BBQ Guys and Lowe’s discuss best practices for implementing AI tech
Bryan Wassel, Associate Editor, Retail TouchPoints
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.
Fine-tuning data science solutions to optimize results has been, relatively speaking, the easy part. Preparing people throughout the retail organization to take advantage of the new insights is the more complicated task, IT executives indicated on a panel at the 2019 Retail Innovation Conference.
“Executives like to believe that 99 percent of your time is spent on building the algorithms involved — but actually that’s the smallest part,” said Doug Jennings, VP of data and analytics at Lowe’s.
Teams across the organization must be educated on how these solutions will affect their jobs and have reasonable expectations about how much things will change. “We have to show some sort of roadmap of where we want to go,” said Jason Stutes, director of analytics & design at BBQ Guys.
One key ingredient is making a dashboard that is able to go through insights piece by piece, enabling marketers to understand the popularity of items beyond just how many were sold. A carefully built machine learning tool helps Lowe’s pull apart historical sales at a very granular level to see just what shoppers are looking for in any given category. Taking into account activities at nearby competing retailers can be invaluable.
Lowe’s created a team of “analytics translators” to serve as middlemen between the data science team and other departments, ensuring that everyone involved understands both what is happening and what is possible.
BBQ Guys sends out a data driven operating model (DDOM) every morning that gives employees outside of the data science team the opportunity to see what is being worked on without getting lost in technical jargon. Employees are encouraged to ask questions they might not otherwise bring up.
“They start asking how you build this and what it’s for, and that’s when we and the executives can all meet and say ‘We’re going to tie conversion rate to this’ or ‘We’re going to use linear attribution for this channel,’” said Mr. Stutes. “Before this I was having a meeting about the numbers, and how we were getting the numbers was going over everybody’s head. This kind of changed the game for us.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How can retailers reduce the learning curve around machine learning or AI tools for marketing, merchandising and other departments? What are the best routines for translating insights for department managers and employees?