Everywhere you look, across every sector data is being used but is often underutilized. We call this Dumb Data.

While many industries have mastered the ability to leverage data, the retail sector is a bit behind. Elevated consumer expectations are forcing retailers to connect with customers on a more intimate level. In order to accomplish this, retailers need to leverage Smart Data.

There are two important rules for retailers to make the most of this Smart Data:

Rule 1: Aggregate. Data must be aggregated in order to be accurate. Collecting information around customer purchase history, shopping behaviors and preferences is crucial. The biggest mistake many retailers make is collecting data in silos that do not talk to each other, resulting in databases of information that mean nothing. Instead, data needs to be collective and accessible across all channels and touchpoints.

I want to explain the benefit of aggregated and accessible data. Retailers today operate in several channels across a number of markets. Thus, the ability to deliver customers with personalized services can be a challenge. Smart Data gives retailers access to information across every level of the organization. Furthermore, Smart Data easily allows retailers to make informed decisions on how to best connect with customers across different channels and markets.

For example, any retailer anywhere should be able to see a complete profile of all previous customers. The profile should display a comprehensive breakdown of engagement activities and shopping behaviors across all channels. These profiles should be easily accessible by corporate and store employees alike. That is the Marketing Director in San Francisco should see the same customer profile as a store associate in Brooklyn.

Rule 2: Activate. Data must be actionable to generate real change. It is one thing to spend time collecting data across channels, but without a method in place to digest data, many retailers are left with the inability to effectively process the information. The power of Smart Data can be leveraged to break down complicated analytics into easily digestible relevant portions.

Having access to data across every channel and touchpoint can quickly become overwhelming for many managers, resulting in frustration and confusion. The power of Smart Data gives retailers the ability to organize and filter data using technology platforms. Thus, no matter the employee, data on engagement activities and shopping behaviors can quickly and efficiently be broken down to generate valuable insight into specific problems or needs.

For example, a store manager viewing a customer profile should have access to a technology tool that allows him or her to quickly understand this consumer data, and make the most informed accurate decision. This insight generating data platform, whether produced internally or developed by a partner, should provide every employee with the ability to apply Smart Data to their decision-making.

Armed with a better understanding of Smart Data below is a review two retailers who have done a good job of aggregating and distributing actionable data. British fashion house Burberry, made famous for its check print and trench coats knows a thing or two about leveraging Smart Data. Each associate has the power of individual customer data at their fingertips. All associates carry iPads that contain information on every single prior customer. To give you an example, if a repeat customer walks through the door, an associate can not only greet them by name, but by specifics of their shopping history i.e. “How did your wife like the trench coat you purchased for her birthday?”

A second retailer, Timberland has also done a good job of leveraging Smart Data. The outdoor footwear and apparel retailer recently launched a new store concept that employs interactive touchpoints to create more meaningful connections with customers. The touchpoints transform the traditional shopping experience into a conversation between the customer and the brand. The system is designed to deliver unique location specific content to individual stores. Furthermore, customers can provide feedback that is captured and leveraged as intelligent data for the brand.

Retailers that are able to leverage Smart Data to provide these types of personalized customer experiences will encounter success. There is window of opportunity to implement systems for Smart Data usage to get ahead of the customer curve. Those who capitalize on the opportunity and implement a structure to aggregate and apply data will stay smart, while those who do not will remain dumb and experience increased difficulty as they attempt to demonstrate value to their customers.