My earlier blog discussed some of the interesting insights in the January 2014 report by RSR, Retail Analytics Moves to the Frontline. The strengths of winning retail companies that really stood out to me included driving a more data driven decision making process, focusing on customers and putting information in the hands of front-line employees.

The RSR report showed that while 40% of retail laggards relied primarily on intuition and experience to make merchandising and marketing decisions, only 10% of the winners did the same.  In fact, retail winners are relying on a nice blend of experience and hard data to make effective decisions today, and that is clearly separating the two groups. The difficulty is in making the data available to merchandisers and marketers in a self-service way so that they can put their insights into action. The reality of the situation is that business insight and domain knowledge are important elements of success, but they must be combined with smart tools that empower marketers and merchandisers to make data driven decisions.

Making decisions based on data, gets to the next point I found interesting. Winning retailers focus on customers and their path to purchase. This makes complete sense. Real-time data about what consumers are doing on your site and how they are buying are the best signals that marketers and merchandisers have to understand consumer intent and to create patterns of successful interaction.  The digitally enabled shopper makes this all possible as every move they make is another data point along the path to purchase.  Winning retailers are listening and watching actively and more importantly – responding quickly to shopper preferences and shifting demands.

The final insight was that winners put information in the hands of people who can do something with it.  While most organizations use the data to report results to executive management, retail winners are pushing the data in the other direction – closer to the front line employee who can make an immediate impact on a sale or transaction.  This makes them more agile and responsive than their counterparts.

All in all, it’s not surprising to me that a winning strategy includes using data and experience, leveraging the buying signals of customers and putting data into the hands of the people who can use it.  It’s a good lesson that all marketers can learn from.