It’s no question that data is a godsend for many retailers. Analytics can help you get to know your business better and can enable you spot trends, identify problems, and plan for the future. Data also empowers you to make more reliable decisions in just about every area of your business, including sales, inventory, staffing, and more.

2015_MAY_PRODUCTIVITY - 6 Big Mistakes Retailers Make When Dealing with Data

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However, when it comes to gathering intel, there are errors and missteps that can lead to the mishandling of information and the loss of customer trust, which is why retailers have to be careful with their data-centric efforts.

This blog post will shed light on the common errors retailers make when dealing with data. Check them out below and see to it that you’re not committing these mistakes in your business:

Collecting data without using it

If you had taken the time to collect people’s information, make it a point to put that data into good use. Gathering data without using or analyzing it isn’t just a waste of time and money, it also creates distrust with your customers.

“Too many companies ask customers for their data and don’t seem to do anything with it, which can cause annoyance and suspicion. The data that companies collect should be used to chiefly benefit the customer, and companies should communicate that fact at every point, ” says Bryan Pearson, president of LoyaltyOne and author of the New York Times Bestseller, The Loyalty Leap.

“By asking for data, businesses are establishing expectations in the minds of customers that they will engage them differently than other customers,” he adds. “Data collected should be used to reward consumers for their data, recognize best customers, and above all, deliver relevant offers that fulfill customer expectations.”

In other words, don’t let all that information just sit in some database. Analyze that data, and then put it to work.

Not using the right tools to collect and manage information

Your ability to gain useful insights from data hinges greatly on the tools that you’re using to collect and analyze information, so choose wisely. You need to select data-centric solutions that will not only enable you to gather the intel you need, but can also present that information in an organized way, so you can analyze and manage it effectively.

As Dr. Rado Kotorov, chief innovation officer at Information Builders, puts it, “Collecting customer data is not enough. Managing and analyzing that data is far more important for retailers and often where they make mistakes.”

“Let me give you an example. Retailers can collect customer data from many touch points, which often results in multiple records for the same individual. Having duplicate records typically leads to multiple communications and attention fatigue. As a result, retailers risk losing that customer because they aren’t integrating their data.”

Not empowering your staff to be data-centric

Don’t just train your employees to use your data-centric tools, empower them to make the most out of the information they have. Doing so can improve performance and results in several areas, including sales and customer service.

Consider the following:

Boost staff performance

If you need to motivate your associates, see if you can give them a deeper look at their sales data so you can help them figure out when they’re closing sales and how they can improve.

If you’re using Vend, you can accomplish this by viewing sales reports per user. You can also integrate with staffing solution Deputy, which has the ability to overlay Vend’s sales data with timesheet information, so you can drill down on each associate’s performance.

Increase product knowledge

In addition to educating your staff on the features and benefits of your products, you should also train them to spot product trends–such as what’s selling, and which items are frequently purchased together. Such insights will help them provide richer product descriptions and more thoughtful recommendations to shoppers.

A recent study by TimeTrade found that 93% of customers “are likely to buy when helped by a knowledgeable associate.” Not only that, but when they surveyed retailers, they found that “80% noted that sales increase by 25-50 percent when shoppers are assisted by knowledgeable retail associates.”

Clearly, having salespeople who know what they’re talking about can improve your bottom line. This is one of the reasons why you should arm associates with the tools and data that’ll enable them to do their jobs better.

Provide excellent customer service

You can also empower your staff to take a deeper look at customer data, so they can serve shoppers more effectively. Let’s say one of your regulars walks into your shop. Your associates should be trained to check out that customer’s purchase history or loyalty status so they can interact with them in the most relevant way.

Not having that “human touch”

While reporting and analytics are rich with insights that you can use in your business, don’t forget to add a bit of that human touch into your decisions.

For example, if you deal with your customers personally, you can look at their purchase history as well as your own interactions with them when making product recommendations.

The power of human insight also comes into play when you factor in customer feedback. Let’s say you’re purchasing new merchandise for next season. In addition to looking at your sales and inventory data, you can also consider comments or suggestions from customers. What types of products would they like to see more of? What do they like most about your current selection?

Your analytics software may be able to tell you what’s selling and what’s not, but getting deep and specific information about how your customers feel about your merchandise can only be accomplished by qualitative data-gathering and by communicating with shoppers.

Not being safe and ethical with how you use customer data

Getting customers to trust you with their information (email addresses, purchase histories) is huge, so be careful with what you do with their data. The last thing you want is to come off as creepy—or worse, deal with a data breach.

Below are some steps you can take to safeguard customer data:

Be ethical with how you collect or use their information

Always ask permission before collecting customer data. For example, if you’re adding them to your subscriber list, see to it that they have opted in to receive your emails. Or, if you’re tracking their location using an app, be sure you have their permission.

Additionally, it’s best to give shoppers an easy way to opt out if they no longer want you to collect or use their information. This means giving them the option to unsubscribe from your emails, and allowing them to delete their information from your database.

Taking these steps won’t just help you stay in the legal side of things, but they will also strengthen your relationship with your customers. People appreciate being asked for their permission and when they see how ethical you are with their data, they’ll be more likely trust you.

Keep your tools and software updated

Keep all your data-centric solutions up-to-date. Having the newest version of an app or solution entails that it has the most updated features and security measures, making it less vulnerable to data breaches.

Stick with reputable solution providers

Speaking of apps and solutions, it’s best to align yourself with reputable providers or companies that have proven track records. This is especially important when they’re tasked to handle payment information and other sensitive data.

Using data purely for self-serving purposes

While analytics and reporting certainly provide a ton of value for retailers, let’s not forget about the benefits that customers can get from your data-centric initiatives. Yes, you should leverage data to understand your business and improve your operations, but ultimately, you should use that information to provide better services and experiences to your customers.

As Bridget Johns, head of customer engagement at RetailNext says, “analytics and data insights should not be about the business first. It should first be about shoppers and their needs and desires, and what’s good for them is good for business.”

Your data-centric efforts should always come down to your customers. That’s why before implementing new solutions or initiatives, always ask yourself if what you’re doing actually benefits them.

The bottom line is, retailers should constantly make sure that their intel-gathering efforts are safe, ethical, and actually add value to the shopping experience. Remember, data can do wonders for your business—but only if you collect and use it correctly.

Francesca Nicasio Vend