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Making Big Data Work: Retailing

June 26, 2014

Making Big Data Work: Retailing
Source: Boston Consulting Group

Traditional retailers generate and capture a deluge of data—most notably, customer transaction histories that can reveal detailed product affinities and promotional and marketing response rates. Now the emergence of big data and advanced analytical tools and techniques can connect data with a larger context. Big data can explain the who, what, when, where, why, and how of retailing.

Although some leading companies have gained a reputation for deft data handling, most retailers have not yet built the analytical capabilities and internal processes necessary to take advantage of the deep well of information they can access. Merchants and marketers often rely on tactics that worked last year, with only slight modifications. Sometimes their promotions end up discounting the wrong items and hurting rather than helping sales. Too frequently, they simply rely on consumer goods companies or suppliers, with their different incentives and motivations, to tell them what to do.

In the end, many retailers have not figured out where and why they are winning and where and why they are losing. They struggle to discover which prices, promotions, and store locations are working best. They have a hard time taking advantage of all the contextual information around transactions that could make a difference in sales. In effect, they know the outcomes of millions of real-time experiments, but they are not able to look at and learn from them.

All this leads to missed opportunities. Ultimately, it opens doors to online and direct sellers, which often have better data and more sophisticated analytics.

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