Big Data: The Exception or the Norm?

Big Data is the latest buzz word being tossed around, much like a beach ball at a Jimmy Buffet concert. I don’t think any of us would argue the enormous amount of data available for retailers to collect and leverage, but is using data to truly change the customer experience the exception or the norm?

For example, I recently bought a new media center. After shopping around and visiting a number of stores in the Atlanta area, I received an email offer from Pottery Barn inviting me to save 15% on an online purchase. Since one of their media consoles was high on my list of favorites, I went online, logged into my Pottery Barn account (no comments on my shopping behavior, please) and purchased the media console.

Three weeks later, I received an email from Pottery Barn entitled, “Is Your Media Room Up to Date?” Well, I could be wrong, but didn’t I just update my media room with them? If I had purchased in store, I could understand them not necessarily linking my purchase to my email address, but since I had logged in as part of my purchase, I would expect they would have the necessary data to know I shouldn’t receive that email.

In the grand scheme of things, is this a big deal? No. But did it make me stop and think about whether or not Pottery Barn even knows who I am? Yes it did.

Considering Delta can send me an apology email within 24 hours of me being stuck in the middle seat, and RueLaLa gives me a 24 hour head’s up when a brand I’ve bought before is coming back, maybe I just have higher expectations of big retailers. Enhance my customer experience and create an emotional bond with me. I’ll freely admit there is a line between personalizing marketing and being a stalker, but at the very least I would expect some effort should be made to acknowledge my relationship with you as a retailer.

While there are some organizations living up to the definition of ‘Big Data’, it’s clear many, if not most, continue to fall short.  The key for retailers will not be having the data, but using the data – and using it wisely.