Customers generate a tsunami of data when interacting with retailers via online and/or physical stores. According to a McKinsey study, 50% of customer interactions typically happen during a multi-event, multichannel journey. But most of this data flows into enterprise silos and is not shared across relevant departments, which impedes the ability of retail brands to understand the full customer journey. As a result of these silos of customer data and fragmented customer engagement systems, there is no way to tell if retailers have all the customer data necessary for a seamless omnichannel journey. For many brands, different channels operate as independent groups, led by disconnected teams that run on disconnected systems. As a result, marketing leaders are unable to tie the information together to understand how all the channels work together. The question is how brands can connect customer data across silos to make it useful for personalized engagement.

Breaking down these silos and connecting engagement technology at the data layer is the first step towards omnichannel retailing. According to another research by McKinsey, organizations that use data as the key tool for making marketing decisions achieved a 10% increase in sales due to better service and personalization. For physical store retailers struggling to compete in an increasingly online world, this can make a substantial difference. Today, retail is generally thought of as either online or in-store, but in the future, there will likely be many different variations of digital experiences. The ability for shoppers to share their data with retailers in a variety of formats will be critical to making those experiences work seamlessly.

What is certain is that buyers today undertake increasingly complex shopping journeys. Many retailers end up struggling with collecting offline data and then merging it with online data into a single customer record. Also, many brands don’t have the expertise to turn data into meaningful, actionable insights.

Bringing Online and Offline Data Together

Brands want to take what they learn from consumers engaging with them online and incorporate that data into a complementary offline experience, and vice versa. Data from digital tools like in-store beacons, kiosks, mobile apps, loyalty cards etc. can be used to better understand offline behavior and create a consistent omnichannel experience. Brands need data that’s authoritative, connecting the different points of identity into a complete and accurate picture of customers and prospects. They also need data that’s near real-time, keeping up with customers as their details and preferences change.

A very effective way of doing this is by implementing a single customer view, i.e. bringing together all of a company’s data streams from its various data silos. This data is unified, de-duplicated and standardized to create a single, accurate record for each customer. Creating a single view of the consumer also helps determine the right promotion mix. Retailers can analyze data to measure the effectiveness of one marketing tool over the other. They can also determine whether these instruments increased drove up sales and broadly increased category spends.

This data ensures that retailers can target customers appropriately and with relevant messaging. For retailers hoping to take an omnichannel approach, knowing exactly who your customers are and how they have engaged with your brand is vital to ensuring consistent treatment across all touchpoints.

Although the modern customer journey is more fluid and flexible than ever before, shoppers still expect a single, seamless shopping experience. A shopper may choose to interact with your brand across multiple digital channels, jumping back and forth between mobile, web, and social, before completing their purchase. An omnichannel retail strategy may be complex, but if its based on a solid foundation of valuable data it allows retailers to support personalized, multichannel campaigns, along with unified data that enables you to accurately track and engage customers across all touchpoints.

In order to provide a unified experience, digital commerce tools must extend beyond the basic website and connect with each other and the customer. Retailers need to employ tools that track and collate client activity as customers move from channel to channel. This will ensure that no matter when or how the buyer reconnects with a particular retailer, the brand will have the insights needed to help them pick up exactly where they left off.

Retailers can use data to provide a more personalized experience online as well as physical stores while maintaining consistency of experience across all channels. Omnichannel retail and unified commerce bring everything together in a customer-centric, unified solution. This approach will improve the customer experience regardless of how they choose to shop and increase effectiveness across all channels.

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About the author

Anil is the Director of Technology at Zuci Systems. He is an industry evangelist in retail. With 17 years of experience, he has managed projects with Fortune 1000 companies and successfully implemented relevant technology for innovation in retail. Know more about him at Anil Kumar.