The New Retail Data Imperative

Articles
January 20, 2010

The New Retail Data Imperative

There needs to be a convergence soon between the mountains of data retailers can access and the fast-changing buying patterns of America’s shoppers.

There needs to be a convergence soon between the mountains of data retailers can access and the fast-changing buying patterns of America’s shoppers. As the data streams faster and piles higher, many chains remain challenged to extract what’s really actionable, do it quickly enough to keep in sync with the newest consumer thinking and behaviors, and have that flow down to the assortments, pricing, merchandising and logistics at store shelves to make consumers care.

The retail travail has long been what to do with all the data they control. The lengthy list includes their own transactional data, and plenty more from CPG manufacturers, third-party service firms, syndicators and consultancies. Competitive advantage goes to the relative few that can prioritize and make sense of it fast.    

The clock is ticking for data laggards that will continue to lose share until they get in their customers’ heads.  High-speed mining of the most fruitful consumer and shopper insights ought to be priority #1, we believe at SupermarketGuru.com, or stores risk becoming commoditized, unmemorable and alternates rather than destinations.

Indeed, some retailer innovations online do aid the shopper experience, but more importantly they give management leading trend insights to inform their chainwide buying and merchandising decisions.  For example, the New York Times reported recently that Wet Seal, a specialty clothing retailer, relies on Outfitter (a Web feature that lets visitors assemble their own outfits online) to spot trends early—such as more informality (dressy tops, casual bottoms, usually jeans).  The 500-store chain, which serves a fickle fashion shopper base, can stay in tune with shifting tastes thanks to the Outfitter tool.  

So we’re not suggesting that food stores embrace their data overload. Rather, we say, select wisely and mine the latest trends in trip planning, shopping, buying, and food and beverage consumption in order to be as current and relevant to shoppers as possible. Could a meal assembly feature on a website yield insights into how families organize meals for the week, decide on companion items, and discern between name brands and store brands? We think so. It’s one idea for moving ahead in sync with customers.