The Data Governance Imperative for Retailers

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Click to learn more about author Hamaad Chippa.

The best retailers excel at merchandising. At top physical and eCommerce stores, products are smartly organized, attractively arranged, and colorfully promoted so that customers can easily find what they’re looking for. Done right, merchandising guides the shopping experience, drives revenue, and elevates customer satisfaction.

Suppose retailers could provide managers and staff with that same degree of easy access to an underutilized yet business-critical asset — data? Suppose that users could “shop” for information and locate it as easily as shoppers find products on a shelf?

Too often, information is not readily accessible to the retail stakeholders who need it. It’s fragmented across systems, and isn’t well organized, trustworthy, or transparent, thus making it difficult to make clear and timely sales, marketing, and inventory related decisions. The problem is only worsening as data volumes grow rapidly across every aspect of a retail business, from inventory to multichannel marketing and sales across physical, digital and mobile channels.

User access to data is just one issue. Retailers are also facing fresh data security and privacy challenges as data volumes and velocity continue to rise. And many still struggle to deliver a seamless omni-channel experience and personalized marketing campaigns, undermined by a lack of accessible, accurate, and actionable information.

A Data-Driven Path to Business Value

In the fiercely competitive retail world, it’s imperative that retailers put to good use the immense amount of data they collect to improve the shopping experience and convenience for their customers. That requires a technology-supported Data Governance model to collect, clean, organize, maintain, and share data in a timely and transparent manner.

Data Governance supports data ownership, responsibility, and accountability across defined stakeholders. It provides transparency into how and when data was created and modified, where it’s stored, and who can access it. As such, Data Governance provides a foundation for retailers to improve data security, privacy, and compliance with regulations such as GDPR, which affects any retailer engaging with EU citizens.

Data Governance is also a building block for analytics that enable informed decisions across the retail landscape, from product selection, store locations, and targeted messaging that’s based on a 360-degree customer view. Retail leaders that have embraced Data Governance are today reaping its rewards in newfound business value.

Growth in Data Brings New Challenges

The growth of data has been well documented. IDC estimates that by 2025, with innovations such as intelligent personal assistants and autonomous vehicles, data will be more real-time and life-critical. Yet many companies have not been able to harness this growing information for the insights it can provide, and many are struggling to store it efficiently and cost-effectively.

Retailers are challenged to collect data from multiple channels, including point of sale (PoS) terminals, IoT devices (sensors, mobile apps, and beacons), and customer input from product reviews, customer support, and social media. Data Governance equips retailers to properly store and integrate this information so that it’s more transparent and usable across the organization.

Access to data is another big challenge for retailers. Marketing teams could greatly benefit from access to customer information to develop deeply personalized campaigns. But is access to full sets of raw data helpful or is it more of a burden? What subset of information would be more useful?

Depending on the business issue, the data required should be tailored to the need. Data Governance helps retailers understand data and generate focused subsets that zero in on particular needs. Retailers are now able to remove the clutter from relevant data to empower their staff and encourage fast and trustworthy decision making.

Data Security and Privacy

Data breaches are unfortunately a common occurrence these days. Retailers collect tons of data, including personally identifiable information (PII) and financial data that, in the wrong hands, can be very damaging. Governing access to sensitive data, mapping data types, and knowing where data is stored are critical challenges squarely addressed by effective Data Governance.

Similarly, retailers are challenged to comply with data protection regulations, such as the GDPR in the EU. Retailers need to fully understand where data resides to ensure customer privacy and satisfy requirements such as the GDPR’s “right to be forgotten.”  Failure to adhere to customers’ wishes regarding their personal information can be a very expensive mistake. The internal transparency made possible in a Data Governance framework is instrumental in privacy compliance.

Benefits of Data Governance Across Retail

Establishing a robust Data Governance framework is no longer a “nice to have” for retailers. To be a true data-driven company, a Data Governance strategy is foundational. It goes beyond just managing data to provide a sustainable and resilient framework for retailers to fully capitalize on the business value of their data:

  • Marketing teams can access customer and product data from transactional systems to overlay across historical information, driving relevant and personalized marketing campaigns.
  • Sales associates can assist customers based on real-time data to help secure sales.
  • Customer support teams can better assist customers by recommending the best course of action for inventory, pricing, shipping, payment, and returns.
  • Analytics teams can access, track, and share core metrics, or KPIs, that are defined and agreed upon. Thus, KPIs such as “lifetime customer value,” “customer acquisition cost,” and “conversion rates” mean the same thing for all stakeholders and can be trusted to make key decisions.
  • Legal teams can leverage consistent business rules and processes to support reporting and compliance requirements.

Establishing a robust Data Governance model enables data availability, confidence, and usability for retail organizations. These capabilities will help retailers continue to innovate their offerings and curate customer experiences that leverage data for new, intelligent shopping channels, customer support features, augmented and virtual reality technology, and more

Through Data Governance, stakeholders gain access to quality, trustworthy data they can use to drive decisions, making Data Governance essential for retail success.

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