Steps to Building a Loyal and Profitable Customer Base
Of course, the old adage of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" applies here. If your existing infrastructure supports current and near-term analytical needs, then an investment in big data solutions doesn't make sense. On the other hand, if there are performance bottlenecks or business needs that can't be met without costly hardware or software upgrades, big data tools deserve serious consideration. Retailers considering trying out big data technologies have a number of issues to weigh, including the following:
- Buy or lease: One of the attractive aspects of big data solutions is their use of open-source software and commodity hardware, which results in system costs that tend to be lower than comparable commercial products from big IT vendors. Moreover, companies have the option to use cloud-based offerings, either on a pilot or permanent basis.
- Finding qualified staff: While the available software and hardware options are plentiful, there's a shortage of experienced professionals in this area because it's relatively new and in high demand. Here, the most expedient answer may be to hire contractors or consulting firms that can guide internal staff through initial pilot projects.
- Support: Because a substantial number of big data software is open source, technical support can be less robust than commercial offerings. However, there's a growing number of companies that offer support services, as well as a healthy community of user forums. And, as with most open-source initiatives, a larger user base results in both better support as well as more robust installation and management tools.
Before embarking on a big data initiative, retailers should identify one or two business processes that can benefit from deeper or faster analytics. Piloting one or two cases that create measurable business value is a way to gain experience and prove the business case for larger investment. The good news is that retailers are finding success by adding these tools to their overall information strategy and that the technology has many features that make getting started affordable.