InsideBIGDATA Guide to Retail

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Few industries have greater access to data around consumers, products, and channels than the retail industry. Data coupled with insights are at the heart of what drives this business. It’s a logical consequence then that retail is the vertical market that adopted big data and technologies like Hadoop earlier than many other industries. Retail started with diverse transactional data but is now much more sophisticated in the way technology is being applied toward gaining competitive advantage. Big data refers to huge data sets characterized by larger volumes (by orders of magnitude) and greater variety and complexity, and generated at a higher velocity than companies have faced before. The use of big data is all about deriving real meaning from the increasing amount of data everywhere and providing richer insights into business patterns and trends, to drive operational efficiencies, and to improve advantage in a competitive marketplace. So what is big data in terms of its relevance to the retail industry? In the simplest terms, big data offers a means to understand shoppers via a myriad of digital touch points—from their online purchases,
to their presence on social networks, to their visits to brick and mortar stores (using the shopper’s cell phone Wi-Fi to track physical movements).  But while big data might hold the key to newfound consumer insights, retailers are grappling with how to meaningfully process—and ultimately monetize —huge amounts of unstructured data in the form of consumer tweets, images, video, and more. In addition, machine generated structured data adds yet another dimension, e.g. sensor data like RFID tags and GPS data, web log data and point-of-sale data.  Retailers that understand how to analyze the multitude of digital bread crumbs left behind by unknowing browsers and buyers are finding themselves at a major advantage over competitors that solely rely on intuition. Big data enables companies to create comprehensive customer profiles and precise product recommendations.  Today, customers are finding the products they  want quicker than ever before, and in many cases the items are finding them, thanks to targeted ads.

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