How Business Intelligence Creates Better Business Value For Retail Leaders

Decision windows are shorter; need for real-time analysis greater; and data sets more broad and unstructured, all fueling the growth of Business Intelligence (BI) tools in the retail segment. Key findings from a BI trends study disclosed recently by Aberdeen Group pointed to a roughly 40% year-over-year increase in retail data volume and complexity, and an expanding number of users who want access to it. Across the board, retailers’ need for true business intelligence is exacerbated by Big Data’s growing disparity, including unstructured records from social, mobile, video, and speech and image recognition, among other sources.

As a result, “BI has become a strategic priority, with greater C-level ownership,” said Mike Lock, Senior Research Analyst, Business Intelligence for Aberdeen Group. “BI deployment alternatives are increasingly attractive, including SaaS and cloud, with their intuitive nature and zero footprints, and embedded analytics, which are pervasive and integrated. In addition, executives and business users are looking for ‘discovery,’ including customized analysis based on self-service questions, and tailored delivery with custom, intuitive views.”

In this 3-part series, Retail TouchPoints looks at the data challenges faced by several well-known retailers and how their subsequent BI implementations have helped them maximize insight, enhance decision making and create better business value. Among the advantages these retailers have realized are the ability to harness today’s broader and complex data volume; increase visibility into day-to-day operations; minimize reliance on static spreadsheets; garner access to BI from mobile devices; utilize the agility, flexibility and lower cost of software-as-a-service; and advance to newer techniques of BI development.


Harnessing Data Volume 

As retail data sets get more broad and complex, narrowing them into actionable information can be daunting, especially as it relates to customer behavior. Though prior customer data integrations at Cabela’s brought online and offline elements together to create insights leveraged in marketing and across the enterprise, a new data strategy “delivers an entirely new and richer understanding of our consumers and what interests them, and heightens our ability to be very relevant in our marketing efforts,” Corey Bergstrom, Director of Marketing Research and Analytics for Cabela’s, told Retail TouchPoints.

To expand its full customer view and achieve new business intelligence, the sporting goods chain incorporated data from Web browsing, traditional marketing research and third party sources. The improved customer data acquisition and management strategy “moved the company from siloed marketing channels to agile, responsive business intelligence across channels,” said Bergstrom. “It’s a BI application that has no fixed start or end; it’s a process of getting better at each step, gleaning more accurate data and developing more complete models.” 

According to Bergstrom, Cabela’s could identify customers who looked at a product online, placed it in the cart then removed it before going to the physical store to buy. Its marketers observed the abandonments and, without current BI insights, believed that the increased risk associated with making a purchase in today’s economy raised the importance of customers’ online search and reviews, referrals and other sources of information prior to purchase.

To better understand lifestyles, motivations for shopping and purchasing influences and trends, and other customer characteristics, Cabela’s pulled data from all channels and implemented Teradata’s Integrated Web Intelligence (IWI) application to gain its integrated view of data. Along with tools from WebTrends (a Teradata partner) to collect online data, the IWI business intelligence application integrates data from Cabela’s 30-plus retail outlets, catalogs, the call center, in-store kiosks and the online stores.

The benefit today is an ongoing dynamic process that results in very relevant offers. “Not only does that improve immediate ROI, it strengthens customer loyalty and builds greater customer lifetime value,” said Bergstrom.

An integrated view of data and enhanced business intelligence also is achieved at Barnes & Noble, who had been maintaining 13 different, siloed data warehouses of company information. As one of the web’s largest e-Commerce sites, Barnes & Noble utilizes “big data” analytics market innovator Aster Data’s Teradata Aster MapReduce Platform, which delivers new analytic applications with high-performance and pre-packed pattern, path and graph SQL MapReduce analytic modules.

Products from Tableau Software, a business intelligence software provider, allow Barnes & Noble to secure additional data such as store sales performance so that C-level and other management can track sales more efficiently and plan accordingly, as previously reported in Retail TouchPoints (

Tableau also is used by Barnes & Noble to assess categories by region as well as track stock prices and headlines via external RSS feeds. This, combined with the Aster Data application, gives the retailer better response rates from the data, decreasing the amount of development time for reports.

Part 2 of the Business Intelligence report will appear in the December 22nd newsletter.  Part 2 will cover successful BI solutions employed by retailers including Donna Karan and Casual Male Retail Group.

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