Retailers missing out on customer data insight

Despite a growing understanding that customer insight can have a direct impact on the bottom line, many retailers fail to access what’s available. This is because as few as 1 in 3 retailers have an information manager.

The latest research from Iron Mountain, Overcoming the Disconnect, includes information from a survey of over 900 mid sized businesses in the US and Europe. It reports that over  a third (38 per cent) of the retailers surveyed admit they don’t fully know what their records and information professionals do, and less than half (45 per cent) say the role currently adds significant value to the organisation.

This compares with the three quarters of business leaders in manufacturing (79 per cent) and energy (74 per cent) who say they understand clearly what their records and information managers do. Despite not knowing exactly what records and information managers currently contribute, 92 per cent of retailers believe information professionals should play an important role in making the most of the organisation’s information.

Harnessing the full value of customer data while keeping it safe and compliant is becoming increasingly important for success and brand reputation in consumer-focused businesses, and the retail sector was an early adopter of data analytics as a means to better understand its customers.

It is therefore important to understand why the contribution of records and information managers appears to be so misunderstood. One explanation could be that the records and information professionals employed by these businesses are confined to more traditional content types; with little responsibility for emerging and unstructured forms of content that are rapidly growing in importance and use in consumer sectors.

For example, around three quarters of records and information managers in retail businesses are responsible for the management of customer data (71 per cent) and email (76 per cent), with just a quarter involved with external social media content (29 per cent) and mobile communications (37 per cent).

However business leaders across all sectors are unanimous about the valuable skills the role could offer in the coming years. For around two-thirds, these skills include the ability to approach information with a strategic outlook and an awareness of wider business goals (61 per cent); the confidence to communicate effectively across other teams and departments (68%); the ability to make information easily accessible (64 per cent); along with compliance, security and digital transformation skills (62 per cent).

“While there are signs that the natural habitat of the records and information manager is disappearing, the future looks bright for those willing to adapt,” said Sue Trombley, managing director of thought leadership at Iron Mountain. “Companies in all sectors are becoming more customer- and data-driven. They want to exploit information where possible for business success and competitive advantage.”

She concludes, “As a result, customer-focused data flows are now getting as much attention as more traditional processes aimed at protecting information. Our study supports a view that records and information managers can play an active role in enabling the transition to a data-driven future. We urge them to embrace the new information landscape and to build the skills and expertise they need to thrive. Extinction is not a given, but evolution is inevitable.”