How big data helps stores like macy's and kohl's track you like never before forbes

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Business & Mgmt

Published on March 7, 2014

Author: davidaltman


Description Interview with David Altman, CEO of MarketShare Advisors Interational by Barbara Thau.

How Big Data Helps Stores Like Macy's And Kohl's Track You Lik... Barbara Thau, Contributor I write about the intersection of retail and consumer trends. R E T AI L | 1/24/2014 @ 8:30AM | 19,956 views How Big Data Helps Stores Like Macy's And Kohl's Track You Like Never Before As to be expected at events in any industry, executives at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show last week lapsed into lazy talk – bandying about vague notions such as “customer centric solutions,” while ticking off hot retail buzz terms like “personalization” and “omnichannel selling” without always delivering concrete examples of what those terms will mean in 2014. But along with the nebulousness came some meaty insight on what’s poised to revolutionize how retailers serve shoppers: Big data. IBM chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty did a good job of demystifyng the concept. While merchants are guilty of discussing initiatives du jour in hyperbolic tones, big data is “one that is actually under hyped,” she said in her keynote address, “A New Era of Value,” which included a discussion on the topic with Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren. “Information is going to be our generation’s next natural resource like steam was to the 19th century,” she said. That’s because “there are a number of technology shifts and their convergence is happening at once.” So what is big data in terms of its relevance to the retail industry? In the simplest terms, big data offers a means to understand shoppers via myriad digital touch points – from their online purchases to their presence on social networks. “Mobile is everywhere – more people have a cell phone than running water and 25% of the world will be on a social network – that’s what created all of this big data: 2.5 billion gigabytes [of data] is created per day,” she said. To put it in perspective the newness of it all, 80% of the world’s data has been created in the past two years, she said, a statistic also quoted by others in several show sessions. It’s composed of structured data, “things that come in rows and columns,” and “unstructured data,” such as pictures, videos, tweets and location-based data. And why should big data be top of mind for merchants? Because “it will be 1 of 3 3/7/14 11:24 AM

How Big Data Helps Stores Like Macy's And Kohl's Track You Lik... retailers’ basis of competitive advantage … and will be how you engage with your customers,” she said. Kohl’s, for example, is testing real-time, personalized offers in five of its stores. Shoppers who walk into one of those stores can opt in for offers via their smartphones. So if a shopper lingers in the shoe department, for example, they’ll receive a coupon based on “the shoes they looked at online but never bought,” Rometty said. And there’s a good chance Kohl’s will earn that sale. That’s because “customers are more likely to respond to an offer when it’s at the moment of purchase when they’re shopping.” What’s more, “almost 70% of you want information and a coupon when you shop,” she said. Big data has given Vera Bradley insight into what shoppers want while delivering a return on investment for the retailer/supplier of colorful quilted handbags. The company switched from sending shoppers blanket email promotions to sending targeted offers based on individual shopper purchases. As a result of the targeted email strategy, Vera Bradley sent 63% fewer emails but generated a 101% increase in shopper click throughs and a 275% increase in the conversion rate of browsers to purchasers, Women’s Wear Daily reported on the show session, “What Do Handbags and Diamonds Have in Common? Applying Big Data and Analytics to Fashion.” But while big data might hold the key to newfound consumer insight, retailers are grappling with how to meaningfully process – and ultimately monetize — huge amounts of unstructured data – all those consumer tweets, pictures and videos. That unprecedented struggle came to the fore during the NRF session entitled, “Mapping The Consumer Genome to Drive Profitable Growth in Retail.” It’s a challenge – even a headache – that’s been largely handed to the chief information officers at retail chains. Target, for one, uses “social sentiment data” – insight gleaned from social networks — to monitor how shoppers respond to its designer collaborations, said Melissa Flicek, director of project delivery for, during the session. Still, understanding all the reams of data “is incredibly difficult,” she said. And “how much data do you really need?” questioned David Altman, CEO of MarketShare Advisors International, a boutique advisory and investment firm, and a former senior executive at Neiman Marcus and Limited Brands. The danger of an overreliance on data is “analysis paralysis,” he told Forbes. “Retail is about surprise, delight, enticement, wonder, discovery. At the end of the day, this is an art more than a science.” Follow me on Twitter. 2 of 3 3/7/14 11:24 AM

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