The Analytics Hole: Does Anyone Connect The Dots From Mobile To Web To In-Store?

Retailers spend an awful lot of time and money gathering and analyzing online and in-store stats about customer behavior. (Although, as the attack of the chicken babies taught us, don't be too confident in what the numbers seem to say.) But what most seem to not do is try and connect the dots.

What did the shopper do right after scanning that barcode? If the answer can be found in mobile analytics data, you're fine. But if the answer can only be found by overlaying that mobile data with in-store CRM data, most won't see it. What about synching E-Commerce activity with calls to the call center two minutes later? Or linking an E-Commerce search to an in-store POS action 20 minutes later? How about social activity matched with any of the above?

For whatever comfort it offers, having a CRM loyalty system will likely be of little help unless you're one of those almost-non-existent chains that enables—and encourages—customers to use the same CRM identification across all channels (not merely online and offline).

Some of this can be explained by the political issues that keep many E-Commerce and store groups from working together. (Consider how some of these conflicts played out in this week's Walmart E-Commerce cash program.) But much of it is housed in routine analytics hesitancy. To be able to follow shoppers as they move from one channel to the next takes a lot of guesswork and a lot of analysis. And there's no guarantee such information will yield insights that will result in greater sales.

So incremental moves are all that usually happen. The results provide feedback, but never the big picture—the so-called single view of the customer. Last week, for example, analytics firm ForeSee tweaked its offering with a system that tries to do a quick survey of shoppers right after they have made Web or mobile inquiries, and to then follow-up perhaps a week later.

The idea is to try and figure out what the customer ultimately chose to do, including making the purchase at a specific rival retailer or perhaps not buying anything at all.

Salespeople tend to forget that when you show a customer two product options, the customer sees three options—with "not buy anything" the ever-present third choice. Forgetting that option makes sales reps think customers are comparing that $200 choice with the $180 choice, when—in fact—they are also salivating over that $0 "I can walk out and go home" option.

"Who did they ultimately buy from? We're trying to piece together that post-sales experience," said ForeSee CEO Larry Freed.

ForeSee's approach is far from perfect—customers are quite comfortable lying to survey-takers or simply refusing to cooperate—but it's a step in the right direction of going beyond single-channel metrics.

Sometimes, channel activity is fairly obvious in suggesting that you should peek into the activity of another channel. In E-Commerce, for example, when customers exit right after hitting the store-finder search, that's a big heads up to see if the product they were examining was purchased at the store they found within an hour.

Mobile activity is even more tempting. After a barcode scan and a price comparison are run on your mobile site, does the mobile activity halt? Do customers surface at a checkout lane?

Security surveillance can help connect the dots, too. And, with a few refinements, your Wi-Fi can also play a role. The simplest route, though, is to push—with serious discounting—an all-channel CRM program.

For the call center, offer to place people in a much shorter phone queue if they enter their loyalty card number. Offer direct discounts and other perks for entering it in mobile and E-Commerce and definitely at POS.

On the other hand, calling the shopper and asking is certainly a lot easier to do and requires no internal cooperation. On some days in retail, that can be an irresistible combo.