Empowering Retailers: 9 Tactics for Leveraging Big Data

Joseph Dennis Kelly

Like the Universe, the Web is continuously expanding.  Online users are not simply engaging each other more easily, they have become data generators. In this role, they are transforming the global economy.

Today, we can find and purchase every kind of item – from the exotic to the mundane – we could ever want, in the color and size we need. No matter where it is now stored. And we can often acquire it for an amount more attractive than the prices changed by local distributors.

Changing the Game

As consumers, we are no longer reliant on local suppliers – and no longer expected to remain as loyal to regional department stores and neighborhood Mom-and-Pop shops as our parents and grandparents were, as many of us once may have been. Because of this, retailers – from national chains to specialty boutiques – are leveraging every available tool to attract new customers and keep the ones they have.

To accomplish this, an increasing number of retailers are digging deep into Big Data. By running advanced analytics software, they are better identifying how and where to improve e-commerce and marketing operations. This insight – into customer patterns, market trends, and competitor initiatives – is providing retail executives with they knowledge needed to make fact-based business decisions.

“The potential of big data,” writes journalist Masoom Gupte, in India’s Business Standard, “lies in the kind of insights it can offer businesses and the kind of questions it can help answer.” Through interviews with Indian retail executives, Ms. Gupte has noticed a growing trend among Indian retailers: They “are working to harness consumer data from every available source to make their enterprises agile and hard to beat.”

Her findings suggest nine tactics which can help retailers use the insights they glean from Big Data – and the analytics tools they run – to improve business performance:

  1. Track – in real-time – customer buying patterns and product preferences
  2. Define customer behavior on a granular level
  3. Develop fully articulated customer personas
  4. Promote product recommendations, product bundles, and customized offers, via targeted online advertisements and text blasts delivered to in-store customers
  5. Prevent stock-outs and surpluses by maintaining inventories determined by local customer demand, shopping patterns, and product/brand preferences
  6. Provide employees with the information to swiftly resolve customer complaints
  7. Develop and nurture personalized relationships with partners, suppliers, and customers
  8. Establish risk practices for managing possible supply interruptions and market fluctuations
  9. Monitor news and events affecting suppliers, competitors, local markets, and global economies

 Disrupting Business-As-Usual

Unlike most new concepts, Big Data is delivering on the hype it promises. For example, retailers running advanced analytics solutions can leverage Big Data findings to “better utilize distribution networks and delight customers with improved on-time deliveries,” writes Mark Ledbetter, global vice president for SAP Retail. How? “Radio transmitters on trucks along with bar codes or RFIDs on each package are combined with real-time mapping and traffic information to allow dispatchers to better monitor and visualize the progress of every delivery.”

Need a more persuasive argument to convince a pragmatic executive? Three McKinsey directors give a sound explanation:

Customer-facing companies have long used data to segment and target customers. Big Data permits a major step beyond what until recently was considered state of the art, by making real-time personalization possible. A next-generation retailer will be able to track the behavior of individual customers from Internet click streams, update their preferences, and model their likely behavior in real time. They will then be able to recognize when customers are nearing a purchase decision and nudge the transaction to completion by bundling preferred products, offered with reward program benefits. This real-time targeting, which would also leverage data from the retailer’s rewards program, will increase purchases of higher-margin products by its most valuable customers.  
— Tim McGuire, James Manyika, and Michael Chui

To thrive in our digitally connected marketplace, retailers must disrupt their conventional business practices and quite simply, change the way they operate. Only by leveraging Big Data insights can they identify unique opportunities to tactically expend their resources in ways that most efficiently increase revenue and drive business growth. When they do, they will reposition themselves to compete globally by focusing on what they can best do and by providing customers with the offerings they most want.

Is your company tapping Big Data to get new insight? Has it leveraged these insights to better drive campaigns and profitability? Have these insights enabled it to identify areas to improve operations and offerings to better serve customers? Has it made any other significant operational changes because of knowledge it gained through Big Data?

