Four shifts are shaping retail data

Mar 02, 2016
Carol Spieckerman

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Spieckerman Retail blog.

A variety of intuitive and flexible analytics tools are arriving to finally help retailers make sense of the endless amount of data coming at them.

In a podcast with Graeme Noseworthy, senior content marketing manager with IBM Analytics, I recently shared four ways data analytics is transforming the retail industry:

From “less is more” to “bring it on.” Armed with a treasure trove of advanced analytical tools and user-friendly dashboards, retailers are finally gaining the confidence to open up the data fire hose. Moving forward, this will include integrating weather and social data into traditional retail data sets and harnessing IoT insights gathered from innumerable consumer devices and products. The implementation of these innovations won’t be without controversy, but the train has left the station when it comes to data diversity.

From data mandate to data inform. As retailers’ data confidence increases, a surprising shift is underway: gut instinct and creativity are back. Not that long ago, it was assumed that data would drive every important retail decision; today, retailers are taking a more balanced approach that includes the human touch. As one retail executive shared with me recently, “Retail is science and art, and the art comes from people.”

From data reporting to data story-telling. As data collection becomes commoditized, data storytelling will emerge as a major differentiator for retailers and for any company competing in the technology space. In a world of seemingly endless insights, and with many stakeholders involved, stories will unify and crystallize opportunities.

From “industry-itis” to embracing the blur. Solution providers tend to segment opportunities by industry, and many technology trade show floors are divided into industry-defined sections, such as telcom, healthcare and retail. While taking this approach may seem to highlight the diversity of applications for particular technologies, it ultimately limits possibilities. This is particularly true in retail, as more retailers become healthcare providers and as telecoms open retail locations. Now it’s time for technology companies to break out of the old silos and showcase how solutions address retail’s many new models and retailers’ new identities.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Which of the shifts in approach to data analytics will have the greatest impact on the way retailers operate? To take advantage of these developments, what needs to happen next in most retail organizations?

"Finally, the art of storytelling and the human influence principles are merging with hard analytics for retailers. This merged outlook has been slow-moving and I for one am delighted to see this from Carol. Instinct and guts really do matter, and data can help confirm or deny."

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12 Comments on "Four shifts are shaping retail data"

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Chris Petersen, PhD.

The greatest impact on the way retailers operate is the shift in consumer behavior of shopping anytime and everywhere. Along with this behavioral shift are the increasing consumer expectations for personalized experience and seamlessness across channels.

As a result, one of the biggest needs and developments in retail will be the shift from analyzing transactions at touch points to better understanding and managing holistic customer relationships and how to personalize across their multiple experiences regardless of where they occur.

Frank Riso

Data mandate to data inform appears to be a major breakthrough for retail. Having all the data is great, but unless the data tells us what needs to get done or how our customers will shop, it is just data. No one has the time to look at all the data but everyone has the need to understand what the data means and how to react to all the data. The real key is getting executives to not only understand the meaning of all the data but to have the courage to react to it even when the way it has been done for years needs to change. A major step using data management!

Ralph Jacobson

Great podcast, Carol! I think one of the greatest impacts beyond that of the emerging capabilities of technology, is the fact that retail will remain both an art and a science. The thoughtful injection of human expertise and opinion is critical to differentiation for retailers. Some retailers never lost this human touch. Others relied too much upon gut feel, and still do. Reliance upon technologies that close the knowledge and capabilities gaps for humans, along with the balanced input of the wealth of human experience, will be critical.

Anne Howe

Finally, the art of storytelling and the human influence principles are merging with hard analytics for retailers. This merged outlook has been slow-moving and I for one am delighted to see this from Carol.

Instinct and guts really do matter, and data can help confirm or deny. Finding the balance and being willing to take some risks to learn and then scale is the direction forward.

As a consultant, I have seen many executives shy away from these trends over the years, and I hope this article encourages more leaders to step forward and embrace the opportunity for better business results that these two principles can offer.

Zel Bianco

With the surge of data diversity coinciding with a movement towards allowing data to inform your more human decision making it is essential that companies streamline their data processes and make them as efficient at possible. This will allow those working with the data time to reflect on the information and craft compelling data stories with actionable insights.

