Study: Big Data Remains Work in Progress

According to a survey, 60 percent of retailers are initiating strategies aimed at harnessing the power of 'Big Data,' but little progress has been made and the understanding of its impact remains low.

The "State of the Industry Research Series: Big Data in Retail" from Edgell Knowledge Network (EKN) was based on research using EKN's Pulse360 methodology, including a survey of 75+ retailers, in-person interviews with senior retail leaders.

Highlights of the report include:

  • Though 80 percent of respondents were aware of Big Data, only 47 percent are clear about its implications for their business;
  • Nearly 70 percent of retailers surveyed already have a Big Data strategy or are building one. However, only 30 percent of retailers have done a Big Data proof of concept (POC), indicating that retailers are just beginning to understand the implications of Big Data;
  • Asked their biggest challenge in managing data, 46 percent indicated handling data volume, 34 percent said handling data variety, and 20 percent indicated handing data velocity;
  • Surveyed retailers identified marketing, merchandising and multi-channel as the three highest impact areas to consider for a Big Data pilot or POC. Not surprisingly, they also ranked these areas as experiencing the highest data growth;
  • Business priorities, budgets and ROI were cited as the biggest inhibitors to investment. Thirty-one percent of surveyed retailers responded that 'yet another' analytics project will need a solid benefits argument.
  • New analytics tools or software, and augmenting and training internal analytics resources were the most important factors towards building big data capabilities.

Based on the research findings, anecdotal experience captured from retailer and vendor interviews, in addition to guidance from EKN's Advisory Council, the following approach towards Big Data was recommended:

  1. Take time to understand this space. Start by assessing Big Data maturity and do proof of concepts before you invest big.
  2. Identify areas of high impact opportunity, and build detailed use cases. Initially focus on three areas: pricing, segmentation and marketing effectiveness.
  3. Capability building and analytics training are critical to Big Data success. Identify where gaps exist in current capability; build specific recruitment and training plans.
  4. Create a comprehensive data strategy covering 3 core areas: customer data/master data management, data policy and process guidelines, and data pool use and sharing
  5. Focus on, and plan for, organizational change associated with Big Data and analytics adoption.

Gaurav Pant, Research Director, EKN, said the findings show that retailers are "beginning measured experiments" around that could spur growth in this area over the next 12-24 months. He added, "If retailers can avoid getting caught up in the semantics of Big Data definitions and focus instead on what decisions are valuable to their business, Big Data can be the game-changer it is touted to be."

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