Retail’s next wave of automation

Retailers have copious amounts of customer data. But, that is clearly insufficient in the age of the new customer. Many retailers talk of a 360-degree view. But frankly, how many even have a 36-degree view of their client base? And, if they do, are they able to deliver better value to their shoppers?


Companies like Amazon, Starbucks and Netflix are good examples of retailers that are “data collection machines”. They collect humongous amounts of varied data to not only understand customer profiles (like most do), but their attitudes, sentiments, affinities, behaviours, and context. They test responses to marketing campaigns and monitor their transaction patterns. Information on a customer’s network, feedback, product ratings and preferences relative to their shopping journey are tracked. These resource investments stem from their obsession to truly empathise with a customer.


shutterstock_370456712.jpg Thanks to cloud storage and computing technologies it is now feasible to store and synthesize this structured and unstructured data. Sophisticated machine learning algorithms help uncover patterns in shopper behavior which can be leveraged in near real-time to promote relevant products and offers. It is vital, however, not only to be able to generate real-time insights but to setup an infrastructure that enables execution of decisions. This strategy, accompanied by a robust mechanism to learn from these decisions, can certainly optimise consumer data.


That said, retailers need to be equipped for an evolution, not a revolution. Companies will move from dependence on primarily internal data to internal and external data. They will move from data stored in siloes to data lakes and big data infrastructure. They will move from static and rusty analytical models, to deploying machine learning and artificial intelligence supplemented with human intelligence. They will move from low speed activation and gut driven learning, to real-time activation and proactive nudges.

The core of all this automation will be customer obsession and superior data-driven capabilities. The real winners will be those who adapt to this quickly, and of course, their shoppers.


Ugam is a global data and analytics company working with four of the leading Australian retailers. To know more about the application of data and analytics to make confident business decisions, visit