This morning in San Diego, retail CIOs discussed some key issues shaping the industry today, a big one among them—Big Data. Three questions framed today’s NRFtech session on Big Data: What is it? How can retailers use it? And where on earth do you start? The presentation, which included insights from Gaurav Pant, Research Director, Edgell Knowledge Network and Todd Michaud, Founder and CEO, PowerThinking Media, was a bit of straight-talk addressing the enormous opportunity of Big Data, but also the reality of the big challenges it presents.
Pant cited a recent study that reported that 80 percent of retailers are aware of Big Data, yet only about 40 percent know how to use it in their business. While Michaud described it as somewhat of a buzzword that can mean everything or nothing at all, it includes harnessing all the unstructured data consumers reveal about themselves at an increasing rate in this digital age, and this opens new doors for retailers hoping to attract new customers and retain their current ones. With all this new data about consumers, retailers are able to ask and get answers to questions that weren’t answerable before.
Michaud pointed out that with Big Data, instead of asking questions and gathering the data to answer those questions like we’re used to, we don’t have to know the questions in advance. We have all this information available, now how can we use it? What questions can we ask of it?
It’s now relatively easy to find out who a retailer’s top influencers are, what topics are important to them, who their friends are and even who a competitor’s most influential customers are. But determining how to find the value in all the information available to retailers requires time, resources, skills – investments that many retailers don’t have available. Here are few points that emerged from the discussion:
- Marketing teams are already talking about Big Data, so CIOs need to get involved in those discussions now to help shape the way forward. Otherwise, they’ll move on without you.
- Investing in Big Data is like gold mining, you have to dig through a lot of rock and dirt to find the gold, with many retailers lacking the resources and professionals with the right skill-sets to invest in this process. Find an organization that is already doing this who can help you with your needs.
- It’s time to get over the battle between the corporate office armed with data and hardened retail veterans armed with experience. This is an opportunity to provide better information to retail veterans so they can work even smarter.
The first step, Michaud said, is selling the concept to the C-Suite. If you can partner with your marketing team to make a case that resonates, focuses less on the buzzwords and what it means for your business, you can take the first steps to uncovering the opportunities buried in the deep of Big Data.