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How Can Retailers Harness Big Data?

Big data analytics are becoming increasingly indispensable across most industries, including retail. When retailers clearly understand their industry by leveraging key information, they can improve their marketing efforts, demand forecasting, inventory planning, and much more. However, those looking to big data for improvements must overcome certain challenges and develop specific strategies before implementing big data analytics into their businesses. With a range of potential opportunities, what are some business applications for big data in the retail sector?

What are retailers doing?

Retailers can leverage big data in several ways to gain an edge. Here are five key areas worth mentioning:

  1. Personalization — Many retailer websites feature recommendation engines that use customer preferences to tailor selection results. However, it can be challenging for these engines to make recommendations effectively without being obtrusive. For instance, generating irrelevant offers can irritate potential customers. Through big data analysis and machine-learning capabilities, retailers can use customer information to train their engines. For example, they can improve relevance by implementing a control loop that compares generated recommendations to response rates. In other words, retailers are using big data to improve personalization with increasing accuracy.
  2. Pricing — Product prices can fluctuate throughout the year, especially during high-demand periods. How do retailers adapt? Through big data analytics, retailers can employ dynamic pricing, a pricing method that automatically adjusts their prices in response to their competitors’. Retailers can use analytics software that monitors prices and creates rules so the software adjusts prices accordingly. However, if retailers don’t check or limit their dynamic pricing controls, they can become problematic; if a competitor drastically discounts a product and the retailer hasn’t set restrictions on his or her dynamic pricing system, it can devastate margins. Therefore, big data has the capacity to make real-time price matching easy and effective — but only if retailers set clear boundaries.

  3. Inventory — It’s important for any retailer to have a clear view of his or her inventory, especially if he or she oversees more than one location or channel. In the past, industry insiders relied on physical observations and manual inventorying. Now, a variety of digital touch points makes inventory management simpler, even for those with multiple channels. Big data analytics can help retailers track their inventories and understand trends, which, in turn, can help them better — and more accurately — prepare for changes in demand.
  4. Competition — As with inventory, previous competitor assessment methods were relatively low-tech. Retailers can do more than set competitor pricing alternatives based on real-time data: They can also use competitors’ success to their own advantages by monitoring which competing deals are the most profitable and localizing prices based on what competitors’ customers are buying.
  5. Sensor analytics — Through increasing Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, retailers have more opportunities than ever to connect with and attract customers. This year, more retail owners will likely “profit from an increase in sensors and data coming from various customer-owned devices.” This, in turn, is generating greater interest among global retailers hoping to take advantage as 70% are “ready to adopt the Internet of Things to improve customer experiences.” By leveraging customer information on everything from loyalty cards to social media platforms and store apps, retailers can use these countless data points to gain an edge.

It’s clear that, when it comes to harnessing big data, there’s plenty of room for retail success. To truly unlock big data’s potential, retailers will likely invest in more IoT, machine learning, and automation technology. However, careful strategic planning and preparation are essential for any business leader planning to tap into big data. Retail executives should understand what their goals are for leveraging big data, what information they will need, and how they will turn insights into actions moving forward. Without proper planning, it is easy to become overwhelmed — and more information can hinder rather than help business operations. Data has always driven decisions: Big data technology is exciting because it drives smarter, faster, more accurate decisions based on real-time information from many, many data points.

The experts at Value Global understand the retail landscape and offer many customized IT solutions. If you’re looking to leverage smarter ways of doing better business, visit Value Global online or give us a call at 281.713.9895.
Technology

What Top 2018 Tech Trends Could Impact Your Business?

We’ve hardly scratched the surface of 2018, but it’s never too early to anticipate and prepare for technology trends and developments promising to shape the future of managed services — and the world. Although many of these developments pose beneficial opportunities for tech company leaders, they may also present challenges to those not ready for impending industry changes.

Here are the biggest trends of 2018 you need to know about and how they may impact your business.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning

It’s no secret implementing smarter, faster programs into company workflows can offer sweeping benefits. From accurate, adaptable analytics to automation and beyond, some major disruptive developments entail artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Gartner researchers predict having the ability to use AI will “reinvent business models” and user experiences over the next several years. Although virtual assistants like Alexa are mainstreaming AI, experts agree the greatest changes will occur through implementing narrow AI, which utilizes machine learning to fulfill specific, data-intensive tasks. For companies whose leaders utilize this technology, this means advances in predictive decision-making and augmented analytics, which use machine learning to prepare data and discover deep insights for a wide range of solutions.

Smart devices and the Internet of Things (IoT)

iot

As with AI, advances in IoT applications promise to revolutionize analytics and networking. By increasingly and constantly connecting billions of IoT devices, business insiders are making leaps in data management and service automation. Perhaps more important, the amount of information and speed of analysis IoT offers is enabling many business professionals to work more efficiently and profitably than before. For example, truck manufacturers reduced their 180,000-truck fleet management costs by 80% thanks to versatile datasets they created using connected technology. IoT implementation benefits have prompted many industry power players, such as those at Microsoft, to invest heavily in IoT analytics, and savvy tech leaders are following suit.

Augmented world

augmented reality

It has become exceedingly clear in the last few years that virtual reality is useful for more than just video games. The technology underlying immersive digital worlds has disrupted many areas from user experiences to assistive technologies. Many major developments in augmented reality (AR), which provides visual overlays on physical objects, are proving their worth in the business arena. Gartner researchers predict that “mixed reality,” a technology that combines digital and real-world objects to create a virtual user experience while keeping users rooted in the present, is a key aspect of AR worth watching over the next five years.

Another AR-adjacent trend is the continued development of conversational platforms. Thanks to advances in AI and machine learning as well as AR, some company leaders have turned to chatbots for automating and streamlining their customer service interactions. Early conversational technology implementations were limited to highly structured, simplistic answers. However, according to the Gartner article, these platforms will likely evolve in the coming years as they become able to incorporate complex vocal and even visual data to complete user requests. More robust conversational technology stands to benefit those whose jobs span multiple industries by delivering advanced user-friendly interactive experiences.

Cloud services

Cloud services are becoming an obvious choice for many company leaders looking to streamline business operations. As a result, more and more business decision-makers are turning to MSPs, helping them to better understand, implement, and manage their cloud-based services with the added benefit of ongoing support. As a means to save costs, using public clouds is also becoming a go-to option for many. This, in turn, is driving an even greater demand for hybrid clouds. And as more business professionals better understand hybrid cloud advantages, flexibility, and value, many dub 2018 the “year of the hybrid cloud.” Based on increasing successes and demand, it’s likely cloud platforms will remain a force used for consolidating or eliminating antiquated on-premises business systems.

2018 should be an exciting year as many business processes are ripe for disruption as more and more company leaders recognize the benefits behind these technologies. Many are shifting their mindsets from the notion that these are simply buzzwords to understanding, realizing, and utilizing their value. Smart company leaders are already taking steps to corner these emerging technologies, working to innovate and increase value for their customers.

For more on the latest trends and developments shaping managed services and disrupting businesses, or to learn more about innovative managed services solutions, visit Value Global online.
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