Asia Pacific’s e-commerce sector has witnessed astronomical growth in recent years – since the start of the pandemic, an estimated 70 million more people have begun shopping online in just six Southeast Asian countries alone. As we grow accustomed to new ways of work and play, it’s increasingly clear that some preferences have changed for good. For example, consulting firm PWC found that m-commerce had already reached a historic high by the end of 2021, and expects the habit to persist far beyond COVID-19.

Adapting to a hybrid way of life that straddles the digital and physical world, retailers and brands have looked to create a range of omnichannel experiences to reach and engage with customers. But, while this expansion of integrated channels brings with it exciting potential and opportunities, retailers have inevitably also found themselves facing a new and weightier obstacle — data overload.

Piecing together fragmented data

Customers are becoming more selective about who they share their data with and how much they’re willing to give away. For businesses that secure a spot on this coveted list, access to the data comes with a price; by openly sharing their data with retailers, customers expect a better understanding of their preferences, and consequently, a more personalized service. They’re even willing to pay more for service – or take their business elsewhere to find it.

This means that simply collecting and safely storing data away in a cloud somewhere to retrieve it occasionally isn’t good enough. Brands need to effectively and consistently be analyzing and utilizing their omnichannel data to elevate the customer experience through data-driven decisions.

However, distilling insights from data — typically strewn across multiple channels, departments, applications, and systems – isn’t a walk in the park. If anything, an increase in channels coupled with volatile market conditions can lead to organizations becoming less data-driven as they rush to respond to the evolving landscape — whether they’ve been able to find the data to support their decisions or not.

In Informatica’s 2021 global CDO study, complexity and fragmentation was the top challenge cited by CDOs — especially in Asia Pacific. According to the research, 82% percent of Asian organizations are using more than 100 data sources, and 32 percent are using more than 1,000 sources. These figures were higher than any other region.

Without proper data management in place, data can quickly become siloed, outdated, and inaccurate, ultimately intensifying many pain points. Without access to a single source of truth, marketing efforts relying on disparate data or even intuition can result in ineffective pricing and promotion strategies. Retailers may suffer from increased customer churn due to the inability to personalize preferences based on changing consumer patterns. They may even incur higher operating costs due to inefficient processes.

Driving hyper-personalized customer experiences

Intelligent data management — one that is cloud-native and powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning — is key to retailers’ better understanding and serving their customers. Among many other advantages, two big benefits include:

Elevating experiences with intelligent automation

Creating an intelligent 360-degree view of the customer by capturing data from different touchpoints, the power of data management in the cloud helps brands learn more about their customers. For instance, by enabling retailers to apply AI and Machine Learning to customer behavior data, they can automatically identify customer attributes and important life events, allowing them to optimize offers and deliver highly personalized experiences. Coupled with an understanding of demographics, device preferences, service history, and more, businesses can become more well-versed with data insights to better serve their customers.

There are already some great examples of retailers effectively managing their data. Unilever, for example, adopted Informatica’s Intelligent Data Management Cloud (IDMC) for its customers and product data management capabilities. By improving customer profiles with clean, consistent, and complete information, and subsequently providing rich online product content to drive purchase decisions, the solution supports Unilever in creating hyper-personalized customer experiences.

Securing data to strengthen customer trust

It’s important to remember that while customers continue to expect personalization, more and more are also paying attention to what kind of data is being collected and used. Coupled with ever-changing data privacy regulations, this makes it extremely difficult to navigate the consumer sentiment and nuances of different jurisdictions. In this digital-first world, breaches and lapses in privacy can easily erode customer trust and loyalty.

Intelligent data management provides organizations with full visibility of the data that is available for use and across enterprise widely governed by a set of data privacy and protection framework. This is vital to ensure that retailers remain compliant with data privacy regulations, reduce risks of exposure, and can safely derive intelligent data insights for decision-making. It ultimately also helps to build loyalty and reinforce relationships with their customers.

Take for example HelloFresh, the world leader in the meal-kit business. HelloFresh needed to scale up their data analytics to keep their customers happy, manage costs and stay ahead of competitions. During the pandemic, demand forecasting became even more critical for the company. However, with a proper data governance solution in place, HelloFresh employees were empowered with trusted, high-quality data enabling them to fulfill customer orders, and better manage logistics and food capacity in the warehouses.

Deriving value from data in a digital-first world

Though more people are returning to physical stores, online shopping continues to soar. There won’t be a “back to normal” in the sector – with constantly evolving market needs and consumer demands, the intelligent data management platform retailers embrace must be agile and scalable to support data-driven and customer-centric business operations and decision making.

Creating a unified view of the customer is a critical step that will go a long way in helping retailers ultimately win hearts and minds of customers. But to achieve this, data management must go beyond where you put data and instead, it should provide a single-trusted view for what you do with it. Data should be organized in a way that helps cut through the noise and nurtures trust – paving the way for unique customer experiences that help retailers show that the relationship isn’t merely transactional. It’s personal.

Manouj Tahiliani, General Manager, Master Data Management (MDM) and Business 360 solutions at Informatica, is a veteran in the data management industry and a thought leader with 20+years of experience in cloud data innovation. Manouj has been an MDM evangelist even before it was a recognized industry term and has led the operationalizing of MDM and transformation from platform technology to packaged solutions. He brings vast domain expertise that spans initiatives like Customer Experience (CX), Customer Data Platform, and Analytics along with technologies like Cloud Native, Data Management, and Big Data. Manouj has multiple patents in the data management space and is a sought-after speaker on market trends, digital transformation and data-led business innovation.

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