One of the main conclusions of Retail Week’s webinar on information management recorded last week was that all the data retailers need to maximise their businesses is already there – what’s needed now is staff and systems who can make use of it.

On a blisteringly hot day in central London last week, Retail Week assembled a panel of experts to talk through how retailers can get some value from all the information their businesses contain. With a retailer, an analyst and a vendor on the panel the disagreements could have raised the temperature in the studio even further – but what actually resulted was fairly clear agreement on the way forward.

Aurora Fashions group IT director John Bovill believed that the retailer is heading towards a tipping point, pushed along by its customers’ demands, which mean that it must use the good quality data it generates from its multichannel business to influence business decisions.

In practice, in Bovill’s business this could mean deciding the spread of sizes stocked in particular stores based on the demand data from web sales. Or using data generated from overseas customers’ on its UK websites to assist decision making in its international operations.

It will mean substantial changes in the way many in retail head offices do their jobs. But as Bovill pointed out, the new generation of buyers coming through are information-savvy.

Freeform Dynamics research director Martin Atherton added that to remain competitive retailers must be able to answer questions quickly when they don’t initially know what the question is – for instance if a new line is unexpectedly not selling as buyers and merchandisers have predicted.

To help do this, IBM industry solutions specialist Chris Osborne said that systems should handle the analytical part, to create high-level segmentation that presents the face of a retailer’s customers. Staff can then more easily put themselves in their customers’ shoes to help them gain competitive advantage by effectively interrogating their data to generate insight.

To view a replay of the webinar and download the Freeform Dynamics whitepaper on information management in the retail sector, click here