Retailers collect all kinds of data about every customer that walks through their doors, but putting it to truly effective use has been something that’s mostly eluded the industry.Technological advances, shifting methods of data collection and putting that data to better use is helping retailers gain a more holistic understanding of what shoppers want at every step of their customer journey.

Data in a Vacuum Has Limited Usefulness

Contact information, demographics, online behavior, feedback, basket analysis and other such data may help retailers get a vague, blurry snapshot of their customers, but it doesn’t enhance the relationship. Taken individually, these data points do little to give today’s customer what they are looking for from a retail experience.

Today’s shoppers want to feel appreciated, to feel like their visit to a brick-and-mortar store was eagerly anticipated. By cross-referencing and correlating the collected data more thoroughly, retailers can use it as a blueprint to craft an in-store experience that feels more personal, which is something better than 3 out of 4 shoppers want.

The standard asking for email addresses at checkout and customer loyalty card data are still key players in retailers’ data collection. But in recent years, the practice has gone high tech, incorporating in-store sensor devices, QR codes and geofencing to obtain more granular, real-time view of their customers’ foot traffic and shopping habits, sometimes while incentivizing certain actions. Retailers can then use this digitally collected data to augment their strategies, shifting them as needed to match up with how customers are actually behaving.

The In-Store Customer’s Journey Begins Online

A big first step is to change the commonly agreed upon point where a customer’s journey begins. Retail Customer Experience says 80% of shoppers do some research online before ultimately making their purchase. This means the journey actually begins before they ever set foot in the store, making the internet a point of entry retailers should focus on to make a good initial impression. By catering to them there, and making intelligent use of data collected as they shop online, you can ensure they’re shown products they want and are given relevant advice when they’re in the store.

With most consumers still shopping both online and in-store, brick-and-mortar retailers are merging their online and in-store shopping experience by melding the convenience and selection of online shopping with the personalization elements favored by store shoppers. The best clues for how to do this can be found in re-examining your customer data and the methods used to collect it.