Big Data, Big Changes: How Retail Analytics Improves Company Culture with Better Information

Insights BlogBusiness IntelligenceDataTechnology
Eric Green
By Eric Green
Aug 07 2014

It’s one of the most basic goals of business: efficiency. Whether on the retail side or the manufacturing side, companies want to eliminate waste and save money. Vendors and retailers all seek to achieve a range of objectives in supply chain execution, such as dynamism, responsiveness, and flexibility, but none of those goals is attainable if money is being thrown away on clunky processes.

There are lots of things that eat up time and energy, disrupt workflow, and put knots in the supply chain, but most of these problems stem from one basic challenge: exchanging information.

It’s no surprise that smooth flow of information is such a struggle. Communication has always been both the toughest and most rewarding part of any relationship, and the same is true for vendors and retailers. It takes a lifetime of skill-building to become an engaged listener and a clear communicator, just as it takes careful collaboration — both internally and externally — to create an efficient supply chain.

The way that communication problems tend to be solved is what eventually creates the company’s culture. Whether the style is more collaborative or hierarchal, all sorts of routines and expectations emerge from the overall approach to exchanging information. As the culture becomes more coherent and reliable, these habits become the framework for innovation.

Those consistent internal processes eventually solidify into a mature system, which a company continues to perfect over time. A well-defined program of communication can be a company’s greatest asset: partners will depend on it, and customers reap the rewards, in the form of better assortments, fewer out-of-stocks, and lower price-points.

Making Space for Growth

If companies operated within a closed system, they might eventually achieve a kind of perfection. But technology is constantly evolving toward increased automation, by-passing labour-intensive processes and eliminating wasted effort. Vendors and retailers will quickly recognize the opportunity for improved efficiency when new software performs an essential service that previously demanded meticulous attention, but they may fail to realize the extent to which company culture must change to adapt to these new opportunities.

Big Data is powering a new era of business intelligence, giving executives and managers real-time inventory awareness, immediate ROI on marketing spend, and many other forms of functional, on-the-ground knowledge. Through the use of Cloud-based platforms for retail analytics, information that once had to pass through various stages of formulation is now instantly available in an easy-to-use format, on any device.

While advanced SaaS platforms create exciting opportunities for growth, they can also pose a dilemma: mature companies may discover that the processes that they spent so much time refining and improving have suddenly become woefully inefficient by comparison.

Instead of contributing to the smooth exchange of information, the much-refined legacy systems turn out to be slow and cumbersome by comparison to Cloud-based services that offer easily visualized information in real-time.

Business, Meet Technology

As the applications for Big Data-enabled retail analytics become more widely known and accepted, many companies are creating new roles to make sure all that valuable knowledge is being utilized across departments.

For example, Walmart recently expanded chief digital executive Wanda Young’s responsibilities to include VP media and digital marketing. Walmart has made some creative efforts to access data streams and shown a lot of ingenuity in the realm of Big Data, and this move further demonstrates the company’s forward-thinking approach to using digital media in steering their marketing effort.

Data today has dramatically broadened relevance. It comes in from every part of the enterprise — warehouse, production systems, partners, and vendors — and it can potentially impact the operations of any other area, not just marketing.

While some companies have added new roles like Chief Data Officer to oversee the application of Big Data-powered retail analytics, new Cloud-based BI platforms can achieve the same results for all companies by adjusting their communication culture to place accurate, real-time information in the hands of everyone who can use it.

When planning for Big Data applications across departments, ask yourself:

  • Who is going to use the data?
  • What kinds of decisions will be made with it?
  • How will those decisions get made?

Advanced retail analytics may render most spreadsheets and other info-sharing systems obsolete, but it also gives access to a whole terrain of information and a new style of fact-based decision making. To find out how Big Data can improve your company’s communication culture, watch this brief video of how Askuity’s business intelligence platform can power your growth into real-time retail execution.

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