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What Can Retailers Do With Their Customer Information?

Customer Data Marketing

For many businesses in retail, customer data is still an elusive thing. As a business owner, you probably know that collecting customer data is important, but knowing what to do with it afterwards is less straightforward. And knowing what you can legally do with retail customer data can seem more complicated still. So, what is retail customer data? What can retailers do with their customer information? And what legal issues need to be considered when handling customer data? 

What Is Retail Customer Data?

Retail customer data is information that retail businesses collect about their customers. This information is usually used to inform marketing strategies and to better target products and messaging to their ‘typical’ customers. It helps increase sales and customer loyalty. 

Although it seems retail customer data benefits the retailer more than the customer, this isn’t strictly true. Whilst yes, collecting customer data does help retailers personalise their marketing strategies and increase their sales through precision marketing, customers still benefit. 

By business owners and managers analysing customer data and using it to better inform the products they offer, the customers themselves benefit from a product range and offers that are more relevant to them – so everybody wins when retailers collect customer data.

What Information Can Retailers Collect About Their Customers?

If you’re a retail business owner who hasn’t yet started collecting retail customer data, you might well be wondering what details you ought to be collecting in the first place. As a rule, it’s a good idea to collect the following information about your customers:

  • Age
  • Gender 
  • Occupation 
  • Preferences 
  • Purchase history
  • Browsing data


Essentially, the customer data you collect should tell you who your typical customers are, and what shopping patterns they have. This will allow you to market your products much more effectively, creating a better relationship with your customers and increasing the amount of products you sell. 

Common Types Of Retail Customer Data

There are a few different types of customer data, and it’s important as a business owner or manager for you to understand what they are and why collecting them is important, so you can decide which data will help your business best.

Personal DataPersonal, or demographic data as it’s also known, is information relating to your customer’s age, income, ethnicity, occupation, D.O.B, address, marital status, educational information, etc. It essentially tells you who your customer is.
Behavioural DataBehavioural data is all about how your customer behaves – their shopping habits, and the traceable actions you can follow to show what they do in store or online. For example, what they purchased, when they purchased it, why they made that choice, what they didn’t purchase. It gives you valuable information about how your customers actually interact with your business.
Preferential DataPreferential data relates more to your customers’ likes and dislikes, and you may find differences between their preferences and what they actually buy. For example, they may prefer one product, but their price is off putting so they make do with another. This is all valuable information. It’s all about what they like and dislike, their loyalty to your brand and products, and why they choose to shop with you.
Identity DataIdentity data is not unlike personal data, only its focus is both on who your customer is, and when they’re most active in your store. Collecting identity data means you’re focussed on your customer’s name, email, phone number, and purchasing frequency and times. It’s about who your customer is and when they’re buying, so you can target them more efficiently.
Engagement DataIf you’re in the online retail space, then your business will find engagement data to be invaluable. It focuses on how your customers interact with your products – and it isn’t just about when they buy things. You can collect data about how long customers have spent looking at your products, which ones they added to their baskets or ‘favourited for later’, or which ones they looked at but left alone. This allows you to create more personalised ads and offers for the individual, and could help increase sales. 
Attitudinal DataAttitudinal data is all about what your customers are thinking and feeling when shopping with you. After all, a happy customer is much more likely to return to you. It also allows you to better align campaigns in the future with your customers’ desires, meaning you can target them more effectively. 

As you can see, there is a wealth of information you can collect about your customers through retail customer data. But knowing how to collect it, and better yet, how to use customer data in retail, is the other half of the battle. 

How To Collect Retail Customer Data

Knowing what data you want to collect is one thing, but deciding how to collect it is another. Nowadays, customers are more aware of their data, and rightfully so, meaning if they’re going to share their data with you, then you’ll need to give them a reason to. And how you collect their data is one way of doing this. 

Point Of Sale 

Collecting information at point of sale means you can collect information such as their name and purchase history. It won’t necessarily provide you with behavioural, preferential, or attitudinal data, but it’s a good way of collecting data about who your customers are and what they’re buying. There may well be a trend here worth exploring. 

You can collect information at point of sale in a number of different ways:

  • Card transactions – who they are and where they bought 
  • Physical customer loyalty cards – signing up at the till or using those cards to provide customer data
  • Vouchers – physical vouchers could be given out as part of a loyalty scheme, with customer information on it after they signed up – when used you can see which vouchers were most relevant to which customers, so you can better target them in the future


Customer Interaction 

Customer interaction or customer service is a great way to collect retail customer data. Through interaction you can collect almost any data, from personal data to more preferential and behavioural, so you could potentially create a much more detailed picture of who your customers are, what they’re buying, and why they’re buying them. You can then use this data to better inform your marketing strategies moving forwards. 

