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January 26, 2017

Think of the last time you made a purchase you absolutely loved. A hand-crafted bowl from a local artist. A spontaneous ticket to a dream destination.

At the 2017 National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York City, companies showcased how they are striving to create these types meaningful customer-product connections using data.

For the executives at The Home Depot—a company with personalization and community at its core—here are some takeaways for how retail is getting more personal through data.

Enhancing Interconnected Shopping

Ever bought something online and picked it up in-store? What about reading a review of a product on your smartphone as it sits in front of you on the shelf?

If yes, then you’ve experienced the benefit of a fluid retail experience across channels.

Companies like Adobe use data to help make these processes even more seamless. “Adobe software is behind the scenes and helps us with insights and analytics in real-time. It allows us to change the website to make the customer experience more personal and relevant to their interests,” said Kevin Hofmann, CMO and President-Online of The Home Depot.

Imagine shopping online for tiles and caulk to retile your shower, not even knowing you also need spacers, mortar and a level to complete the project. Adobe can help direct users to all the tools they need to complete the project.

Kevin Hofmann at Adobe booth
Kevin Hofmann interacting with Adobe technology at NRF’s Big Show 2017.

Bolstering Brick and Mortar

As Dave Abbott, VP of Integrated Media and Online Marketing puts it, “Sometimes you just need to buy a lightbulb. But customers expect the light bulb to be in stock, and data can help ensure this happens.”

Data can also help retailers better plan exactly what’s in stock and when.

A store in Buffalo would have different product assortments and quantities – for, let’s say, snow shovels – than a store in Virginia Beach, based on current demand in that area. But come spring, both areas know they’ll have demand for bathing suits. That’s pretty obvious, but not so for all products.

“Retailers are learning to balance the art and science of merchandising, and data’s a big part of that,” said Abbott. “Data can help companies anticipate customers’ wants and needs based on frequency, seasonality, weather patterns, perishability, basic historical replenishment trends, and more.”

NRF panel discussion
Dave Abbott discussing data on a panel at NRF’s Big Show.

Putting Your Stamp on the Product

“Identity is the core of personalization,” said Jeff Rosenfeld, VP of Consumer Insight at fashion company Neiman Marcus, during an NRF panel discussion. With a virtually endless amount of options, cookie-cutter solutions don’t cut it in an era of self-expression, where the products we own are an extension of our identity.

Many retailers have focused on providing options for customization like never before. Nike, Vans, and Reebok now let shoppers design their own custom kicks. Indochino designs and tailors suits to any gentleman’s style. Fossil provides the pieces to create watches as unique as their wearers. This, said Rosenfeld, is just the tip of the iceberg for companies exploring customization options.