Improved analytics a priority for 44% of retailers

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The report also found that social media was underutilized.

Improved real-time data and analytics are a priority for 44% of all retailers, according to a report from Boston Retail Partners (BRP). However, data is not necessarily helping retailers' performance due to lack of corporate alignment and inconsistent processes. 

In order for a retail organization to have a unified approach to the implementation of data, there must be alignment across all business segments—by channel, by assortment, even by item. In order to do that, 82% of those surveyed said they need to either implement new processes or improve their existing planning systems across channels. 

According to the report, real-time analytics are a key part of understanding the customer across channels and creating the right assortment for those customers. This means prioritizing investments in systems architecture that can handle collection and utilization of data across the entire organization. 

"One of the most surprising findings from the BRP Special Report is that retailers are focusing on analytics above many other issues. Retailers have identified analytics as a silver bullet to their problems," Gene Bornac, vice president at BRP, told FierceRetail. "Many retailers understand that learning more about their business and customers at a detailed and aggregate level helps them make better decisions, based on real-time data, which may help them succeed."


Retailers have been slow to implement tools needed to track real-time analytics. In fact, only 17% of those surveyed receive real-time data.

According to Bornac, in order for retailers to better harness analytics, they first need to decide what problem they are looking to solve. This enables them to focus on relevant data that can be acted upon in a timely matter. 

"Many retailers set out to analyze mass quantities of data. The hope is that they will find a revelation in the large volumes of information," Bornac said. "Unfortunately, they are really looking for a needle in a haystack. Focusing on key pieces of data, especially around customers and inventory, can reap instant rewards and it is analogous to looking for a horse in a haystack." 

Lack of a unified view can also have a big impact on planning, with 42% of retailers citing disparate systems or processes as one of the two largest struggles relating to planning. 

Yet another obstacle is lack of organizational training, skills and resource or cultural constraints. One-fourth of those surveyed cited one of the above as their largest planning obstacle.  

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The report also found that social media was underutilized. The feedback is valuable, yet many retailers don't use it in decision-making processes. Though 65% of retailers are capturing customer feedback via social media, the survey revealed only 26% of respondents are integrating social media data to impact business decisions. 

Bornac points out that harnessing data will continue to be a key theme for retailers in the next few years. He reminds retailers to remember that it's quality, not quantity. 

"If retailers succeed in finding the answers in the data, the will be better prepared to succeed in today’s difficult retail environment and they will find additional ways to use analytics to make smarter business decisions," he said.