Big Data is all that, except when it isn’t
I’ve got a problem with Big Data. It’s not that I don’t believe that insights gathered from a variety of data points can put retailers in a better position to serve me, their customer. It’s just that while retailers may be saying they are doing a better job of using my personal data to reward me for past behavior and to anticipate my future needs, it’s not so clear to me. I certainly have not seen enough to make me want to share more information that I currently am.
So, what’s wrong with Big Data? Here are two quick takes.
1. Insufficient data: Retailers are making recommendations and presenting offers based on an incomplete set of data. Using my REDcard data, for example, may give Target information to tailor offers that I would find a value. But what about those products I purchase from other retailers instead of buying at Target or on target.com? What about purchases I make at Target for which I pay cash or use another card? The chain doesn’t know what it doesn’t know, and fact-based decision-making only goes as far as the facts will take you. In most cases, it only takes you part way.
2. Analytical inertia: Many retailers simply aren’t using data to move the needle. While IT pros often talk about the advancements they’ve made in analytics, a precious few businesses are actually using the insights gained in strategically significant ways, from what I’ve observed. I’ve heard from some that this is a management and cultural issue. The data says do A, but the CEO says B is the answer. Others have told me that chains simply do not have the capacity (human and/or technological) to properly analyze the data captured. This has been an issue since the creation of the UPC code. Wouldn’t you have thought we’d be further along by now?
I don’t know if retail can close the gaps I’ve identified as well as others I’ve missed. Maybe some have figured it out already. Perhaps others are close. It could be that Big Data provides some good answers, just not all of them. Without the hype that has been attached to Big Data since the beginning, that may be good enough. Maybe it will have to be.
What is your take on the advancements (or not) retailers are making in the use of data capture and analysis? Is it all leading to significantly improved customer experiences down the road, or something less?