Perhaps the most surprising thing about the digital revolution in retailing is that it’s still happening. Even though the changes created by the online shift, the rise of smart phones, and the digitization of everything are by now widely recognized and much discussed, that doesn’t mean they are anywhere near completion. Companies are still learning how to implement the new tools and access the advantages afforded by Big Data.

In its widest terms, the digital revolution puts better tools in the hands of more people. As a result, more things are made. This trend is great for creating more choice, but as anyone who’s ever scrolled through the Google Play store knows, all those options don’t necessarily make finding a solution any easier. Reviews help, but distinguishing between twenty apps that do the same thing can be infuriating. Not all that glitters is gold, and not all apps are all that applicable.

As the importance of Big Data for improving retail intelligence has become widely acknowledged and accepted, suppliers looking to harness the power of analytics now face the same dilemma as consumers face while shopping on their smartphones. Software developers are rushing to meet the demand, but as in other online spheres, the glut of options is making it harder to identify genuine value.

Keeping the focus on utility

The challenge for IT developers has always been providing users with exactly what they need, neither more nor less. Many software development projects go off the rails because it’s so easy to continue adding functions, until finally the program has so many extra utilities, it’s become too complicated to actually use.

Usefulness is always the decisive factor for evaluating a potential new program or process. It seems strange to make such an obvious point, but when so many changes are afoot, and some of them still somewhat poorly understood, the fact bears repeating: if a new tool doesn’t solve a problem, then it is a problem.

And when it comes to data, the key to function is visibility. There are many programs that will break down your company’s vast data sets, but do they present that information in ways that executives, managers and sales reps can all apply to their day-to-day, moment-to-moment tasks and operations?

Zooming in on practical value

Back when decision-makers needed teams of full-time analysts in order to obtain meaningful information from their company’s data sets, a few static graphs or charts interspersed into wordy reports satisfied the status quo. But as retail has become more dynamic to meet the needs of digitally connected consumers, vendors and retailers can no longer afford to follow that plodding pace, nor do they need to.

Obtaining practical value from retail analytics in real time means exchanging that vital information through interactive visualization. Executives and sales agents alike need to be able to see the big picture and the little details at the same time, and zooming in and out of the data gives them the power to base all their decisions on hard facts, from responding to the most pressing issues of the day to identifying long-term trends.

Think of an online mapping system like Google Maps. Because of such tools, travellers today have already explored unfamiliar cities before they even get there. They’ve seen it from a mile up in the air and they’ve traced its streets and neighbourhoods from the ground. 

Imagine if all those images weren’t captured previously but were streaming live, so you could see exactly what’s happening at any given moment. Now imagine that you could rewind that footage and see everything that had happened there before. That’s the capability that cutting-edge retail analytics platforms offer.

Using interactive visualization, suppliers can now watch their products in every dimension, from shelf to store to region, and across days, months, and years. The digital revolution has famously empowered consumers, and this is a tool that’s powerful enough to meet that demand.

Of course, processing all that data into dynamic visuals requires a significant level of technological capability. Cloud-based SaaS platforms allow companies to access the power of Big Data retail analytics without the expense of building their own systems. To see what your company’s retail data looks like in all dimensions, sign up for a demo of Askuity’s Retail Intelligence platform.