Thanks to all of you who were able to attend the live webinar on “Taming the Data Tsunami” in the customer-facing enterprise. The lively session included Richard Hastings, macro and consumer strategist from Global Hunter Securities, LLC; Russ Hill who is responsible for global Retail marketing programs for SAP BusinessObjects; Mechelle Stone who is working closely with retailers to make better decisions; and myself, Mohamed Amer, as your host and moderator.
Analytics is a hot topic by any measure. In a recent interview, Thomas H. Davenport shared his hope that companies are beginning to use analytics smartly to achieve their business strategy (for full coverage see MIT Sloan Management Review article). Similarly, in this webinar we aimed to share with the audience some ideas on viewing and applying the analytical power of the data in the enterprise.
At the risk of oversimplifying the hour-long webinar, we can say “It’s all about the data and what you do with that data.” Yet underneath that straight-forward notion, there are innumerable paths offering opportunities, challenges, and things that go bump in the night. Right away, Russ Hill set the market relevance around “getting closer to the customer” within a fast product cycle and shortened selling windows – he identified three elements that are coming into play:
- Ongoing “dynamic shift” about behavior of consumers demanding “immediacy, instant gratification, and a willingness to share personal information in shaping the brands that they identify with”
- A “reversal of roles” where the “consumers are taking more control of what they want retailers to sell to them, rather than retailers selling products to them”
- The current wave of social media is delivering fuzzy or unstructured data and creating an experience that challenges existing abilities to “transform that data into actionable information”
Leveraging recent analysis by RSR Research, Russ emphasized the need to deliver information “in near real-time in the hands of the business users” so that they may react faster to events impacting the operations and “uncover trends and patterns in an adhoc and empowered manner.” This is applicable whether you’re a merchant needing to respond quicker to differences between forecast and actual sales, or to better understand impact on COGS, or to gain a real-time inventory view in the stores. Having access to real-time data is what “links strategy to operations and links the insights to all the levels in the organization,” according to Russ Hill.
Richard Hastings offered a compelling view of an ongoing data convergence in which, wittingly or unwittingly, consumers, retailers and brands are involved. With the rise of social media and unwired technology, “the end users of the goods and services are operating through devices and generating data that feed back into the devices and software that generates analytics from those who are delivering the goods and services,” thus creating a “perfect feedback loop” and adding to the massive data flows of the data tsunami, according to Richard.
Without a strategy to approach this data convergence and resultant tsunami, you will surely be floating aimlessly at best, or drowning at worst. In addition to using analytics, tools, own and partner resources to break down the data, you need to understand how consumers are acting through retailers and brands to create direct and indirect relationships with brands and the impact of social networks on these relationships. This will lead you to find the right priorities for your business in the data relationships. Richard asserted that a business revolution is taking place with opportunities as “data is now enabled throughout the entire spectrum of the consumer to product relationship.”
All the participants agreed to the significance of delivering localized merchandise assortments, effective promotions, and understanding product movement at the Store/SKU level. Richard added that there is a real opportunity “to collaborate and understand shopper profiles in local markets” and to create “precise local market allocations.” The potential for developing constructive conversations between retailer and brands are real as long as each side is respectful of the other’s business, with selective and careful strategic sharing of POS data can still be achieved within existing natural competition. The benefits for all parties is too high to allow old ways of thinking to creep into the new age of data convergence.
Mechelle Stone shared her experiences from working with retailers over the past 10 years and summed these in these three points where retailers:
- Ask for help in understanding how to manage the large amounts of data
- Expect “Speed to Value” – they need to see immediate value in their investment of new software and technology
- Demand real-time access to Business Intelligence anywhere so they can turn “Action into Insight”
To handle the mass amount of data at speed of thought, Mechelle shared SAP’s work with In-Memory technology and combining with a browser-based tool to search and explore the data. SAP launched SAP® BusinessObjectsTM analytic applications which include the Sales Analysis for Retail addressing use of real-time point-of-sale data for actionable decisions.
According to Mechelle, with the introduction of Sales Analysis for Retail, companies can leverage real-time, POS data to make confident decisions to drive profitable growth, get early warnings about stock-outs, promotion effectiveness, sales velocity, and external factors impacting demand. Additionally, Mechelle shared a menu of concierge service offerings that includes: BI Strategy Assessments, exploration of in-memory solutions, approaches to build a financial business case, and opportunity to test-drive SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand.
We are confident that after viewing this webinar you will be in a better position to:
- Have a fresh view of the opportunities in the Data Tsunami with access to real-time data
- Initiate a plan that establishes priorities in attacking the Data Tsunami
- Realize and capitalize on the increasing shift into the demand side of the business
- Explore new collaborative approaches to deliver greater value to your customers while linking strategy to operations
Remember, it’s all about the data and what you do with that data!