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Consumers demand personalization. A unified data platform can help.

Between inflation, supply chain challenges, and increased customer acquisition cost, retailers are facing serious headwinds as they adapt to a changing ecosystem and better serve their customers. The evolution of shopping behaviors and expectations are making it even more difficult to capture share of wallet. But as consumer habits swing decisively toward personalized shopping experiences, retailers have a unique opportunity to transform themselves by leveraging their data with AI-driven insights.  

Nearly half of consumers expect specialized treatment for being loyal customers, and 76% of consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that personalize engagement. When it comes to creating a more personal, engaging customer experience, data is everything. For businesses, personalized experiences offer an opportunity to cross-sell or upsell to increase basket size. In order to create personalized customer experiences, retailers need to be able to blend internal and external data to generate real-time insights into customer interactions. 

Retailers are sitting on a ton of valuable data to inform personalization efforts. However, a lot of them are not able to maximize the value of their data, especially considering the impact it can generate.

The problem? Too much of retailer data is unstructured, siloed or otherwise unusable. Azure Synapse Analytics offers a solution that allows businesses to transform the customer experience by bringing all of their data into one place and using intelligent tools to get valuable insights. 

Retailers need a new approach to data

AI can help with the challenges businesses are facing — but AI needs good data in order to work. Traditionally, different data management vendors serve different functions at a business, such as loyalty, marketing, or transaction history. These various vendors, ranging from warehousing services to industry-specific database providers, effectively create data silos. It’s a complicated approach to data management and can create headaches as companies struggle to manage multiple contracts and conflicts between vendor services. Furthermore, fragmented data leads to lack of understanding about customer needs and expectations, presenting a major roadblock in building the shopping experiences customers crave.

A streamlined approach can help. Templatizing complex data and analytic needs that previously had to be organized manually makes it easy for businesses to plan and design data solutions and increase speed to market. Industry-specific database templates help retailers get the insights they need to understand customers and their shopping habits. For example, retailers can use Azure Synapse’s database templates as blueprints to understand key details surrounding a customer’s purchase, from what they’re buying to whether or not the customer is part of a loyalty program. 

As an all-in-one tool, Azure Synapse provides multiple capabilities, including foundational analytics and data-shaping tools, which help businesses leverage data from applications and services across different business areas, like product, sales, marketing and operations. Azure Synapse also empowers businesses to incorporate unstructured data into their data estate, helping them uncover insights that might have otherwise been overlooked. 

By breaking down silos, connecting structured and unstructured data, using industry-specific tools and leveraging data services all through the same platform, businesses can generate a more comprehensive view of their customers’ needs and expectations and satisfy their need for personalized experiences.

Leveraging data for a holistic view of customers and their purchases

Image Credits: Getty Images

The power of data isn’t just about showing people the products they want — it’s providing them with the information they need.

When a leading gift delivery service decided to expand its business strategy from occasion-based gifting to everyday shopping, the company needed to build a clearer view of its customer data to understand shopping behaviors and figure out how to serve customers in meaningful ways. A data warehouse supported by Azure Synapse Analytics offered the tools the company needed to learn more about their customers and change their perception of the brand as more than just a source of gifts for special occasions. With everything in one place, the business no longer needs to worry about siloed data and can instead focus on offering personalized promotions, encouraging meaningful gifting experiences and spreading joy to their customers.

It’s essential for retailers to have access to data that paints a fuller picture of both their customers and the operational logistics surrounding a purchase. Azure Synapse Link, a cloud native hybrid transactional and analytical processing capability (HTAP), enables businesses to run near real-time analytics over operational data, offering access to supply chain analytics, forecasting and reporting. 

When businesses synthesize different data sets to ensure each piece of data works together, they can paint a full picture of individual customers and the logistics surrounding their potential purchases, factoring in everything from supply chain hiccups to omnichannel experiences. Azure Synapse brings these different types of data together and gives businesses the tools they need to uncover insights and drive strategic business decisions.

Reimagining the customer journey

With the right data in hand, the next challenge is to create a seamless experience whether consumers are shopping in-stores, online or both. So far, businesses aren’t living up to their customers’ expectations: 72% of consumers say they only engage in personalized marketing from a retailer, but only 23% believe retailers are doing a good job of creating personalized experiences

So how do you create effective personalized experiences? A customer engagement solution can help. The Microsoft Customer Experience Platform, powered by Azure Synapse, helps retailers directly connect with customers, predict customer intent to deliver the right content in the right channel at the right moment and deliver connected customer experiences across every touchpoint. 

Azure’s cloud technology and analytics services help brands unlock data-driven innovation. For instance, a global fashion brand uses Microsoft’s Store Lens platform to gamify in-store shopping with experiences like treasure hunts for customers to unlock hidden deals — a feat that wouldn’t be possible without a deep understanding of customer behaviors. Along with the Store lens, retailers can let customers know that specific products they may be interested in are in-stock when they’re near the store and offer innovations like electronic checkout to make the shopping experience even more fluid for customers. 

By using low-latency and tunable consistency settings to get immediate insights, Azure Synapse also allows retailers to generate the personalized recommendations customers crave in real time. Through Azure Synapse and the Microsoft Customer Experience Platform, retailers have everything they need to effectively connect with consumers at every key moment. 

Consumer expectations and the shopping experience itself are changing rapidly. No matter where or how they’re shopping, consumers crave authentic, personalized experiences. Retailers know they need to act fast to stay on top of digital trends — and Azure Synapse makes it easy to harness the power of data and transform the customer journey. 

Learn more about how Azure Synapse Analytics is 380% faster and costs up to 49% less than other cloud providers: Azure Synapse vs AWS vs Google — Compare Analytics | Microsoft Azure

Download this Gartner white paper to read about over 100 Data & Analytics Predictions through 2025: Gartner® Data and Analytics Predictions | Microsoft Azure