Creativity and Gut Instinct are Back in Retail, But For a Surprising Reason

spreadsheet-glasses_730x280.jpgIn a recent Retail Wire article, author Carol Spieckerman recounted a podcast conversation she had with Graeme Noseworthy, senior content marketing manager at IBM Analytics, in which they concluded that that the impact of big data on the retail industry could be categorized in one of four distinct ways.  

Let’s take a look at each of them.

Accepting Data

Spieckerman’s first conclusion is that retailers are no longer shying away from data. In year’s prior, most retailers were generally overwhelmed with the thought of sifting through vast volumes of data, either because they didn’t have the expertise to appropriately apply it to the business end or because analytic tools were more frustrating to use than they were worth. Now, the tide has shifted, and many retailers are embracing the possibilities.

She writes, “Armed with a treasure trove of advanced analytical tools and user-friendly dashboards, retailers are finally gaining the confidence to open up the data fire hose. Moving forward, this will include integrating weather and social data into traditional retail data sets and harnessing IoT insights gathered from innumerable consumer devices and products.”

And (obviously) we agree. In the Celect blog, we’ve written about numerous examples of companies embracing retail analytics, from big-box retailers to niche, luxury shops

Data-informed decisions

Spieckerman’s second point is that due to a new confidence in data, retailers are taking a more gut-instinct approach to some aspects of the business, such as marketing. This, she argues, is surprising, as with so much data, one would expect it to inform every decision.

She writes, “As retailers' data confidence increases, a surprising shift is underway: gut instinct and creativity are back. Not that long ago, it was assumed that data would drive every important retail decision; today, retailers are taking a more balanced approach that includes the human touch.” 

We agree – to a point. Data should be used as part of nearly every decision a retailer makes, as it’s only going to make for more informed decisions. After all, Target and Amazon, certainly think so. 

However, there is still potential for creativity, so long as data plays some impact in the decision making process. Just look at the trend of increased retail immersion through a crossover with the arts we wrote about earlier this year.

Data Story-telling

Third is that Spieckerman believes as retailers grow even more comfortable with data, successful ones will begin telling data-backed stories. 

She writes, “As data collection becomes commoditized, data storytelling will emerge as a major differentiator for retailers and for any company competing in the technology space. In a world of seemingly endless insights, and with many stakeholders involved, stories will unify and crystallize opportunities.” 

Spieckerman never truly defines what she means by “storytelling,” but if we assume she’s hinting at a type of more individualized, consumer-calibrated approach to retailing through persona creation and predictive personalization, we agree.

Diversifying approach

Spieckerman’s fourth and final conclusion is that retailers will stop focusing on the niche and use data to expand.

She writes, “Now it's time for technology companies to break out of the old silos and showcase how solutions address retail's many new models and retailers' new identities.” 

While this is more speculative than her other thoughts, we’ve certainly seen retailers use data to branch out. Amazon opened bookstores and Target recently began an assortment optimization undertaking to redefine some of its in-store offerings. At the very least, her thoughts underscore data’s impact on an increased focus on omni-channel marketing, rather than a traditional division among silos.

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Topics: data overload, retail analytics, retail trends

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