Once upon a time, we used to remember things.

For example, we could memorize long genealogies and stories—whole novels worth of information—and recite them perfectly, using patterns and rhymes. But when the printing press was invented, we didn’t need to do that as much. Why bother memorizing when there was so much reading to do?

After that, we could still hold a lot of details in our heads: important numbers, scheduling details, etc. People kept day-timers and address books, but even so, there was still a lot of mental work to do, staying on top of it all. Then computers were invented (okay, this history is a little condensed…), and after only a few decades they made them small enough to keep in our pockets. Suddenly, most of the functional information we needed was right there in the palm of our hands, literally.

It hasn’t been hard for most people to make the switch to externalized memory. Our brains don’t need to be told to behave more efficiently. As soon as the opportunity arises to jettison wasted effort, we’ll do it automatically.

It may seem like a bad idea to let go of those particular mental skills like memorizing—Are we getting stupider?—but clearly our minds aren’t any less active. Does anyone really feel like they don’t have enough to think about? Of course not. For most of us, it’s the opposite: we’re taking a wider perspective, thinking more creatively, behaving more flexibly, and responding more quickly to changes.

Keeping Up with Consumers

Whatever we want to say about why it happened or what it means, the fact remains: consumers have fully embraced the digital shift, most decisively by means of mobile devices, and many companies are still playing catch-up.

Thankfully, the advantages that people gain from pocket computing are equally available to manufacturers and retailers who choose to leverage their extensive databases (i.e. memory banks) into creative insights and flexible solutions derived from real-time analytics. By making their data mobile-friendly and easily shareable, these companies aren’t just preserving their data … they’re actually using it.

The challenge of transitioning legacy systems to cloud-based analytics platforms seems daunting, of course. The reason is simple: it takes a lot of energy just to preserve the status quo. Carefully keeping every silo in its place and diligently maintaining every cumbersome protocol takes a lot of employee focus. When the flow of information is absorbed into an integrated system that correlates data streams from multiple sectors, all the energy that went into keeping them separate will suddenly be released. What to do with it?

How to Leverage Retail Analytics: Serve the Customer

As conversations about Big Data shift toward the problem of silos and how to achieve organizational effectiveness, sometimes the purpose of accessing advanced retail analytics gets forgotten: namely, serving the customer.

Just as database capabilities have advanced at the exponential rate of digital evolution in the early twenty-first century, so have customer expectations.

Today’s consumers share several key traits. They are

1) value-conscious

2) always-on

3) mobile-enabled

4) socially-active

5) channel agnostic

If retailers and manufactures want to keep pace with the efficiencies that their customers are already choosing, they’ll need to adopt the tools to do so (e.g., point-of-sale or POS analytics; mobile in-store intelligence software, etc.). It’s no longer a question of tweaking the organizational structure; rather, it’s time to embrace the capabilities that are readily available through advanced retail analytics software.

When the retail industry allows the natural efficiencies of integrated data platforms to do their work, they will acquire a whole set of new potentials: increased customer engagement through better understanding of behaviors and preferences; improved marketing through micro-targeting and personalization; optimized pricing based on value recognition; and greater responsiveness across departments.

To see what capabilities your company can acquire through mobile-ready retail analytics, try Askuity’s retail intelligence platform.