About Joseph Dennis Kelly

Joseph is a senior-level editorial and communication specialist with more than twenty years experience in StratCom, MarCom, CrisCom, EditGov, and EditOps. He previously served as a senior editor/writer on SAP’s Global Content Team and as the executive editor of PMI's Knowledge Center. He contributes to the SAP Community Network (SCN), serving as space editor for the Social Media and Social Networks blog. Recent accomplishments include directing SAP’s blogging campaign for Social Media Week 2012, leading the editorial and blogging strategy for SVForum’s inaugural MarketingCamp–Silicon Valley, and developing the digital media strategy for a Pennsylvania state senator’s successful 2012 re-election campaign. @JosDenKelly

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13 Scary Statistics On Employee Engagement [INFOGRAPHIC]

Jacob Shriar

There is a serious problem with the way we work.

Most employees are disengaged and not passionate about the work they do. This is costing companies a ton of money in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. It’s also harmful to employees, because they’re more stressed out than ever.

The thing that bothers me the most about it, is that it’s all so easy to fix. I can’t figure out why managers aren’t more proactive about this. Besides the human element of caring for our employees, it’s costing them money, so they should care more about fixing it. Something as simple as saying thank you to your employees can have a huge effect on their engagement, not to mention it’s good for your level of happiness.

The infographic that we put together has some pretty shocking statistics in it, but there are a few common themes. Employees feel overworked, overwhelmed, and they don’t like what they do. Companies are noticing it, with 75% of them saying they can’t attract the right talent, and 83% of them feeling that their employer brand isn’t compelling. Companies that want to fix this need to be smart, and patient. This doesn’t happen overnight, but like I mentioned, it’s easy to do. Being patient might be the hardest thing for companies, and I understand how frustrating it can be not to see results right away, but it’s important that you invest in this, because the ROI of employee engagement is huge.

Here are 4 simple (and free) things you can do to get that passion back into employees. These are all based on research from Deloitte.

1.  Encourage side projects

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload. Let them explore their own passions and interests, and work on side projects. Ideally, they wouldn’t have to be related to the company, but if you’re worried about them wasting time, you can set that boundary that it has to be related to the company. What this does, is give them autonomy, and let them improve on their skills (mastery), two of the biggest motivators for work.

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload.

2.  Encourage workers to engage with customers

At Wistia, a video hosting company, they make everyone in the company do customer support during their onboarding, and they often rotate people into customer support. When I asked Chris, their CEO, why they do this, he mentioned to me that it’s so every single person in the company understands how their customers are using their product. What pains they’re having, what they like about it, it gets everyone on the same page. It keeps all employees in the loop, and can really motivate you to work when you’re talking directly with customers.

3.  Encourage workers to work cross-functionally

Both Apple and Google have created common areas in their offices, specifically and strategically located, so that different workers that don’t normally interact with each other can have a chance to chat.

This isn’t a coincidence. It’s meant for that collaborative learning, and building those relationships with your colleagues.

4.  Encourage networking in their industry

This is similar to number 2 on the list, but it’s important for employees to grow and learn more about what they do. It helps them build that passion for their industry. It’s important to go to networking events, and encourage your employees to participate in these things. Websites like Eventbrite or Meetup have lots of great resources, and most of the events on there are free.

13 Disturbing Facts About Employee Engagement [Infographic]

What do you do to increase employee engagement? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up here and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

This infographic was crafted with love by Officevibe, the employee survey tool that helps companies improve their corporate wellness, and have a better organizational culture.


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Supply Chain Fraud: The Threat from Within

Lindsey LaManna

Supply chain fraud – whether perpetrated by suppliers, subcontractors, employees, or some combination of those – can take many forms. Among the most common are:

  • Falsified labor
  • Inflated bills or expense accounts
  • Bribery and corruption
  • Phantom vendor accounts or invoices
  • Bid rigging
  • Grey markets (counterfeit or knockoff products)
  • Failure to meet specifications (resulting in substandard or dangerous goods)
  • Unauthorized disbursements

LSAP_Smart Supply Chains_graphics_briefook inside

Perhaps the most damaging sources of supply chain fraud are internal, especially collusion between an employee and a supplier. Such partnerships help fraudsters evade independent checks and other controls, enabling them to steal larger amounts. The median loss from fraud committed
by a single thief was US$80,000, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

Costs increase along with the number of perpetrators involved. Fraud involving two thieves had a median loss of US$200,000; fraud involving three people had a median loss of US$355,000; and fraud with four or more had a median loss of more than US$500,000, according to ACFE.

