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Everything must go: Why a data-focused cloud solution is the digital transformation that retailers need

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, shoppers have continued to demand greater personalisation, convenience and speed. Fractured data sources and a distorted view of the customer have long been major challenges to meeting and exceeding customers’ demands. With the pandemic greatly accelerating the shift to digital – the first half of 2020 saw five years of growth in online shopping’s market share in a matter of weeks - there is now an exciting solution to the problem of how to exceed customers’ expectations. A customer data platform (CDP) hosted on Google Cloud can expand the richness of online customer data to provide actionable insights to drive real value for retailers. Customer Data Platforms have existed for a while, but being able to custom build your CDP and own and control your data is significant, especially when also leveraging Google Cloud’s data analytics and machine learning/AI capabilities.

A CDP creates a unified consumer database that provides a complete 360-degree view of the customer by integrating data from multiple platforms to track their behaviours, interests and attitudes. It overcomes the frustrations caused by siloed systems that prevent retailers from enjoying a single, seamless interaction with the customer and allows a genuinely personalised relationship to be nurtured based on analytics and context.

With this surge in online shopping, a trend that is here to stay post COVID-19, retailers have had to prioritise a shift to digital to keep up. We have seen product availability become more important than ever. During the first wave of the pandemic more than 50% of consumers were willing to spend more on convenience to get what they need,2 with convenience being defined as on-demand fulfilment and inventory availability. Shoppers are prepared to spend more on ‘convenient’ shopping which places greater importance on a retailer’s online presence and delivering an excellent digital experience. This acceleration online is impacting established companies, as well as local shops and smaller online businesses.

The rapid transition to online shopping has generated an enormous surge in behavioural data which has the potential to provide deep, valuable insights on consumers – to an extent that we have not seen before. Having a single view of your consumer, and being able to capture and use behavioural data to personalise interactions, has never been more important.

The future looks digital

For retailers, the pandemic greatly accelerated the ongoing transition from bricks and mortar to a need for digitally-driven, omni-channel customer experiences. The stats speak for themselves, with online grocery shopping doubling to 12% of the market during 2020, and almost 60% of clothing shopping taking place online in January 2021.3 Online retailing overall rose by nearly 50% last year, the highest annual growth since 2008.4

The retailers that will thrive in this increasingly digital environment will be those who harness the power of cloud and leverage the potential of data, analytics and automation. It will enable retailers to achieve a holistic view of the customer, optimise their supply chain integration, maximise the efficiency of their inventory management, streamline the returns process and deliver sustainable packaging and distribution.

The future lies in predicting and exceeding the customer’s desires and expectations rather than merely responding and reacting to them. The ability to forecast demand and optimise convenience for the customer will be the key differentiators between those retailers who thrive and those that survive.

From satisfaction to delight

The rewards for those agile companies that successfully exploit cloud are enhanced efficiency, loyalty, sustainability and profitability.

In fact, Deloitte and Google Cloud’s recent work with a US retail department store demonstrates this. This major retailer was managing its digital media advertising through multiple media agencies, creating an ecosystem characterised by a fragmented ad tech stack, lack of transparency and poor control of data.

Using CDP on Google Cloud, it was possible to organise all their media data into one centralised location, to analyse the data to inform marketing decisions, and then use that data to drive insights and activations. The effect on the business has been transformational.

The client now has access to powerful insights on key metrics: user traffic and behavioural demographics;return on ad spend; products most frequently purchased together;links between customer online hits and in-store purchases. All of this has given the retailer greater flexibility to scale resources and react quickly at a lower cost.

Everyone’s a winner

What‘s more, the CDP on Google Cloud model is a proposition that can get buy-in across the entire C-Suite:

  • The Chief Operating Officer can predict trends and stock demand to meet customer needs across all channels, optimising inventory
  • The Chief Marketing Officer can get that essential data-driven 360-degree view of the customer - understanding behaviours, accurately pricing ranges, determining branding, and aligning marketing campaigns. They can turn all this data into real-time, actionable insights
  • The Chief Digital Officer and Data Officer can break down data silos and get a single source of truth across all channels, personalising the customer experience and improving decision-making
  • The Chief Information Officer can rein in IT costs; easily adopt fast, reliable, scalable technology; and address those all-important ethical concerns over data security
  • For the Customer Experience Officers who are readying themselves to address the critical societal issues of climate change, environmental sustainability and global supply chain management, the ability to forecast demand – in key areas like stock and resource levels – will be vital to helping them rise to this challenge

Retailers can benefit from these sorts of data-driven insights, enhancing the quality and speed of decision-making on everything from improved customer experience to supply chain management. The retail winners in the post-COVID-19 environment will be those that harness the agility, flexibility, scalability and data-driven insights of a CDP on Google cloud to optimise their offering and delight the customer.

Get in touch to find out how Deloitte and Google can transform your retail business.

1 Deloitte's 2021 Retail Trends Report

2 Deloitte, InSightIQ consumer survey, April 2020

3 Deloitte's 2021 Retail Trends Report

4 Deloitte Consumer Tracker Q4 2020

Meet the author

William Grobel


Will is a Director in Deloitte Digital, specialising in sales and marketing digital transformation. He works in the Consumer Business industry, helping clients increase customer engagement and sales by optimising marketing and sales activities and process through the provision of strategies, innovations and digital solutions. He is Chartered Marketer and has experience primarily across CPG, Retail sectors.

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