands in today’s landscape, but retailers must balance these against their own need for increased margin and cost efficiency. The solution is to create data-led product and pricing strategies.

Giving your teams the means to delve into your rich sales, product and pricing data gives them the insights they need to make critical decisions. If you understand what’s happening both within the market and with your customers, you can tailor your product and your price to maximise success.

“Giving your teams the means to delve into your rich sales, product and pricing data gives them the insights they need to make critical decisions”

It’s an exciting time for retailers, but it’s not without its challenges. Maximising data will be key to business innovation, resurgence and recovery, now and in the future.

Every company will have its own priorities and issues in the current climate, and Tableau can advise on the best way to harness and apply data to help address these. To learn more, check out our latest retail industry ebook.

Alex Cresswell

Alex Cresswell is regional sales director for retail at Tableau 

Alex Cresswell leads the retail, travel, transport and hospitality teams for Tableau. He is a veteran of the technology industry, having held leadership positions at Microsoft and LinkedIn, and built go-to-market teams in two HR tech start-ups.

An engineer by training, he is passionate about using technology to make business better. Outside of work, Cresswell lives in Berkshire with his family, plays guitar (badly), is a fan of Wolves football team and has become quite addicted to the Peloton bike he bought during lockdown.