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Big Data is all around us. Every day, everyone produces their share  – even if it’s unintended. Shopping at a preferred grocery retailer. Ordering Christmas gifts online. Using a smartphone. Driving a car. Posting pictures on social media. Walking in a video-controlled area. Even turning the light on. Just simple, ordinary living produces an enormous amount of data.

However, this is only part of the Big Data story. Commercial activities further compound the volume – especially when you consider the growing number of sensors, RFID readers, business transactions, software logs, environment data, and others. Although some of this data are already collected for a certain purpose, there are a lot of untapped opportunities in the ocean of Big Data.

This is definitely the case for retailers. According to a survey conducted by 1010data, more than 70% of retailers view Big Data initiatives as very important or important and plan to realize benefits within the next five years.


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Why? There are two game-changing reasons:

  1. The opportunity to improve the customer experience and everything associated with it. While this topic is nothing new, it’s still hot and expandable – and for good reason. Predicting consumer behavior with high accuracy is only becoming more and more important. Consumer perception of the brand is something every retailer needs to understand and influence. What do consumers expect from the channel and shopping experience? How can the company innovate the experience to achieve a competitive advantage, increase customer satisfaction, and seize new market opportunities? How can you personalize and target your offering to a specific customer? How can you increase the service level for your customers?
  2. Insight to improve internal operations and enhance business performance. Big Data can help retailers make faster and better-informed decisions and learn what keeps together the core of the company. Which areas can be improved to increase profit margins and reduce costs? How can the company plan for better assortments, locations, and staff? Wouldn’t it be great to run replenishment for the next national event based on historical and weather forecasts or even traffic forecasts?

While the challenges are numerous, Big Data offers excellent opportunities for business improvement that never existed before. But what exactly are the opportunities for a specific industry or segment? Is the intent to increase the understanding of customers or to reduce costs sufficient to start a Big Data project?


Finding value in your Big Data

Big Data itself doesn’t bring any advantages – what matters is what you do with it. Before leadership considers the project set up, architecture, volume, or data curation, three to five viable use cases should be nailed down to define what can be learned from the data, how it should be applied, and why it brings value.

Why is this step so critical? It provides quick wins that prove the Big Data vision and allows further investments in more-sophisticated applications.

For many companies, innovation workshops that follow design-thinking principles have helped identify solid use cases and stimulate idea creation. Focussing on the business side of the house, they created a diverse team with different skills and perspectives to develop new and fresh ideas.


Putting your Big Data vision into action

After the use case is selected, the next step is to turn these ideas into firm decisions. How do these ideas fit into the business strategy and road map? What will the target architecture look like? Topics such as sharing, storage, transfer, visualization, and information privacy needs to be considered.


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Example: Store Headmap


Once these decisions are made, the solution design, platform, and applications that need to be built can be defined. Keep also in mind, how you want to measure the success of your new solution. That could give you arguments for further investments. And then finally, they need to be implemented – as quickly and easy as possible. And SAP offers solutions that do just that.

Our rapid-deployment solution portfolio includes:

Get started on your Big Data journey now!

A great starting point is the SAP Big Data in the Retail Industry Workshop. This virtual workshop comprises three hours of pre-recorded presentation and demo content and regularly scheduled Q&A sessions with subject-matter experts. If you are interested in this workshop, you can find out more information here.


Also, check out our Big Data services that can help you along your Big Data journey. If you are looking for retail specific advice, I can recommend you to get in touch with Michael Osthof (Global Consumer Industries Services) heading the Retail Innolab.



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