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Retailers’ use of analytics rises – but Big Data still baffles

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6th Feb 2014
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Data management is very much a speculate-to-accumulate type of endeavour, but a new report from the Economist Intelligence Unit shows how retailers' ventures have been validated by some pleasing returns. Many companies are now keen to invest more – but it seems there is an obstacle standing rather defiantly in their way.

The Data Storm: Retail and the Big Data Revolution is based on a survey involving 50 c-suite executives from the retail realms, based across Europe and North America. The benefits of data analytics were clear to see in the results; a hefty 78% of businesses have experienced the economic rewards of data, with 64% reporting increased levels of loyalty among its customer base and 52% enjoying boosted sales. Happy days.

But there’s a problem: over half of retailers are unsure whether their company is able to keep up with the data surge. And it is one heck of a surge – an estimated 90% of the earth’s data has been collected in the last couple of years alone. Staying up to speed, then, is a tall order for many, and Big Data is consequently causing confusion across the board.

Half of all executives admitted that they have problems sifting through such colossal volumes of data in order to work out which strains actually hold value. This was the number one barrier standing in the way between companies and Big Data glory, with the second being a dubiousness about whether it would actually benefit the business to a worthwhile extent (32%). An equal 32% considered legalities to be raining on their Big Data parade.

Retailers are, on the whole, still new to Big Data, and these findings certainly reflect that. Although its impact is only in the early stages, many can see how beneficial it could be, but still have not found the key to unlock its potential. As yet, only 36% have been able to develop a concrete policy for analysing the valuable information they are collecting, and just under a third (30%) admitted that they have not found a way to consistently yield value from it.

Going forward, data is to become an increasingly important tool for developing business strategies; 62% of retailers are anticipating strategy-driven investments in analytics over the next two years. It seems, then, the battle with Big Data is set to continue.  

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