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Laying a Foundation for the New Age Retail Industry

By Paul Karras, SVP and CIO, And Wilton Brands

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Paul Karras, SVP and CIO, Wilton Brands

A Unified Customer Base
To control its business, an organization has to control its data at all touch points, distinguishing the data, shoppers generate at each of the touch points. This is important because the same shopper can interact with both online and traditional brick and mortar channels, so identifying them as a single persona is the key. This requires the enablement of foundational technology capabilities and the gritty process of analyzing structured and unstructured data in order to create a single, integrated view of all shopper activity, tracking all respective interactions across channels and touchpoints highlighting behavior patterns.

 “Big data impacts every point along the value chain so the analytic potential is endless”

For example, compiling, organizing and conducting data analysis on areas such as, via CRM, e-commerce, social media, and EDI, and across all channels, creates a comprehensive, integrated view of shopper activity so that behavior patterns become meaningful to the business. Ultimately, a focus around building mastery in analytics competencies will enable businesses to make informed decisions and enhance shoppers’ experiences at each touch point, providing them with relevant offers in the channels the shoppers prefer.

Reshaping the face of Commerce

Iam enabling my business through amplified talent competencies and architected technology capabilities that are fast and flexible. Data now feels as the world’s new natural resource, enabled by technology that is infusing into almost everything and every process as evidenced by the proliferation of mobile devices, social media and overall changing expectations from digitally empowered shoppers. Our approach is centered on reimagining and reinventing our productivity capabilities, simplifying our operational foundation and amplifying our capabilities thru the power of the cloud. We are aggregating data sources of all types so we can be quick and flexible in conducting analytics and adapt to consumers’ changing needs and buying practices. We have pursued IT supplier relationships that enhance our workforce capabilities and allow us to gain depth on new technology stacks that complement our business objectives, enabling nimble response to demand for our services.

A Retail Revolution
Reporting and Analytics (social, mobile, reporting)
We all know that the volume of data is rising inexorably as point of sale transaction data, online customer behaviors, sentiments etc., are being recorded by retailers. As such, retailers across the board are amassing and evaluating data from social and mobile interactions through scale-out platforms and techniques that enable both contemporaneous and predictive analytics designed to process large amounts of data in an effort to anticipate shoppers’ wishes. This effort encompasses harnessing unstructured data from social and or mobile interactions to derive insight on top of their present information management capabilities so that retailers can get an edge in the market, predicting how shoppers may act in the future. Also, because big data technologies are presently fairly robust, we are seeing downward pricing pressure on many retailers notably through cross-retailer price comparisons. This is evident most notably between Amazon and Walmart.com, in many cases eroding margins as they are competing on price.

E-Commerce (B2C, B2B, Mobile Commerce)

Although ecommerce has been around for a while, the offering methods have changed and continue to evolve as well as the mastery and adoption of ancillary technology tools. For example, B2C and B2B systems have traditionally been on premise offerings. Over the past 4-5 years, the explosion of Social Media offerings and Mobility capabilities present enriched capabilities to engage shoppers, manage content strategy and overall digital presence to drive loyalty programs, social advertising, crowdsourcing, social selling, partner advocacy and expand revenue opportunities. Conversion techniques must be approached thoughtfully analyzing and understanding patterns matching and demographics of shoppers, quickly shifting merchandising strategies that are tailored to individual shoppers. An important consideration we need to understand is that big data/information, mobile, social media are all derivatives and possible because of the huge compute capacity of the Cloud.

Core Operations (Store operations, merchandising, Infrastructure)

Big data impacts every point along the value chain so the analytic potential is endless. Marketing is enriched by micro-segmentation, sentiment monitoring, and enhancement of the multichannel consumer experience. In Merchandizing assortment, pricing, and product placement can be optimized in near real-time. Within Operations, labor inputs optimization can now be enhanced, creating more accurate predictions of staffing needs based on optimized labor inputs, automated time and attendance tracking, and improved labor scheduling all aggregated in near real time. Additionally, within supply chain, we obtain better inventory management through analytics that mine multiple datasets. Transport analytics improve fuel efficiency, vehicle maintenance, and driver behavior. Customer and transaction data informs retailer negotiations with suppliers to obtain concessions on products.

Transforming In-Store Experience: Role of Big Data and Analytics

Retailers engaged in Big Data analytics capitalize on the tremendous volume, variety, and veracity of data by mapping the right metrics to business decision processes. Using data in near real time, they can personalize marketing campaigns, optimize assortment, products differentiation, shopper journey, predictive modeling and drive customer conversions. In addition, Retailers can drive improved merchandising decisions and identify in-store and online inefficiencies in distribution and operations. Overall, through the disruptive nature of the Cloud and a new generation of advanced and big data analytics commercially available, retailers not only gain efficiency points, but also have the potential to leapfrog competitors by delivering new and unexpected benefits to customers.

Just picture the potential in this market and consider: Retail is only going to grow. So let’s do it better.

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