Since the pandemic began, first person research has revealed that retail executives have focused more on integrating data from different sources and in developing real-time data analysis to address critical business objectives.
But at the same time, CIOs are also trying to determine how to best evaluate investments so that data can be democratized and converted into insights that support faster responses to changing business conditions.
Trying to meet rapidly developing digital demands while also trying to use data to make wiser decisions more quickly is challenging, but smart retailers are already making the shift. Among their moves:
- Doubling down on efforts to not only integrate data collection processes from different sources (on premises, mobile apps, web, phone) but also to harmonize the management and optimization of data as it lands on increasingly complex infrastructures. This can include on-premises and public-cloud resources.
- Greater executive attention to developing real-time data analysis that will yield business intelligence to accomplish critical business objectives. Closer collaboration with line-of-business managers to understand their constantly evolving needs, and present data in context has grown in importance. “There’s a wealth of data out there, but how do we leverage it?” is a frequent citation.
- Establishing tighter and more intimate ties with trading partners is critical to ensuring supply chain continuity. Organizations are looking to anticipate disruptions in the value-chain, prompting company leaders to double and triple down on production and inventory capacity to support projected demand from retailers — even as the pandemic continues to disrupt the economy.
- An imperative to create stronger relationships across their organization’s business community and extend data architecture to include key suppliers. It turns out that data management – and architectures – is a team sport.
- Democratizing business intelligence/analytics operation to not only support a wide array of executive business decision makers, but also the frontline and customer-facing employees. The more resources to support data-driven decision making across the rank-and-file workforce, strategic planning and enterprise technology staff, the greater the chances of not just surviving – but thriving.
The economics of data optimization, such as making investments that will provide real-time access to data and lead to better insights for day-to-day decisions has also grown in importance. The efficacy of taking data out of its native environment (like when you move information to data warehouses, lakes or other separate data repositories) is now being challenged.
An increasingly important value proposition revolves around investments in edge computing and emerging technologies (such as artificial intelligence/machine learning) that keep data on — or very near — the infrastructures on which data is processed.
The pandemic forced retailers who operated mostly out of brick-and-mortar buildings to implement delivery and curb-side pickup options for customers. As a result, these retailers were able to collect much more information about their customers, in addition to customer use of mobile devices that provided IoT insights for retailers.
But the problem with customer information is that retailers, such as those in the healthcare arena, will have to make sure they don’t run afoul of HIPAA regulations. Or, as in the case of automotive companies that capture Voice-of-the-Vehicle data to optimize vehicle design, what are the ethical considerations when combining digital services to physical offerings? And, who owns such data?
Decision making and the Bottom Line
The bottom line for retailer CIOs is that ensuring the effective management of data across complex heterogeneous infrastructures for a wider range of stakeholders will require data architectures that support sophisticated intelligence and automation capabilities. It is the only way that data-driven decision making can be enabled at scale and that compliance policies can be systematically enforced.
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