Big is beautiful! If Big Data shows considerable promise for any business, it’s a goldmine for retailers. With the advent of omnichannel retailing, as well as monitoring conventional contact data or purchase history, you now also have to look at: website pages visited; abandoned shopping carts; and even their passage through stores, using beacons. With everything in hand, retailers now have a vast array of information to help them refine their strategies for a more personalised customer relationship.
Big Data refers to the ever-increasing masses of data generated, collected and processed by organisations. Besides volumes doubling every year, the masses of data are characterised by their variety and complexity: it covers everything from structured and unstructured data; public or private; internal or external to the company; dynamic data; and so on. And with the 2015 consumer being increasingly mobile and connected, there are more and more traces to follow. This largely covers the internet, but also their smartphone, and even in stores.
Smart Data: intelligence through data
For retailers, the challenge is how to record and use this data to predict consumer behaviour and develop tailored initiatives for the customer. This is what Smart Data is all about, marking the crossroads between Business Intelligence (BI) and Big Data, and putting the intelligence back into data. It means collecting the data, processing and analysing it in order to build a better understanding of consumer behaviour; and developing marketing campaigns which are much more targeted. For example, someone who’s visited the website of a brand several times could be sent a promotional offer by text the next time they pass near a store.
Another valuable source of information that comes from the web involves looking at the online reputation of a brand and the more or less positive discussions going on via social networks, blogs and forums, sometimes referred to as Social Listening and Sentimental Analysis.
Open Data: at the heart of public information
The proliferation of data is not just limited to the private sector, with Open Data now being used to cover digital data that’s public or private, deriving from a community, a public service, or a business. Demographic, meteorological or data coming from public spaces opens up new possibilities for retailers. For example, measuring daily population flow through a town can prove extremely useful when a retailer is considering the location of a new store.
Effective data processing
The uses in retail for Big Data are widespread: everything from predictive analysis to product recommendations; loyalty programmes; ultra-targeted campaigns in real time; identification and recruitment of opinion leaders and influencers; and fraud detection. And with the exponential growth of data sources, there’s likely to be a long road ahead for further development.
But to understand consumer behaviour even more acutely, all the data is useless without a human mind to process, translate, and deduce the appropriate actions to take. With the rise of Big Data, we are witnessing the emergence of new professions such as Chief Data Officer, Data Analyst or Data Scientist.
Big Data for all!
Before it was only really the big guns that could afford to invest themselves in Big Data, but now it’s more within the reach of retailers with more modest means. More and more specialised systems for Big Data are appearing on the market and open source players are playing a pivotal role. Retailers, both large and small, are betting heavily on cloud computing and virtualisation for the storage of data and are pooling together their material and human infrastructure.
Given that increasing levels of mobile usage has led to an explosion in the volume of data generated, it should come as no surprise to see even further development with the emergence of more and more connected objects.