A couple of months back, I wrote an article on why offline stores should start taking their data seriously. This article gave us some really good traction and we started working with some enthusiastic offline retailers. I wanted to share some of the insights which came out while working with these retailers and how data analytics in general can enable offline vendors become more efficient and bring them closer to their customers.

Building solutions for offline retailers
“As a brick and Mortar store we find the software easy-to-use and powerful. It is helping us get the most out of our data and use the analytics to both formulate and execute a viable, ongoing CRM strategy.” This is a testimonial from Mr. Kanwal Brar, who is running a grocery chain in Chandigarh (The Freshmart). The two most important things coming out of the testimonial is “easy-to-use” and “powerful”. Since we are talking about offline segments, any solution for them has to be absolutely simple to keep them engaged. The second most important thing to keep in mind while building a data analytics solution for offline vendors is to keep the data ingestion process as smooth as possible. Either you integrate with their existing POS solutions and bring in all their data or provide them a Shopify kind of interface where billing and data ingestion for them is hassle free.

What works and what doesn’t
When we started out, we thought of a building a lot of cool stuff involving complex machine learning algorithms around market basket analysis, sales prediction, recommendation algorithms etc. But eventually we realised that this is something they (vendors) don’t need at this point of time. The technology gap is so huge that we first need to get them started with simpler things and then eventually take them towards building intelligent algorithms. What really worked out for us was to show them what exactly is happening inside their store in a very simple and intuitive manner. For example, below is one dashboard where we show a quick summary of yesterday’s stats and how these numbers stand against the average numbers for the last 30 days. Please refer to our demo page for detailed description on features we provide.

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Secondly, the KPIs which work really well for the Reliance or the Big Bazaars don’t really go hand to hand with the smaller retailers. Most of the smaller retailers at this stage don’t really capture any customer data and hence the concepts like unique customers or new customers don’t make much sense. Instead we came up with a new metric called Customer to Bill Ratio . This is basically a ratio of the number of customers whose details (mobile or name or email) are captured to the number of bills generated on any particular day. With access to this metric, retailers can also keep a check on how much of the customer information their POS staff is capturing. Given below is customer to bill ratio chart for one of our customers from Sep 2015 to Jan 2016. If you look at the numbers, this ratio was roughly around 2% till Nov 2015 and has gone above 5% after Nov 2015 (deployment date of our product).

Going Forward
The biggest impact which we were able to make while working with some of the enthusiastic retailers was to make them understand the importance of data. Most of our customers now understand how important it is to capture customer data and how it can help them target customers individually.
I would still say that this is barely scratching the surface when it comes to harnessing the power of data. With access to more data, we can eventually take these vendors towards intelligent solutions. The great thing is that we are on the right track and our customers resonate with us on the importance of data. We also have promising stats on the impact email and sms campaigns have on Sales and Revenue, but as of now it’s a bit too early to present those numbers. We would be coming up with detailed success stories on that front around April. As I said above, these are still early days and going forward we would like to bring more and more smaller vendors on par with the big retail chains and the e-commerce giants when it comes to leveraging technology to enhance their businesses.
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