Getting personal: World delves into big customer data

23 November 2015 - 23 November 2015

The concept of big data is scary to many, particularly when it's personalised. But New Zealand fashion house World says it's collating data such as customers' music tastes and dwell times for all the right reasons, as it hopes to improve their shopping experiences.

Earlier this year Antony Ede, partner and head of analytics at consumer demand agency TRA, said in NZRetail magazine the collection of data about customer behaviour and identity is important to retailers because how people have acted in the past is the best indicator of what they will do in the future. But do consumers want retailers sifting through their personal information? We have grown accustomed to customised advertisements appearing alongside our emails, but are we ready for our in-store shopping experiences to be the same?

It seems as though World's customers are. The retailer has partnered with The Instillery to provide “ultimate shopping experience for its customers” by shaping it around the customer's exact interests and tastes.

When customers connect to the free in-store wifi, World is able to pull customer information from their social media accounts. But before you shudder at the idea of being spied on, all customers give consent when agreeing to the wifi’s terms and conditions.

The Instillery's director of talent and technology, Andy Cronin, says the information can be collected about a customer, including their age to their music interests based off “likes” on Facebook. It is then stored in a cloud database and over time, it determines trends and finds out what customers enjoy. The stores can then be tailored to suit.

World director Benny Castles says they had never considered analytics to be an important part of the business before.

“"Things like how many people are walking into the store, dwell time of customers, which customers are new and which customers are not through to what type of music our customers like, it's given us an ability to culture a whole dynamic of looking at our business and ensuring a great customer experience without even having to be in the store," he says.

But customer analytics is more than just playing music best suited to customers. When a customer makes a purchase, that information is stored to be re-used if the customer returns. Cronin says staff are alerted when a returning customer reconnects to the wifi and their previous purchases are used to tailor the shopping experience.

“You can look at purchases they’ve made in the past and say ‘right, we know these people like blue jackets, lets go and push out an offer for blue jackets to these people’.”

While customers give over their data in exchange for better service, the data is also being used to evaluate how a store is working. Cronin says the length of time customers spend in the stores, and the length of time they spend dwelling over a product is collected and can then assessed against the stores policies.

A number of retailers around New Zealand are incorporating The Instillery’s cloud services, but World are the first to use all the features.

Castles says you don't necessarily have to be an expert in cloud technology to use it well.

“We’re experts in fashion, not cloud. I actually don’t give a s*** about the cloud. Even after all of this it’s still a mystery to me, and that’s how I like it. I only want to know what it can do for the business,” he says.