Retail Analytics Is All about the Questions, Stupid!

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Retail Analytics Is All about the Questions, Stupid!

By Joe Skorupa - 05/02/2018

I had a “D’oh!” moment last week in Chicago at the Retail and Consumer Goods Analytics Summit (RCAS). Like many others in retail, I frequently find myself saying the value of analytics is not about the data or about the technology or the technologists or even the insights. It’s about what you do with it, right? It’s about the actions we take based on the insights. But, “D’oh,” I was wrong. The value of analytics comes from asking the right questions.

This was a big takeaway from RCAS last week among many others. The point is you first have to start with defining the problem. Then you have to create the right questions so the outcome hits the target. And by hitting the target I mean hitting the bull’s eye, dead center.

The process of asking the right questions forces you to break down exactly what you want into micro-segments, micro-processes, micro-services, micro-outcomes. This process reveals a host of factors that need to be accounted for before you build tools that will produce worthwhile answers.

For example, in a session about how Advance Auto Parts wanted to transform into an analytics-based business model, Amy McArthur, director of inventory, told a story about the first question her group wanted answered, which was, “Can we trust the data?” The question was as much about change-management, corporate culture and personnel as it was about achieving insights and outcomes.

So, while it was possible for Advance Auto Parts to automate and improve its analytic and BI processes, the issue of trust could not be solved until the databases were cleaned up and consolidated. (For a complete set of stories and reports about RCAS click here.)

Smart Quotes from RCAS

I had many “D’oh!” moments at RCAS and here are a few of my major takeaways:

  • “What is personalization, today? It is literally B2ME (business to me).” Johan Akolawala, SVP & Global CIO of Mondelez
  • “As customers age, digital bread crumbs and analytics provide you with a look into what your future will look like. By tracking the behaviors of younger shoppers you will know how to make the right changes when they become your primary shoppers. Start planning today.” – Cheryl Williams, CIO for Wakefern
  • “The problem with centers of excellence is they are at the center. Analytics should be everywhere.” – Sandeep Dadlan, chief digital officer at Mars.
  • “Too many organizations spend a lot of time debating the data. What we spend a lot of time pursuing is the goal of getting better at the speed of prescriptive analytics.” – Bob Darin, chief analytics officer at CVS
  •  “The dark clouds to watch are data security and data sharing. We are gathering so much data today. We have to be careful with what we collect and how to protect it on behalf of our customers.” – Carlos Amesquita, former CIO of Hershey
  •  “In order to protect your growth you have to invest in new initiatives as others decline. It’s a vicious cycle. Data and analytics can help provide you with the insight you need to make decisions for things you need for the next 10 years, but we don’t do that yet today.” – Jennifer Sepull, former CIO for Kimberly-Clark
  • “We can’t begin the process of demystification of artificial intelligence (AI) until we demystify the problems and the solutions.” –  Sandeep Dadlan, CDA at Mars
  • “Don’t wait until your data is perfect. It’s about who gets there fastest with the best you can deliver. If you wait until your data is perfect, it may take 10 years and that will be too late.” – Dan Wagner, Founder and CEO of Civis Analytics
  • “Personalization is all about analytics. We do not want to make just one personalized offer at a time, but instead create a personalized cadence of offers to customers over their lifetime.” – Bob Darin, CAO at CVS

For more takeaways, reports and wrap-up analysis from RCAS, click here.

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