Retail reporting and a focus on analytics is hugely important for retailers looking to make incremental gains, as well as those that want to ensure they are able to react quickly to change in their businesses.
As I touched upon in my recently published end-of-year blog looking at what is on the retail technology leader’s roadmap for 2019 and beyond, building strategies related to data are – and will increasingly be – massively important for the industry. And that is because this approach will support so much of the innovation that looks set to impact retail in the not-too-distant future.
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Whether it is about exploring artificial intelligence (AI)-influenced practices, personalised marketing strategies, better cybersecurity, or, simply, more sophisticated forecasting and accounting processes, getting a handle on the data flowing through the business is going to be crucial. And if companies aren’t measuring it, how are they going to manage that new landscape?
As Molly Bearns, senior director and analyst and Gartner, said recently, CIOs used to be tasked with minimising risk and cost – but now they have a lot more on their plates. And good reporting and data analytics practices – which are within the CIO and CTOs’ jurisdiction – are at the heart of driving so many internal operations and customer services that are part of modern-day retail.
With retail CIOs needing to measure the impact of their work, which we’re all aware now has a much wider effect on their organisatiions’ strategies than simply ‘keeping the lights on’, Bearns noted the change. “They are investing in analytics for both near-term benefits like decision making and to prepare for innovations such as smart machines, AI and augmented reality – all of which will require robust datasets,” she commented.
Turn Insights into Action
So, how does a retail technology leader build out that reporting and analytics strategy, and then make the most of it? There’s no point boasting about all the data one owns in a business if it’s not being put to good use.
Gartner research has found that organisations of all types, including retailers, feel the urgency to embrace digital business if they want to stay relevant and competitive, but they often lack the right data and analytics organisational structure.
The analyst group suggested that a senior executive such as a chief data officer (CDO) must take charge of the data and analytics initiative and promote data competency and literacy throughout their organisation.
It’s crucial, the group said, to motivate every employee in the organisation to become data literate. Retailers in the UK, including Marks & Spencer and N Brown, are working with data science education provider Decoded to help reach this goal.
According to Gartner’s third annual CDO survey, released earlier this year, poor data literacy is one of the biggest roadblocks to success in the CDO office, so improving this area has to be one of the first ports of call. That, alongside finding the right technology provider to make the data insight actionable and available across the business, can help technology leaders get the most from the information they hold.
Once those fundamentals are in place, retailers have the potential to embrace all that’s new – including AI, personalisation and, automated processes – knowing they’ve done all they can to make their data clean, tidy, and ready for action.