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Vendor Spotlight 1-18-13


What Exactly is Retail Big Data?

Big Data is a term that has been thrown around a lot as of late. It seems like the more we hear about it the more confused we get because everyone has their own answers to what big data is. It’s about time someone cleared the air and explained what big data is, and what it has to do with the retail industry. To get us started, let’s take a look at the proposed definition of Retail Big Data by our very own Derek Rodner:

Retail Big Data (n.) – The collection of large amounts of (structured and unstructured) data from multiple, disparate, and often unrelated systems into a single repository to enable retailers to more efficiently and effectively understand their business and their customers in a timely manner.

This is an excellent starting point, and if broken down part by part it starts to make sense.

The Size of Retail Big Data

Retail big data is a collection of large amounts of data. This may seem obvious, it is called BIG data after all. But this is actually the least important factor of retail big data. If this comes as a surprise to you consider this: it can be argued that every retailer, no matter how big or small, collects large amounts of data. This is where most of the confusion comes in, everyone says that big data is big and no one says why it’s big. If you ask me, big data has nothing to do with the size of the data collected and everything to do with the type of data collected.

The Sources of Retail Big Data

In Derek’s definition he says that the data comes “from multiple, disparate, and often unrelated systems” and must go into a “single repository.” This is what makes retail big data important. It’s all about the type of data you collect, and where it goes. Most retailers already collect data from all possible inputs, but few send it to the same place. It may seem cumbersome at first to collect marketing data and inventory data in the same place, but think of the possibilities. Collecting all of your data in one place will allow you to see trends you would have never thought possible. Collecting all of this information in one place also gives you a much better view of how your stores are performing as a whole.

To show just how important collecting all of your data in one place is, here’s an example: I was watching a show last week that described how UPS is able to get a package overnight from their Louisville, Kentucky hub to a home in New Jersey. They collect data on all of their trucks, all of their planes, road conditions, and routes with the most right turns among other things. If this data were collected and analyzed in a standard siloed fashion it would take a few lifetimes to produce the shortest route. In other words the data would be useless. Their solution? Collect all of that data in a single place where the data can be analyzed simultaneously to produce the shortest route in seconds, not lifetimes.

Imagine all the time you would have on your hands if you were able to generate reports in mere seconds instead of weeks. This brings me to the final part of the retail big data definition.

The Speed of Retail Big Data

The definition of Retail Big Data says that in order for all of your data to be useful, it must be collected in a “timely manner.” This may not be a defining feature of big data, but it is needed for the data to work (just look at the UPS example above). It’s not enough to collect all of your data in one place, the software must be powerful enough to give feedback in seconds. Being able to catch an issue as it’s developing means you can fix it before it affects your bottom line. That gives your store a competitive advantage that most others can’t touch.

The Big Picture for Retail Big Data

Big Data isn’t about the size of the data you collect, it’s about the type of data you collect. Now knowing what retail big data is and how it can affect you, you may be thinking a solution is too good to be true. Well, it’s not. Here at Agilence we developed a solution that collects all of your data in one spot and is powerful enough to provide feedback and trends in seconds. Retail 20/20 gives you unparalleled insight into your stores. It’s time to stop working for the data, and have the data work for you.


Derek Rodner
VP, Product Strategy
856-366-1200 x500


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