Whether the official definition puts it in arcane measurements like terabytes or petabytes, for retailers, big data is seen as this: data sets which are too large, too complex and too disjointed to manage, analyze and use in traditional systems to determine profitable business decisions. The retail landscape is more complex than ever, with consumers expecting a more seamless experience between channels and devices. Furthermore, retailers must contend with giants like Amazon.com that use their size and structure to out-innovate the market at lightening speed.
What retailers must realize is that they have at their fingertips a precious commodity, the oil of modern business. When mined and refined correctly, big data can provide a wealth of customer insight, organizational alignment and — just like oil — a flowing revenue stream.
From search data to point-of-sale data, e-commerce platform data to order management output, the types of data that retailers have at their fingertips can be both plentiful and overwhelming. However, data and operational silos continue to stifle the ability to gain a 360-degree view of business decisions, of customers and ultimately the health of the retail business.
Retailers are increasingly turning to cloud-based data management solutions to synch their data into a cohesive view, due to the speed, agility and reduced cost of set up. IDC predicts that spending on cloud services will reach $107 billion by 2017, with software as a service (SaaS) capturing 59.7 percent of that spend. As retailers shift to SaaS solutions, they'll increasingly be able to manage their data in a less expensive, faster and more cohesive manner.
However, data management goes far beyond the cloud. Most retail businesses are still organized in distinct silos, with marketing, merchandising and operational teams meeting infrequently to review the overarching business. Contrast this with the fact that consumers are shopping 24/7 in-store, from a catalog, online and on mobile devices. In order to close this chasm between operational structure and customer expectations, great retailers will be evaluating their business frequently during the week, looking at one common data analysis and making coordinated decisions as close to real time as possible.