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Big data for retailers

The business world in which we operate is full to the brim of buzzwords and phrases. Big data is one of them. A lot has been written about the subject extolling its virtues. But unsurprising to us at George Bailey many retail business are becoming frustrated by the notion of big data. A recent Guardian article revealed how big data for retailers is being regarded sceptically. We explore why that is:

Reason 1: We tend to jump to conclusions and pigeon-hole things

What big data is to one person might be smallish data to another. It’s become a catch-all term like customer insight or CRM, which has many definitions or interpretations. Thought leaders coin a phrase. Others hear it; some misinterpret or misuse it. Soon enough everyone’s using it loosely.

As a service provider it’s our job to help clients understand that big data for retailers isn’t:

  • Necessarily something to worry about because in some cases smaller retail businesses simply won’t have enough data to warrant a big data solution.
  • A bad thing, when approached with the right philosophy.

Retailers, no matter what their size need to think more about which bits of data they need to be brought together to gain really helpful insight that can drive a commercial advantage. We call it the SMART data approach.

  1. Know what you want to achieve
  2. find out what you need to know to achieve it,
  3. then go find the specific data elements required. Don’t start with masses of data and see what it can give you.

Once you’re clear on that then you can understand if you need a high-powered big data solution or something simpler that still allows you to focus on making more informed decisions.

Reason 2: We get caught up in the attraction of new technologies.

The love we hold for the latest gadgets and widgets has seen a dramatic rise in technology businesses, which serve retail and other sectors. But we so often hear that businesses, small ones too, have invested in technology but not leveraged it to its potential. This isn’t a reason to dismiss big data for retailers. It is however a warning that such solutions rarely solve problems with the push of a button.

Reason 3: We don’t have the time to think about how to leverage any data, let alone ‘big data’

Time is something we all wish we had more of. So some retailers don’t take any or enough time to understand the bits of data they have, which will help them ultimately sell more product. On the flip side some retailers have staffed up and invested considerably in the data analytics area. But so often the emphasis on these teams is reporting. Consequently data gets re-packaged and still requires interpretation by those decision-makers. In both cases the retailer needs to adopt a SMART data philosophy, which will help make better commercial decisions more quickly.