Tech Guest Viewpoint: Collaborating via Data Fusion & Analytics
Baseball’s great accidental philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” In the retail business, knowing where you’re going means understanding sales, inventory, promotions, pricing, and assortment.
How do these considerations change by product? By store? On Black Friday? It’s hard enough for a bodega shopkeeper to keep track of all of this information accurately and efficiently, let alone a regional, national, or global retail business. Retailers and suppliers alike need a complete view of the forces that shape their businesses, so they can harness those they control and manage the ones they do not.
Many firms have adopted an inside-out approach to leveraging data and analytics, often starting with organizing their own information through data warehousing. Big data technologies may be employed for transactional or shopper data.
Summarizing and reporting on this data often yields many interesting insights, but don’t stop there! Having a diverse set of relevant data, coming from both inside and outside an organization, often matters more than sheer volume. Start with your partners. Critical business decisions, such as supply chain and promotional considerations, are often made collaboratively.
After all, suppliers and retailers need each other. Fusing supplier and retailer information together, for example for budgeting and planning purposes, can be an effective way of discovering and executing high-impact changes through collaborative effort.
This leaves rest of the world: the economy, the weather, social trends, the competition, and the billions of people that are currently not your customers. An integrated, shared view of the broader retail environment will help you and those you collaborate with to make sound strategic decisions. A complete off the shelf solution does not really exist, for every business is different.
Don’t despair, however: you don’t have to start from scratch. Many useful data sources, such as census and macroeconomic information, are available for free and easy for analysts to use. Fused social media data, including engagement and sentiment information, are also available. Finally, a number of data analytics companies offer custom solutions for retail.
Having worked from the inside out, the final step is to turn data into competitive advantage through sound decision making. Focus on key business problems, which may involve coordinated action with partners, and leverage your data by combining analytics with human wisdom.
Many retail businesses are not seeking automated systems in all cases; rather computer assisted processes. A store manager can use suggested orders from an analytics system as a guide and then adjust based on local conditions that the big brain in the sky has no knowledge of: the traffic jam, the high school football game, the store appearance, prom season.
When you and your partners have a shared view of the competitive environment, you can focus on the issues that matter. Analytics on a diverse set of data produces the trends, insights, and forecasts that enable better collaboration, better strategic decisions, and better operations. It doesn’t have to be complicated: start with the business decisions that matter and work from the inside out. A broad set of data unified by analytics, is a winning combination.
Nathan Brixius is VP of Analytics at Market6.
Belk gets social with customers for holidays
Regional department store retailer Belk Inc. is using social media to make the holidays a little more fun and rewarding for its shoppers.
North Carolina-based Belk, which operates about 300 stores, has teamed up with digital marketing solutions provider HelloWorld for the return of the Santa Baby sweepstakes, now in its second year. In an effort to increase mobile opt-ins and ultimately boost brand awareness and consumer engagement, Belk and HelloWorld are allowing customers to create personalized e-cards, gifs, and TV spots.
Prizes include a $10,000 grand prize and instant win Belk gift cards.
From Nov. 7 – Dec. 31, participants will be able to enter the sweepstakes via the revamped mobile-optimized Santa Baby site, and earn additional entries by sharing the campaign on social networks, following Belk’s social media channels and referring friends to enter the sweepstakes. Additionally, entrants will be able to personalize and share Santa Baby gifs as well as customize e-cards, which will have the chance to be featured on the official sweepstakes site.
In a new offering, consumers this year will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite commercial ending for the Santa Baby TV spot, set to air on Nov. 7. As participants vote for their favorite ending throughout the promotion period, they are encouraged to return to the site to see where their choice stands in the ranks.
Lidl breaks ground on U.S. headquarters
German discount grocery chain Lidl has broken ground for a new regional U.S. headquarters and distribution center in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. The facility is expected to create 200 jobs in the state and open no later than 2018.
“We are tremendously excited to break ground on this facility in Spotsylvania County,” said Brendan Proctor, president and CEO of Lidl U.S. “We chose Spotsylvania not just for its central location, but also for its talented workforce and economic vitality. We look forward to being part of this community and to introducing residents to a unique shopping experience that will be unlike anything else in the market.”
In addition to the Spotsylvania facility, Lidl will soon open the company’s U.S. headquarters in Arlington Country, Virginia. In total, Lidl is investing more than $200 million in its operations in Virginia and has pledged to create 700 new jobs in the state by 2018.