A Single Customer View Boosts Retail Business

Success in retail has always been driven by a simple formula: connect the right customers to the right products at the right time — and always at the right price. Of course, executing on this simple formula isn’t always easy. It’s not always apparent who, and where, potential customers are — and what, exactly, they may be looking for. This is where having a single 360-degree customer view — a comprehensive, unified customer profile that combines customer data from all available sources — can have an enormous positive impact on sales and profitability. Meanwhile, failure to piece together this disparate data into a single view of the customer can seriously dampen a retailer’s competitive edge — and ultimately its bottom line.

Consolidating Customer Data

Retailers have always struggled to identify potential customers — and to tailor their product offerings to best serve them. Ventures like branded credit cards and loyalty programs have offered retailers some insights into their customers’ characteristics and buying habits. And the rapid growth of e-commerce has further expanded opportunities for retailers to get to know their customers. On top of that, customers are now actively sharing more information than ever about their tastes, needs, wants, and habits on social media like Facebook and Twitter. These and other sources of customer data from technologies like geolocation, NFC, and mobile payments are giving retailers access to an unprecedented amount of valuable new customer information.

But simply having access to all that customer data isn’t enough. In fact, it can be — and often is — nearly useless, when retailers fail to synthesize the data and properly incorporate it into their business strategies. These various data streams are often unintentionally isolated in silos within a retailer’s separate departments — like sales, marketing, customer service, IT, etc. — or systems, like an ERP system that manages inventory data and a separate CRM system that organizes customer information. For retailers to take full advantage of all this customer data, they need an effective way to aggregate the information and integrate it with their various systems and operations for inventory management, product development, advertising, customer relationship marketing, and sales.

How Retailers Benefit From a Unified Customer Profile

The integration of a single unified customer view throughout a retailer’s departments, systems and operations brings many significant benefits. Chief among these is a greatly enhanced ability to target product sales and promotions to the most receptive customers. Take, for example, a customer of a general merchandise retailer that issues its own branded credit card and operates both online and brick-and-mortar retail outlets. The customer responds to one of the retailer’s promotional emails by purchasing a baby stroller online. She then writes a review of the product on the retailer’s website, “likes” and “follows” the retailer on social media, and shares her experience with the retailer’s product. She also buys newborn apparel from one of the retailer’s stores using its branded credit card.

If the retailer is adept at aggregating and analyzing these different customer data streams and integrating them into its various departments and operations, it can better assess, anticipate and fulfill this customer’s needs and likely purchases — boosting sales and customer satisfaction. Aggregating the customer’s online browsing and purchasing history with her in-store credit card purchases, the retailer can identify not only that the customer has a baby, but also the baby’s approximate age, size and gender. By integrating and sharing this customer data throughout the company, the retailer can directly promote additional relevant products — through email, SMS, banner ads, direct mail, etc. — from other departments (like baby formula, diapers, nursery furniture, bedding and décor, etc.). Combining her aggregate purchase history with additional information from social media and public records, the retailer can develop a comprehensive 360-degree customer profile that could prompt its credit card division, for example, to increase her credit limit. The potential business opportunities abound.

Furthermore, having a single customer view can help retailers streamline their business operations — making everything from marketing to inventory management to communications more efficient and cost-effective. Unproductive marketing tactics can be eliminated in favor of those that get better results. Stores can stock their shelves with the products their customers prefer. And disruptions from information bottlenecks — like those that arise when employees are out of the office, sick, or on vacation — can be avoided.

The Challenges of Building a Single Customer View

As retail organizations deploy an increasing number of on-premise systems and SaaS applications — each managing different types of information — it becomes increasingly challenging to become a connected retailer and create a single 360-degree view of the customer. Outdated and inflexible legacy systems — which are especially difficult to integrate — aggravate the problem by preventing efficient data-sharing and creating data silos that isolate valuable information.

At the same time, customers are using an ever-growing number of devices and channels (like mobile, computers, tablets, face-to-face, and apps) to engage with retailers, making it difficult to identify and manage all the different pieces of information associated with a particular customer. Different devices, applications, databases, and departments contain all sorts of disparate customer data that must be aggregated to present a single customer view. For that to happen, a retailer’s systems need to be seamlessly integrated.

MuleSoft Enables a Single Customer View

MuleSoft’s Anypoint™ Platform makes it easy for retailers to assemble a single customer view by enabling seamless integration and interoperability throughout the enterprise. Anypoint Platform offers a number of valuable open source components — such as CloudHub and Mule Enterprise Service Bus(ESB) — that make it easy to share information across applications, services, and systems. MuleSoft also simplifies management and maintenance of information through a unified interface, making customer data accessible to those who need it.

Another Anypoint component, DataWeave, provides simple yet powerful data mapping and transformation through a graphical interface, making it easy to identify and eliminate duplicate profiles of customers. By applying defined rules and mapping requirements, DataWeave can help retailers identify profiles for John Doe, John D, and Johnny Doe as belonging to the same individual, enabling data consolidation that prevents confusion, unclutters systems, and creates a more comprehensive customer profile.

Meanwhile, Anypoint Connectors provide instant API connectivity to some of the most popular retail applications and services. With a library of pre-built retail application integration solutions, you can rapidly connect CRM, accounting, billing, marketing, other retail applications and even legacy systems. Unlike other integration options, Anypoint Connectors are built and managed on MuleSoft’s enterprise integration platform, allowing you to deploy integrations rapidly, either on premise or in the cloud, for all your retail application integration needs.

These and other components of MuleSoft’s integration solutions make it easy for retailers to connect and enable communication among their disparate on-premise and cloud-based systems and applications. This, in turn, allows them to share valuable customer data throughout their organization, to build a single, 360-degree customer view that gives them a critical competitive advantage. Contact us today to learn more about how MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform can help drive your retail business forward—to a more efficient and profitable future.

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