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Big Data: The Potential Power…and Problems

Viewing business charts on handheld device

As retailers, you are probably swimming in data. From individual item sales per day, per month, and per year to individual store numbers—not to mention how sales affect items, what’s happening to your bottom line, and how everything is impacting each other—data is everywhere.

The best thing to happen to retail is the big data available, but it can also be the worst. If you start to focus on numbers that aren’t really having an impact on your bottom line, you can actually hinder your business by focusing on those numbers. You must get smart about sorting and prioritizing all that data. 

One of the most important things you can do is to understand how your numbers impact your bottom line. Once you have that figured out, you can sort and prioritize which numbers you need to follow and which ones you don’t. It’s okay to pick and choose which data you analyze; by choosing to focus on too many small things, you could miss the big picture.

Let’s say you’re faced with the following scenario:

You’re the regional manager for a men’s clothing store. You’ve just approved the sale of a new line of bow ties and you’re anxious to see if the investment will pay off. You’re watching the numbers in real time as they come in, and you see that the store in Chicago has sold only one of those bowties, and it’s 30 minutes before the store will be closing. You begin to panic and wonder if you made the right choice or not.

You print the report out and try to start analyzing everything about the store. In the meantime you’re missing the numbers coming in from all of the other stores—the bowties are a hit. All week you focus on how you can start a program to make that number in Chicago go up. Thankfully, the numbers for the Chicago store actually have begun to climb to their projected sales; unfortunately, however, you miss that fact because you’re still stuck on the problem from the first day.

In this case, you might want to make your data focused on weekly targets but instead of daily targets. You might also want to look at the region at a whole as well as the individual store data to see how the bowties are selling in each city. Just because they’re a hit in Chicago doesn’t mean they’ll go over well in Iowa City. By having enough data available to start making analyses, you’ll be able to stop stressing by the minute and be able to make smarter decisions. This plan worked for this regional manager; you’re situations may differ, but either way, you’ll want to make sure that you’re looking at the right numbers.

The numbers are there to help you, but when you get too focused on them, they can hurt you. Learning how to understand them, read them, and analyze them will ultimately help your business succeed—and help you stay sane in the process!

How are you using data to make smart decisions? Are you organizing and analyzing it to best benefit your organization? Do you have the tools to help you organize and analyze all that data? Talk to the retail experts at ArcherPoint to help you get your data in hand and working for you.