Build a culture to fight fraud

The most effective method to fight internal supply chain theft is to create a culture dedicated to fighting it. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Make sure the board and C-level executives understand the critical nature of the supply chain and the risk of fraud throughout the procurement lifecycle.
  • Market the organization’s supply chain policies internally and among contractors.
  • Institute policies that prohibit conflicts of interest, and cross-check employee and supplier data to uncover potential conflicts.
  • Define the rules for accepting gifts from suppliers and insist that all gifts be documented.
  • Require two employees to sign off on any proposed changes to suppliers.
  • Watch for staff defections to suppliers, and pay close attention to any supplier that has recently poached an employee.

About Lindsey LaManna

Lindsey LaManna is Social and Reporting Manager for the Digitalist Magazine by SAP Global Marketing. Follow @LindseyLaManna on Twitter, on LinkedIn or Google+.


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What If Chelsea Manager Jose Mourinho Could Be Proved Right In Medical Staff Row?

Mark Goad

Big Data and the Internet of Things brings new level of insight to sports medicine

With the 2015-16 European football (soccer) season underway, we are already seeing the impact of the huge pressure to succeed. In some cases, it is boiling over even this early on, with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho getting involved in a very public row with his medical staff over the treatment of Eden Hazard during a match. As the season builds momentum, all clubs know one of the most vital aspects of winning trophies is keeping the best players fit so they can play at the top of their game as often as possible.

Last season, just like in every season, we saw injuries that affected teams’ results and possibly their final standings at the end of the season, while other teams capitalized. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger blamed injuries for the team’s failed title bid, while Real Madrid suffered injuries to players like Gareth Bale and Luka Modric at a crucial stage of the season and lost the title to Barcelona.

There’s no doubt that football clubs, especially the bigger teams, employ first-rate medical staff – physiotherapists, doctors, sports scientists, and so on – but they can only do so much to keep players off the treatment table. Players are human, after all, and keeping them injury-free for such long and grueling campaigns is a big ask. This season again will see players on the end of crunching tackles, over-exerting their bodies, and over-stretching.

What’s less talked about than lost games and league titles when discussing injuries is the salaries paid to injured players. The estimated average cost of player injuries in the top four professional football leagues in 2015 was $12.4 million* per team. Remarkably, every year teams lose an equivalent of 15%-30%** of their player payroll to injuries.

As salaries continue to rise, injuries are becoming just as much of an off-the-pitch boardroom issue as they are an on-the-pitch issue. Consider that if Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, the world’s highest-paid player, spends just a week out injured, the club still has to pay his weekly salary of around $1 million. Not only that, but there’s the huge potential for lost revenue from missing out on UEFA Champions League progress or domestic success because key players are out.

Just as winning seems to mean more than ever, so does football as a business. So with the spotlight firmly on “sweating the assets” – extracting maximum value from the entire squad – clubs are looking to Big Data and Internet of Things technology to consider how player injuries can be prevented with new levels of insight.

Prevention is better than cure

In July this year we saw what could be a huge landmark in the potential of monitoring the risk of injuries, when football’s international governing body FIFA announced its approval of wearable electronic performance and tracking systems during matches. As well as collecting data on statistics like distance covered and heart rate to determine decisions like substitution timings, this also paves the way for wearable satellite devices that keep medical staff updated on the likelihood of a player picking up an injury from over-exertion.

Emerging injury-risk monitoring software uses the concepts of Big Data and wearable technology to pull in and apply mathematical formulas to an exhaustive range of relevant data about players: fitness levels, recent levels of exertion, opponents, age, technique, hydration, even weather. This could help medical staff predict the risk of future injuries with much greater accuracy, allowing them to run simulations and take corrective actions in real time. Imagine a seemingly non-injured key player being substituted during a tightly contested match, only to find out afterwards that monitoring software had indicated he was at a high risk of pulling a muscle. This could very much be a part of the future of professional football.

Going back to Jose Mourinho and his reaction to the Chelsea medical staff running onto the pitch to treat Eden Hazard, it’s interesting to consider how in the future this kind of technology could either support or discredit his position in the dispute. It could help managers work more closely with physiotherapists, as they can visualize the data that shows the risk of injury to players. Although the pressure to win will likely keep on rising, the risk of expensive players injuries could see a big reduction.

