The holidays may be over, but it's never too early to prepare for the next gift rush. A customer data platform helps you prepare for the next toy craze before you even know what the toy is.
Last year, retailers couldn't keep Hatchimals in stock. In 2017, Fingerlings, L.O.L. Surprise! dolls and the Nintendo Switch flew off the shelves as parents clamored to fulfill their children's wish lists. Year after year, it seems impossible to predict what toy craze will send consumers into a frenzy the next year.
For parents, retailers and everyone else in the holiday gift supply chain, predicting the next hot item doesn't have to be as difficult anymore. Thanks to the data collected by the retailers themselves, marketers, toy manufacturers and shipping partners, retailers have more than enough information to figure out what consumers will want. If they could share that information and analyze it, they would be able to spot toy trends earlier, get them to market more efficiently and, most importantly, ensure there is enough supply to meet demand. Now that will make for one happy kid, and an even happier – and relieved – parent who feels like they finally nailed the gift of all gifts.
Yes, it comes down to data, but the good news is that we are not in 1980 anymore. There is a trove of data from prior years at retailers' disposal that can offer valuable insight into the next big toy trend.
Retailers can examine data from prior Black Fridays and other peak shopping periods to identify customer preferences, such as when they like to shop, what they buy, what they don't buy, what deals they respond to and what features they look for. But we all know that shopping doesn't only happen online. Consumers like you and I exist beyond our screens, and we may return an item, call a support line or actually go into a store from time to time.
Retailers can use all this information – which is frequently strewn across multiple systems and applications – to predict future sales, offer incentives for repeat purchases and ultimately better connect with their consumers. However, finding that information and using it in a timely manner is probably the single greatest challenge for retailers in 2018. Increasingly, retailers are using what's known as a customer data platform (CDP) to bring this data all together from different channels and make it accessible to the right people within the organization at the right time. The data, including what was purchased, when and by whom, can then help identify when people may be purchasing the hot new toy – even before anyone knows what the toy is.
This allows sellers to reach buyers based on how their buyers interact with them, rather than in a generic manner. Increasingly, with all the talk of machine learning, retailers are getting really good at predicting what their customers will do or want before the customer acts.
For example, you can analyze hot toys using past Black Friday buying data, including demographic, social, in-store, mobile and online information. You can then take it one step further and identify regions or households that are purchasing the hot toy and when, as well as monitor social media and other channels for chatter related to the toy. This would allow you to identify the "Christmas in July" shoppers, predict the next hot toy, ensure that you can fulfill demand come Black Friday, and target other households likely to buy the same toy with personalized marketing.
A customer data platform, used effectively, provides toy marketers and their supply chain the solid intelligence they need to monitor buying behavior, anticipate inventory and respond with marketing offers to remove the unknowns. The data is there, somewhere. The holy grail is connecting that data to get a jump on the next big toy craze.