Can storytelling transcend technology?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Spieckerman Retail blog.
Despite the rush among many retailers to establish technology-driven platforms, several conversations and presentations given during the recent IBM Insight conference confirmed my ongoing belief that another skill set will soon take center stage. Data storytelling should emerge as a major differentiation-driver for retailers and for any company competing in the technology space going forward, for several reasons:
Stories will trump transactions: The world of "user-declared" data is exploding, as are the accompanying advances in visual data interpretation and social listening, including advanced Twitter analytics. Therefore, the stories that consumers tell about their lives, not just the data about the purchases that they’ve made, will become more visible and actionable. Consumers’ stories and multi-touch point journeys will inform retail decision-making and brand creation as never before. Retailers will have an unprecedented opportunity to gain a multi-dimensional view of their customers, and there will be innumerable angles from which to approach personae creation and other segmentation strategies. In a world of seemingly endless insights, stories will unify and crystallize opportunities.
Internal evangelists will be needed: Mike Weaver, Coca Cola’s group director of data strategy, emphasized the need to remain "resolute" against internal opposition to data insights. Holly Devine, Urban Outfitters’ executive director of planning, spoke of her organization’s "disbelief" upon seeing the "real nature" of some of Urban’s customers uncovered, to include their ages and locations. She spoke of the need to "trust data that contradicts" one’s intuition and, at the end of the day, to be more focused on winning the war than individual data-driven battles. Clearly, it takes more than numbers on a spreadsheet to win teams over regarding data’s dividends, and the ability to articulate these benefits in a way that resonates with multiple functional areas is critical. In the end, resistance to data may prove futile, but progress can be delayed if teams aren’t on the same page.
Data-sharing will be subjective: Soon, the days of "vendor-managed" operations will be a bygone era as retailers build ever-more valuable stockpiles of data, leveraging the many tools showcased at Insights. It’s already happening. My supplier, brand marketing and solution provider clients tell me that they are having to "earn" access to retailers’ data. Retailers tell me that when they do divulge their data insights, they expect immediately actionable, above-and-beyond takeaways in return. Simple analysis and observation won’t cut it. The data stories that suppliers deliver to retailers will impact their future access. Ultimately, the data-earning arguments that suppliers craft will make the difference between having a competitive advantage and losing it.
What role does storytelling play in data interpretation? Will storytelling emerge as a retail differentiator and, if so, where will it have the most impact?