SAP’s own injury risk monitoring software is currently in the proof-of-concept phase and will be entering development in the near future. The goal is to build IRM on the SAP Sports One platform as an additional component, and to provide integration to the existing modules of SAP Sports One solution. SAP Sports One was launched earlier this year and is the first sports-specific cloud solution powered by the SAP HANA platform, providing a single, unified platform for team management and performance optimization.

*Statistic calulated using 2015 Global Sports Salaries Survey

**Bleacher Report “Inside the 2014 Numbers of Each MLB Team’s Regular-Season Injury Impact” and NBA Injury Analysis


Mark Goad

About Mark Goad

Mark Goad, Value Advisory Associate, SAP Canada, is an experienced business analyst with industry coverage spanning telecommunications & retail, with a focus on digital business models. He specializes in synthesizing industry trends with a detailed analysis of client-specific data to help customers build out high-impact business & IT strategies. Outside of work, Mark volunteers as a lead management consultant for Junior Achievement of Central Ontario and contributes to a range of thought leadership publications.


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Five Reasons Why Social Collaboration Should Be Part Of Your Digital Transformation

Daisy Hernandez

Digital collaboration technology has revolutionized how we communicate and live our lives. The digital network – powered by search, social, and gamification technologies – has enabled the easy and rapid sharing of knowledge globally. Now it is easy to communicate and collaborate with others no matter their location, time zone, or geography.

In a business context, these same technologies are powering benefits across an organization. By connecting business areas, vital information needed to make critical decisions is no longer siloed and disjointed. Add to this the ability to incorporate business data, and decisions are now not only made collaboratively, but are informed by the latest business-critical information and data, whether it is back-end customer or financial data. This is where the real business benefits start to emerge.

Gartner predicts that 50% of large organizations will use internal social networks resembling Facebook by 2016. Thirty percent of these technologies will be considered to be as essential as email and telephones. Digital transformation is underway, and by using collaboration technology with integrated business data, businesses are starting to see staggering benefits.

Social collaboration: Going beyond information sharing

One of the most well-known benefits of social collaboration in a corporate environment is faster and tighter alignment during a project or process. However, a recent study conducted by Forrester Consulting indicates that the advantages run deep, and run throughout the enterprise. The following are five business benefits collaboration can deliver to your business today.

  1. Boost win rates and accelerate the sales cycle. The average sales deal requires a team effort, with individuals and knowledge that live outside the sales department. A Web-based network, accessible through any device, helps win new business and generate more revenue. By pulling expertise, information, and customer data together in one place, sales reps are able to collaborate within and outside of their organization to respond more quickly and accurately to incoming customer questions and needs.
  1. Improve the quality of onboarding and speed new hires’ time to productivity. Social solutions bring together people from across the organization as they collaborate on projects or teams. When a new hire joins the company, this community enables quick ramp-up as the new hire is able to quickly locate and connect to the experts and information they need to complete their job responsibilities. Add to this the fact that this solution houses the collective genius and lessons learned of the organization, and the result is a dynamic, continuous learning culture.
  1. Deliver unparalleled customer experience – every time. Whenever you can provide anyone on the front lines with the full customer story, everyone wins. Knowledge networks ensure that no matter who is interacting with the customer, they have the complete picture. Integrating backend data with real-time collaboration ensures that they are prepared with the latest data at their fingertips to understand the status of a current or prospective customer. For the customer, this means a seamless experience that is always informed, relevant, and meets their needs.
  1. Support business processes that are truly efficient, transparent, and accessible 24×7. Whether you are involved in marketing, IT, finance, or supply chain operations, it is not uncommon for employees to get lost in email chains and outdated spreadsheets and reports. If the ability to collaborate resides in a central location, existing business processes can be improved and supported. More important, taking this network into the mobile world helps ensure that employees have the information they need any time and anywhere.
  1. Create a future of work that appeals to young talent. Knowledge networks can be a cultural tool that not only serves the business, but also answers the needs of our youngest talent. For Millennials, operating in a digitally connected world is a normal part of life – and they could not imagine anything different in their workplace. In the Forrester report, one hiring manager stated, “Millennials would not like to work at [a] company that doesn’t have a collaboration tool. It’s unimaginable — we can’t hire without it.” Could you? Most likely not.

Now you can be part of shaping how organizations adopt and find value in social collaboration technology. Tell us what obstacles you are facing and the benefits you are reaping by taking part in this survey to help SAP develop our future perspective on social collaboration and how it affects us all as employees, managers, and businesses.


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