How a unified data strategy unlocks hidden sales opportunities
Dissect almost any broken or damaged relationship, and you will find a breakdown in communication:
- The partner who feels unloved;
- The surprise resignation of the star salesperson who feels taken for granted;
- The employee who is injured because of inadequate training; and
- The community who is aggrieved because they don’t feel they were consulted.
All are the results of bad or non-existent communication.
These communication failures can be even worse when third parties are involved. They impose personal opinions, politics and Chinese whispers which all add up to distort and misinform.
The silent killer of big companies
In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind describe communication failures as “the silent killer of big companies” providing the following examples:
- Nokia and its struggle to turn good ideas into products;
- Enron and its inability to communicate appropriate values;
- Star Princess Cruise Lines and a breakdown in communication in relaying passengers’ concern;
- BP’s Deepwater Horizon blowout, “poor communications” and a failure “to share important information.”
So the ability to communicate well is critical for the successful running of business.
The eCommerce problem
A major barrier to communication faced by IT departments is the number of services and amount of data that sits on its own, or in a ‘silo’. The problem is getting information out of one silo merging it with information from another and making sense of it. This is the result of buying different applications, for different departments over many years, or inheriting systems when a company is acquired.
eCommerce site owners face the same communication challenge. Over time they add a plug in from vendor A that enhances search functionality, then a widget from vendor B that provides smarter recommendations and so on. Sooner or later a hotchpotch of services emerges, each operating in virtual isolation with their own interpretation, algorithms and data sets.
Quite simply this is, at best, inefficient, and at worst provides irrelevant, skewed information that loses sales and page load time because of all the calls to third party services.
That’s not being alarmist – it’s a tech version of Chinese whispers. Does the recommendation module know what the customer rejected or accepted when searching? Does the ad system know the cumulative result of searching and browsing?
According to a recent BBC article, nearly half of us won’t wait more than three seconds for a page to load and “just a half second difference in page load times can make a 10% difference in sales for an online retailer.”
With numbers like that, retailers have to ask themselves if they can afford for their online store to go backwards and forwards to all those separate plugins and modules.
United we stand, divided we fall
One way of addressing these communication challenges is to use the APIs (Application Programming Interface) that many of these service providers offer. This lets different services communicate with each other. But they do not remove the time lags and idiosyncrasies of each algorithm and, of course, will require more development time.
The ideal aims to bring these disparate services together, to unify them by addressing all the various ‘product exposure’ elements of a website and doing the job once, properly.
This has numerous benefits:
- Highly relevant experience for the customer so increased conversion rate, loyalty, AOV.
- Faster page loads so higher conversion rate
- Lower development costs than integrating multiple vendor applications
- Better reporting due to unified data
- Fewer contracts to manage.
Retail, and online retail, is extremely competitive. Attracting visitors to a website costs money and effort, so it is vital this money is not thrown away by offering a slow, irrelevant experience.
Many IT departments, indeed many departments, across many industries are seeking ways to unlock the true power of their data by unifying the way it is collected, stored, interpreted and used. Retailers who unify their services will find their customers love them for it.