The ability to perform data analytics at speed is going to unlock growth in these uncertain times, a panel of leading experts has told Retail Week.

How to best analyse and action data insights was the key topic of debate during RWRC’s virtual event Getting to grips with ‘the new normal’, held last month in partnership with data capture specialist Zebra Technologies.

With an unprecedented level of online shopping as a result of the pandemic, retailers have been under pressure to use their data effectively to cut through the noise and win spend. 

Understanding the true value of data

Kyle Monk, head of insight and analytics at the BRC, said: “Now more than ever we are going to need granular and robust frequent data sets to help plan and model some of these complexities.”

He added: “Data is one part of the picture, but it’s the decision making and the analytics that is the key piece. It seems there is an abundance of data at the moment but the analytics is not as robust for every retailer as it could be. It is key to get the right solutions in place so you can map some of this unchartered territory.

”Data is one part of the picture but it’s the decision making and the analytics that is the key piece.”

“We don’t know what demand is going to look like over the next six to 12 months, so data will be key in navigating those changes.”

“In these uncertain times, you need to have the confidence to move forward. And to have that confidence you need to have data you trust”

Andrea Auchterlonie, Columbus Consulting

Anthony Morris, director of data, analytics and insight at Dixons Carphone, added that in these unforeseen circumstances it has been extremely difficult to plan for peaks in trade.

“The traditional approach of taking long-run trends and seasonality doesn’t work so well, so it’s really important to be able to gather those different insights,” he said.

However, the experts were keen to point out that the data by itself is not enough and must be fully analysed to realise it’s true worth. 

Yonatan Olsha, director of Zebra Technologies, said: “Turning data into actions is what we’re all talking about.”

“Over the last few years, retailers have accumulated more and more types of data. And data is key, it is very powerful, but data is most powerful when it is quickly put into action that can influence a more positive outcome.”

He continued: “People do not need more reports. They don’t have time to read them. They are usually scheduled for a specific time but, as we know, problems in retail are not scheduled. If you want to really act fast then you need to turn your data into action and be able to track it to make sure you are taking the right action.”

“Data analytics needs to be a lot more operational,” added Andrea Auchterlonie, merchandise and operations executive at Columbus Consulting.

The solution to omnichannel logistics

The panel agreed that some of the most pressing conundrums for retailers at present are around omnichannel logistics.

For example, with click and collect, how do you really get real-time inventory accuracy? How quickly can you communicate with the store staff to reserve an item? Can you determine at what point a stock level is too low to guarantee the click and collect and does this vary by product?

“These are things that are not really operationally possible for people to do,” said Auchterlonie. “Most people don’t have the time to read those reports, get down to that granular level and then communicate what needs to be done, so we need to look at how we use the data in a practical and operational way but really quickly.”

“In these uncertain times, you need to have the confidence to move forward. And to have that confidence you need to have data you trust. It’s all about being agile and your data needs to help you to be agile, for now, and certainly for the foreseeable future.”

Discover more on how Covid-19 is forcing retailers to operate more efficiently than ever before and how firms can use data they already have to make better decisions.

By accessing this free RWRC and Zebra virtual event on-demand retailers will learn:

  • How to leverage data to inform decision making
  • How to scenario-model for unplanned events 
  • Why a wealth of knowledge sits with store staff and how this data can be used to a retailer’s advantage