Retailers want insights, not data

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What insights can be gained from the massive amounts of data that allow us to make decisions that deliver the best results? Data vs. information is an ongoing battle. Many people look for more data to make confident decisions. However, what most people seek is insight.

Retailers always have tracked what was sold, where it was sold and, in most cases, who it was sold to.  Since the advent of the bar code and modern POS and ERP Systems, more data has been acquired and stored in data warehouses. Now, retailers are adding third-party data, such as census information, to the mix.

The challenge retailers always have had is making sense of data and turning it into insight that clears the way for action. Until recently, retail analytics focused on history: What just happened? Based on history, retailers made predictions about the future. But, that only gets us part of the way to the real benefit of analytics. By taking the next step and asking “what if,” retailers can leverage historical information, predict the future, and optimize business outcomes.

DSW embodies the ideal

DSW was highlighted in a June 30th Retail Touchpoints article detailing the continued value achieved through their use of SAS® Size Optimization.  Linda Canada, SVP of Planning and Allocation at DSW, explained, “It’s had a significant impact on our business.”

She said when initially researching size optimization, DSW looked at a number of software packages, and chose SAS after testing in a handful of stores. “We liked the power of SAS Analytics. We felt like we were getting a richer, more accurate answer to our questions,” Canada said. She described how the SAS solution works, compared to competitors’ offerings, “Most companies’ size applications throw out data if you are out-of-stock, reducing the data used to develop the size curve. SAS actually adds data through an algorithm that predicts what the sales would have been if the item had been in stock.”

Oberweis Dairy uses advanced analytics on old-fashioned business

Dairy Oberweis Dairy is another example of a retailer bringing state-of-the-art analytics to its decidedly old-fashioned business: home milk delivery and traditional ice cream shops. With SAS® Business Analytics, the company mines its data to better understand which customers shop through its different channels for more effective cross-selling and up-selling.

Oberweis uses SAS® Visual Data Discovery to view data. "It's a much faster way to identify correlations and trends in data," said Bruce Bedford, Vice President of Marketing Analytics and Consumer Insight.    "I think implementing SAS is a great way for a small company to become a large company," Bedford continued. "One of the most valuable assets of any company, large or small, is its data, but you have to analyze it."

Gilt drives customer engagement

Gilt started as an invitation-only website devoted to selling luxury women's goods at insider prices that were once available only in exclusive New York trunk sales. Today, it is one of the fastest-growing online retailers selling a broad range of upscale women's fashion and accessories, men's apparel and lifestyle, home and children’s merchandise plus exclusive local deals through flash sales. SAS Analytics have helped drive membership engagement by allowing the firm to rapidly analyze data and better understand what its customers want.

"We needed a solution that would allow us to turn information into knowledge and then do in-depth analysis. SAS enabled us to do all that," said Tamara Gruzbarg, Senior Director of Analytics and Research.

SAS enables business users from marketing, operations, finance and merchandising to manipulate, manage, store, analyze, visualize and report on data – all from a single environment. Gilt also wanted the option to move to more sophisticated analytics – such as predictive modeling and segmentation – with just one vendor. Gruzbarg is happy, though, to have started with basic analytics. "It is never too early to start with analytics, even if you don't have full-blown capabilities right away," she said.

In the coming months we’ll expand our look at the retail enterprise and provide updates and information related to the transformation of the retail industry through the lens of drivers like technology advances, demographic changes and economic forces. In addition, we’ll highlight ways that retailers have been able to make use of analytics throughout the enterprise. We would love to share your story.  Let us know how you’re using analytics to improve your business at @SASRetail on Twitter.

Lastly, we’ll keep you informed about new and updated SAS solutions that can help you improve the performance of your retail business.  I look forward to engaging with you and welcome any comments below, via @alanlipson or @SASRetail on Twitter, or alan.lipson@sas.com through old-fashioned email.

Learn more about the future of retail analytics.

Photo by See-ming Lee // usage rights by cc

tags: business analytics, customer intelligence, retail

One Comment

  1. Puni Rajah
    Posted August 1, 2014 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this timely insight, Alan. The balance between learning from history and applying expertise to simulate future scenarios is an especially challenging competency to master. I look forward to your updates.

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