Customer Empathy is key

A friend of mine wanted to explore analytics for a particular branch of a retail chain of grocers.

So, I started to do some homework on what would be suitable use cases for doing a pitch with the branch manager. The typical ideas include supporting on revenue and profits, customer catchment area, pilferage and wastage analysis. I also thought about Market Basket Analysis, Loyalty analysis where we could bring advanced analytical techniques.

I tried to put myself into mindset of the end consumer and tried to identify a problem statement. So, when my wife asked me to go to a local grocer for some purchases, I decided to go to a similar shop and decided to get the shoppers experience. My wife had given me a list of items to purchase with decreasing order of priority. After spending 20 minutes, I realized that the top item in the list was not there. Because I didn’t want to stand in the billing queue twice, I decided to buy all my items in the next shop.

A light bulb moment, when I realized that because of this 1 item or the lack of it, the shop lost the revenue of 10 other items it may have sold to me. I wondered how many times this shop had lost revenue like this. So, I thought maybe this is an opportunity for data analytics. I decided to talk to the manager on this concept. He said that it was difficult to get the data. Of course, I was prepared for this excuse. Trying to be smart, I asked him, why don’t you ask the cashier to ask a simple question to the consumer, ‘did you find everything you looked for?’ and simply write down what the customer didn’t find. We could then do an analysis at the end of the day or month.

The manager then made the following comment. Have you noticed that customers spend a long time in the shop like 20, 30 or 40 minutes lazing around? I answered affirmatively, as I am one of them. He then said, “Now make the customer to wait an extra 30 seconds in the billing counter and see how wild he gets?” For a moment, I thought he was talking about me, but then I got his point.
His key business requirement is to get the customer from one end of the line to the other side as soon as possible and the not the revenue itself. I didn’t have an immediate answer to his point, but we could figure out that later.

What I learnt that day is unless you talk to the people on the ground, whose problem you are trying to solve, no matter how imaginative and creative you are with the solution, you are not really solving it. Customer empathy is key

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