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Author: Debjyoti Paul | 03/05/15

Back to basics: It’s not the data, it’s what you do with it!

There was a definite sense of history in the making. A coming of age for data and analytics. From the exotic confines of ‘earlyvangelist’ skunkworks to mainstream. In an aptly historic setting too, at the cornerstone of the Magnificent Mile and Lakeshore Drive in The Drake, Chicago where CGT was hosting Retail and Consumer Goods Analytics Summit.

As was to be expected, Amazon’s prowess cast its long shadow on all discussions, always showing that if we apply the right approach, there’s tremendous power to be extracted from the mountains (or lakes?) of data in our new world. What better way to start the proceedings than with the spirited Dr. Andreas Weigend, with his not-to-miss Google glasses?

Starting with a deep look at how data is disrupting every area of work, he spoke of the shift of power from the few to the many, to the individual. In a talk full of interesting data points, he outlined a few rules of engagement for businesses as we start dealing better with data. Two key points that I believe are especially important to note are:

  • The need to share with customers how their data is being used, and therefore how they benefit from sharing it
  • The need to better embrace data symmetry and transparency

We have seen both of these points ourselves through the findings of our Shopper Study released at NRF 2015. First, consumers told us, loud and clear, that they are willing to share information with retailers so long as they can get great value and a great, personalised experience. Second, in the self-service world where ‘demand discovers supply,’ it is very important to let consumers have equal access to their own information. Isn’t it frustrating when you ask your airline to credit missing miles and they ask you to share copies of your boarding passes for them to proceed? They have all your data, after all. In fact, you should be able to retrieve every detail of your interaction with the airline yourself.

Debunking the myth that Data leads to Insight, Insight to Knowledge, Knowledge to Wisdom, Wisdom to Wonder, Dr. Weigend called it all B***S***. “Data is worth only what you can do with it” would be a fitting summary of his high impact talk.

Esteban Arcaute, Head of Data Science for @WalmartLabs, provided wonderful insights into the right fit for the Data Scientist in today’s data-driven organisations. Armed with a mental map from this session, I couldn’t resist adding a few slides on this subject to the end of my own talk with Rob York, President of Relational Solutions, on ‘Placing the right assortment mix in every store, every time.’ It was starkly clear that there’s a need to drive away the fear of hiring expensive data scientists for all data problems.

Back to basics: It’s not the data, it’s what you do with it!

Talking of our session on Placing the Right Assortment Mix in Every Store, Every Time in the lovely Parkside Room, it was exciting to see a leader from an apparel and footwear maker instantly get our argument for re-thinking the approach to store assortments. Another leader from the audience commented in post-session feedback that the idea was compelling-to review how we look at forecasting, and to start seeing it through the fresh lens of personalization.

The highlight of the event, as usual, was the intimate dinner of appreciation for clients at Spiaggia, the only four-star Italian restaurant in Chicago. It was all priceless conversation, from the typical to the exotic. A common theme was the big opportunities that still await in the trade promotions insights area. Laying the right foundations for succeeding with innovation labs was another.

Back to basics: It’s not the data, it’s what you do with it!

It was just perfect that the event should end with a focus on the future: evolution of the data lake into a more mainstream need for organizations was clear from the expert panel. The final icing on the cake was the discussion with graduate students specializing in Predictive Analytics. It was only too obvious that the time has indeed come for the data driven organization. A key question was whether the surging demand would choke off access to this relatively hard-to-get skill. A leading recruiter mentioned that 31% of data analytics professionals in the US receive calls from head hunters several times a week.

While this is a chilling thought for all of us, and will surely make us work hard-to build this capability at scale for ourselves and for our clients-the warmth generated with clients and peers clearly spilled outside The Drake too. Likewise, when the summit began the weather was chilly, but by the time the event ended on Friday it was in the 70s with bright sun. Portending a warmer future for data-driven organisations?


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