The Center for Data Innovation spoke with Brian Cluster, the director for industry strategy at Stibo Systems, a Denmark-based company that produces enterprise software to gather, manage, and share data related to individuals and organizations as well as products and store locations across the information supply chain. Cluster discussed how retail businesses are adopting data management platforms at a time of significant disruption to respond to changing consumer expectations and needs during the pandemic and beyond.
This interview has been edited.
Sujai Shivakumar: Can you explain how Stibo’s data management platform works?
Brian Cluster: Data is the lifeblood of business. But as volume and complexity grows, ensuring data accuracy and integrity gets more difficult, contributing to a growing sense of uncertainty and distrust. And when data can’t be trusted, nobody wins. The Stibo platform drives business value by ensuring that end-to-end business processes and operations are fueled by clean, consistent, accurate, and up-to-date data. The open platform, broadly speaking, allows key data from across the organization to be consolidated, cleansed, governed, and shared consistently with any application, process, or user that requires it.
By providing trusted and consistent data, when and where it is required, our solutions empower companies to improve the customer experience, drive innovation and growth, achieve regulatory and corporate compliance, and create an essential foundation for digital transformation. Our platform provides the transparency they require and desire—a single, accurate view of their master data—so they can make informed decisions and achieve goals of scale, scope, compliance, and ambition. Indeed, our multidomain Master Data Management platform integrates key data, including all the people, places, and things that your business revolves around, from applications and sources, into our digital business hub, to create greater transparency for all types of data for our customers.
Stibo Systems uses digital workflows and governance through the acquire, manage, approve, and share states of data management to ensure that the right people gain access to the data whilst quality standards and business rules are set and met throughout the process. Once the data has met standards of completeness and sufficiency, the data is shared internally to improve operational efficiency and decision making and utilized by sales and marketing channels to personalize communication, enhance cross channel customer experiences, and capture revenue opportunities.
The platform is deployed flexibly, on premise or as a cloud solution, and is currently serving over 700 enterprise customers from a wide range of industries, managing data about customers, products, suppliers, locations, employees, assets and more in a single place.
Shivakumar: Why is location data critical for retailers and customers?
Cluster: 2020 was a tremendous year for disruption across all of retail. There were, according to CoStar, 40 major retailer bankruptcies and 11,000 store closures in the United States alone. The total number of store closures was a record and was 18 percent more than in 2019. And the landscape has changed, with many apparel and general merchandise retailers closing. Regardless of the market or language or culture, there were tremendous changes in the retail industry across the world, and we expect more in the next few years.
With many retailers evaluating their retail locations they realize that there may not be such a need for the density of brick-and-mortar retail as in the past. Many are electing to make one or more stores “dark stores” to serve consumer needs for digital order pickup and delivery options. Others are retaining their store base but adding more home delivery, curbside pickup, and in-store pickup options and even store-with-in-a-store concept.
With all these operational and tactical concerns across an entire chain of hundreds of stores, large retailers need a location-focused data management platform to aid in mastering the hundreds of attributes associated with a site and the data collected from stores, sites, and fulfillment centers. They need a means to update, govern, and share all this information with internal teams and external channels and listings. This trusted source of store information and store attribution can serve as the foundation for analytics, store planning, facilities management, supply chain logistics, and the real estate teams, as well as serving customers with the most up-to-date information about the location, hours, and services available at any given site.
Consumers have been resilient through the pandemic but are wary of all the changes that have occurred in retail markets. As digital-first consumers, they are actively searching online to understand the store layout, hours, and other information before heading into the store. By having a list of the departments, the services, maps for curbside pickup, or other shopping services available online, retailers can put consumers at ease, and help them make informed decisions.
Shivakumar: How can better data management enhance the retailer-consumer relationship?
Cluster: Consumers realize that many retailers use their data to communicate to them. From a consumer’s standpoint, it is a balance between privacy on the one hand and relevancy and value on the other. If they are sharing information to the retailer about how they want to be communicated to in different channels and general usage approvals, they expect the retailers to retain that information and use it appropriately—otherwise they may lose their customers’ loyalty. On the other hand, if the consumer has signed up for a loyalty program but has never received a single instance of contact then the retailer may also lose the customer because they are not getting any value out of the program.
Master data management co-exists and complements traditional loyalty and consumer relationship management solutions because it offers unique benefits of collecting all points of data from all marketing technologies, ecommerce, and customer service points of contact, then deduplicating customer data to have a single view of the individual customer. This highly enriched 360-degree view of customers serves as a trusted source for all customer marketing and messaging when operationalized, and it can build long-term loyalty.
Shivakumar: Can improving transparency assist in identifying counterfeits and other anomalies in the supply chain?
Cluster: Yes, master data management solutions such as ours at Stibo Systems can first certify the supplier through a systematic approval process and validate ownership details with integrated services with third parties such as Dun and Bradstreet. This will minimize some of those gaps and sources of counterfeit. The information about the supplier will help to gain deeper transparency in the supply chain.
From a product perspective, multidomain master data management solutions can be a source of truth for labeling and packaging information and, ultimately, validation. By having all the relevant pre-approved assets including label, stickers, and certifications, the retailer or manufacturers can compare the planned set of ingredients, weights, and dimensions of the product, and the packaging and the labeling versus the actual shipped product in the supply chain.
Shivakumar: What will be the main challenge for retailers in the post-pandemic period?
Cluster: Retailers are challenged to keep up a high experience level across omnichannel touchpoints. In the past year, according to McKinsey, three-quarters of consumers have changed their digital shopping behavior. This often meant a change in preferred brands or retail behavior. Consumers have a larger consideration set and the bar has risen, which can be hard to meet for many retailers.
Some of the specific challenges include online findability because many retailers have included additional items in their assortment online. This has broadened their reach, but they have also made it harder to find the products or save products for future trips. More product attribution and better search capability is needed as more chains add thousand more items to their online offering, potentially making it harder to navigate for their customers.
Another challenge is the personalization of messaging. Customers are being bombarded with messages via email and now via text and apps. It is important that retailers know how to deliver relevant messages in a manner that is consistent with the wishes of the customer. Using AI and predictive analytics can help bridge the gap to develop relevant offerings, but retailers need to execute this outreach with a sense of balance, so as not to seem too invasive.
Finally, retailers need to bring digital support into the store. Consumers’ expectations have been trained, with all the digital shopping completed in the past 12 months, to have more information at their fingertips. There can be a letdown when these consumers go back to the store in terms of where to locate items and how to find out more about them. Indeed, retailers have not invested in training store personnel to the degree that they have focused on digital systems linked to their product and customer data. Having a quality trusted source of product as well as customer data that can be used to enhance the in-store experience is on the docket for retailers looking to cement loyalty, post-pandemic.