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Ways to Improve Customer Data Tracking for Sales Insights

The amount of customer data available for businesses to study and learn from is expanding rapidly. However, you must learn how best to use the insights you glean from this data in order for it to have any value to you. Here are eight ways to improve customer data tracking for sales insights.

1. Leverage the Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT in retail can have a great impact on how customers shop and the data trends that occur. The flexibility and customizability of IoT streamline and simplify the process for customers and expand the utility of Point of Sale (PoS) data. With IoT, customers can access information and online retailers from almost anywhere and at any time. You can benefit from IoT, too. You can use it to understand how to market and sell to individuals and wider customer bases, keep track of the ways people prefer to shop and pay and improve the shopping experience with personalization so customers are more likely to enjoy shopping with you.

2. Automate Tracking and Collection
Artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms are increasingly capable of not only collecting data but interpreting and extrapolating it as well. You can leverage these programs to automate all or part of the data collection process, excising the risk of human error in the process. You can also use certain programs to make predictions, perform experiments and suggest possible strategies based on the data available.

3. Track in Real-time
Keeping up with data trends in real-time is essential to understanding patterns and staying on top of movements in the market. With the speed and availability of the internet, customers can make decisions and change their minds faster than ever, which means data moves faster too. You need to be able to collect data as soon as possible, analyze it quickly and determine insights from it as fast as you can in order to keep up with your customers.

4. Integrate Databases
If you don't integrate your databases and systems, you'll only be creating more work for your teams. The best way to streamline the data collection and analysis processes is to create one master database and use one or a small set of programs to interpret and distribute that data. If you store your data in two or more different databases, you're at an increased risk for errors, incompatibility between systems, the inability of people to access information and redundancy. However, with an integrated database, everything will be consistent, readily available and synced across your organization.

5. Track Interactions and Identifiers
You should track and analyze not only customer data regarding final sales but the interactions and identifiers related to customer purchases, as well. Seek to understand the steps customers took to make their purchases. These include how long items were in someone's card before he or she placed the order, how many different items or versions of an item the customer considered before making a decision and whether the customer removed anything from his or her cart. You should also track identifiers that will help you understand your market segmentation and niches, such as the customer's name, age and gender.

6. Include Behavior-related Data
As the amount of data available increases, it's essential to differentiate various types of data and use them appropriately. There may be important insights to glean from customer data unrelated to purchases, such as the effectiveness of your marketing strategies or the navigability of your site. Did the customer find your site via a search engine, social media or a hyperlink? How many pages did he or she visit and how long did it take for him or her to find what was needed?

7. Maximize Point of Sale Data
Because PoS data can provide accurate snapshots of trends, sales and performance, it's vital you maximize its usefulness. Make sure your sales and marketing teams have access to good training and software to collect and analyze PoS data. This type of data is incredibly versatile, so you can leverage different aspects of it depending on your business model, sales structure, goals and metrics. These analyses include sales and profit analysis, trend data over time and distribution analysis.

8. Manage Complexity and Ambiguity
You must be willing to consider restructuring and experimenting with various methods in order to manage complexity and ambiguity in data tracking and sales insights. Your sales organization in particular must be able to restructure itself quickly to develop efficient and effective performance based on customer data. You also need your organization to be willing to think outside the box and try new things in marketing and sales. The data can only take you so far; you must be able to put it to good use and learn from what you gather.

As customers do more of their shopping and socializing online, tracking data for sales insights will become increasingly vital and increasingly difficult to do. Beginning to leverage these strategies and tools now can help you stay ahead of the curve.