Mohamed Amer

These shifts are very real, yet the reality of ongoing transformation isn’t about one specific shift but the underlying sea change driving the shifts. The consumer is dictating the terms by which they are willing to engage with brands and banners, and the eventual purchase.

On the consumer side, variety and diversity will reign in shopping scenarios and ultimate organizational agility and speed will be the must-have for retailers and other consumer-facing businesses.

Data is a major part of this emerging business model. However, if as an organization you don’t fully subscribe to the underlying and fundamental change to the relationship between consumer and retailer, then any shifts in data you try to implement will not stick.

Ken Morris

I believe that “From ‘less is more’ to ‘bring it on'” will have the greatest impact. Saber Analytics gives retailers another arrow in their quiver to win the hearts and mind of their customers. Data turned into actionable information to aid in the customer journey has never been more important than it is today. The art and science of retail need to adhere to a delicate balance of people, process and technology to make a retailer great. We have the opportunity to begin to leverage the vast amounts of data we now have available to us. We need to take advantage of 21st century math and science rather than the 19th century algorithms driving many retail solutions today. Integrating context information like weather and its forecast, natural disaster information, IoT, etc., gives us an incredible advantage. The trick will be how to use it in a natural way. We need to avoid the creep factor.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should!

Tom Redd

One of the points of impact for Big Data and analytics will be internally at the retailer’s operations. All of the external uses will progress, but the internal usage of the data is on a huge push and this especially aligns with supply chain management and performance across all other departments. Many internal areas inside retail ops are still lacking access to the data they need.

Big data is BIG — it is just that we have seen some retailers focus on leveraging it outside first to target markets, people, etc. and not enough using it to refine warehouse ops, merchandising processes and much more.

Ken Silay
Ken Silay
1 year 6 months ago

With the ability to collect and interpret data from many more places in the retail experience due to faster networks utilizing both the cloud and the edge, IoT devices and cognitive analytics, retail must start to redefine the metrics that are being used to review and improve the customer experience.

Historical metrics, essentially looking in the rear view mirror, will be driven by “metrics in the moment” of the transaction. Historical metrics such as Units Per Transaction (UPT) will be driven by metrics evaluating the performance of a recommendation engine that is employed to increase the number of items in a transaction. Increasing the effectiveness of the recommendation engine will naturally increase the UPT metric.

Matt Talbot

I think the largest shift is moving from vast amounts of unstructured data to easy-to-digest, real-time data that unveils actionable insights. Rather than investing in data analysts and scientists, retailers can turn to technology to provide the data insights necessary for success. With clear data rolling in from all of a retailer’s doors in real time, they can take quick and decisive action to improve their business.

Naomi K. Shapiro
Naomi K. Shapiro
1 year 6 months ago

“From data mandate to data inform” is the biggest concern. As Marketoonist Tom Fishburne says in his release this week on marketing vanity metrics, “Marketing is increasingly data-driven. But the data we choose matters.”

Here are some tips from Upstream Commerce about what needs to happen in retail organizations:

  1. Start strategizing early;
  2. Have a clear adoption plan;
  3. Think about the next step;
  4. Configure your intelligence solution to the different users and uses within your company;
  5. Finally, maximizing your data and translating it into actionable insights requires a serious internal thought process and planning.

More details and Retailer’s Guide: How Retailers Are Using Best Practices This Holiday Season To Maximize Data Outcomes & Optimize Revenues.

Mihir Kittur

We’ve noticed two of these emerging shifts with our customers too. Until recently, retailers were only analysing structured data within their firewalls or third-party data to make merchandising decisions. However, today we’re noticing that retailers are increasingly using outside-in analytics such as consumer search data, location, social media signals, etc. and synthesizing it with their internal data to derive more value from it. On the reporting front, there’s a growing interest in delivering more intuitive reports that help in consuming insights quickly. That is where data storytelling will help retailers generate more actionable and meaningful insights, even if one does not have an analytics background.

"Finally, the art of storytelling and the human influence principles are merging with hard analytics for retailers. This merged outlook has been slow-moving and I for one am delighted to see this from Carol. Instinct and guts really do matter, and data can help confirm or deny."

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