Using customer interaction as a data collection method can be done in a number of creative ways:

  • Customer service calls – when handling things like returns and complaints, you can collect valuable customer data that can be used to improve your relationship in the future
  • Surveys – either online or in store, you can get an idea about what your customers like and dislike, you could also make this more enticing with a voucher code at the end of it
  • Email marketing – by directly interacting with your customers through email you can target them more effectively, and email marketing also means you can analyse the customers’ interactions with the emails themselves, such as which were opened and which were deleted, so you can improve your campaigns
  • Loyalty programme information – by getting your customers to sign up to loyalty schemes you can better monitor their purchase behaviours and reach them more directly through app offers etc


Digital/Social Media Channels

It’ll come as no surprise to anybody in the business world that digital customer data and social media customer data is the fastest growing and (arguably) most valuable method of customer data collection out there. Even if you own a traditional retail business that doesn’t operate online, you’ll still want to consider leveraging digital and social media customer data collection methods as a way of gathering full-picture data about your customers. It provides you information about them, their behaviour, attitudes, and preferences, and their shopping habits, so it really is a great way of collecting retail customer data.

And it can be done through any of the following means: 

  • Website/app tracking – to tell you what they did whilst using your service
  • Social media – how do your customers interact with your social media accounts and what are they saying/asking for
  • Search engine data – what are customers searching for when looking at your brand name or business
  • Login information – when they set up their account they may provide you with their name, age, address, etc
  • History – what have they purchased online with you in the past, and how can you use that information to provide them with offers and information in the future


How To Use Retail Customer Data

Knowing how to use that customer data is vital if you want to create a marketing strategy that truly works. So, what steps do you need to take once you have your customers’ data to ensure it’s something that’s actually useful for your business moving forwards?


When you receive the data, it’s important to validate it. Make sure that the information you’ve gathered is accurate. The worst thing any business owner can do with customer data is assume it’s accurate without checking. 

Whether it’s a confirmation email to activate a loyalty account, or cross referencing name and address information to ensure it’s accurate. Even sending an offer leaflet to the individual’s address – all of this validates the data and ensures that it’s accurate. 

As soon as you know the information you’ve gathered is valid, you can be sure the following steps will lead to a strong marketing strategy to boost relations with your customers and increase sales. 

Data Storage (Legally Very Important!) 

Collecting data does have some legal points to consider – such as making the customer aware that you’re collecting data. That’s why many websites and apps for retailers have to give customers the choice between accepting cookies or not. That way, they’re agreeing to their website information being captured. Something similar will need to take place if you’re capturing customer data in store, too. You need to make them aware and tell them how that data might be used to help them in the future. 

But by far and away, the biggest legal concern with retail customer data is storage. Failing to do so correctly and allowing that information to fall into nefarious hands can land your business in serious trouble. Thankfully, there is something of an industry standard that’s easy enough to follow for retail businesses. 

Use a Customer Data Platform (CDP) to store information centrally on a secure database. Having all customer data in a secure location is vital to ensuring their data is safe. But from a business point of view, it makes sense to store all the data in one place too, as it means you can use it much more easily to inform marketing strategies moving forwards.


Before you can start strategising, you’ll need to segment the data. This is all about grouping your data into relevant categories. You can do this based on a number of factors that you might find useful from a marketing point of view:

  • Age groups 
  • Purchase types
  • Purchase frequency
  • Purchase location
  • Etc 


You can then use that data to effectively strategise.


Here is where you can really get the most out of the customer data you’ve collected. The data you’ve collected will tell you so much about who your customers are and how they behave, and that means you can leverage that information to create a marketing strategy that increases sales. 

Using analytic tools to gain greater insight into your data is a brilliant idea. Once your data is segmented, it’s ready to be looked at on a deeper level, so you can think which offers, products, and methods of communication are most relevant to your customers. 

Ultimately, customer data makes you a more effective business. 

What Can Retailers Do With Their Customer Information: Summary

Retailers can use their customer data to make them more effective marketers, improve relationships with customers, and increase sales. But in order to get there, it’s important that you know what data you want to collect and how you’ll use it to make you better at your job. Choosing an appropriate data collection method is also important, and then using that data wisely to inform your strategy moving forwards is vital. Get each step of the process right, though, and you’ll be able to use retail customer data to outperform your competitors and make your business a household name. 


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