Big data capabilities ‘to be essential’ for retailers

The majority of retail businesses agree that embracing big data analytics solutions will play a key role in enhancing their offerings and ensuring they are able to be successful in a highly-competitive, omnichannel environment.

This is the finding of a new study by Brick Meets Clicks, which revealed three out of four professionals agree big data capabilities are now a requirement. Effective solutions that enable firms to create more personalised offers and spot opportunities before they emerge will be among the main uses for big data in this sector.

Bill Bishop, chief architect of Brick Meets Clicks and the lead author of the report, said: "Retailers are developing new capabilities on both the supply and demand side of the business using big data. More and more companies are establishing the business case for big data and beginning to measure the benefits."

The biggest advantage to retailers of adopting this technology is the improved speed and agility it can bring to their decision-making. The ability to foresee situations was cited as the most important way big data can be used to gain value, with 73 per cent of respondents using predictive analytics to gain insight.

Some 72 per cent of professionals added that big data helps them make faster decisions, while almost half of businesses were able to add new data sources to the mix and one in four gained the ability to conduct large-scale experiments in order to identify the best-performing strategies. 

The technology can also help businesses deliver a better level of service to their customers. More than nine of out ten survey respondents agreed that big data helps retailers personalise their offerings, while 79 per cent said it will allow them to offer more solutions to their customers, such as bundling related products together.

Another key factor is the huge increase in data sources available to retailers, which can help them gain a much better picture of who their customers are and what they want.

Mr Bishop said: "For the first time since we've been tracking big data attitudes among retailing professionals, social media and website data have gained parity with item-level sales and shopper transaction data as a source of customer insights."

He added this is crucial, as almost half of those surveyed expressed worries that this type of customer data will be more restricted in the future. Indeed, 46 per cent of retailers said government regulation is likely to restrict what data they will be able to use, while just 16 per cent think such actions are unlikely.

The most common source of information or retailers was found to be social media, used by 38 per cent of respondents. This was followed by website visits, item-level sales and individual shoppers' transaction data, all used by 35 per cent of professionals.

However, there are still barriers to the adoption of big data analytics that retailers need to address if they are to get the most out of the technology. Brick Meets Clicks' report found inadequate infrastructure is the number one issue facing firms, while budget limitations and a lack of data scientists also pose problems.