Shifting Sand: Analytics Revelations at NRF 2014

Watch the YouTube video "A quick look at the BIG Show 2014 EXPO" by the National Retail Federation

Watch the YouTube video “A quick look at the BIG Show 2014 EXPO” by the National Retail Federation

By Joe Dalton

Reflecting on my conversations with retailers, vendors, and analysts this week at NRF (#NRF14), I came away with some observations on how analytics is evolving for marketers:

  1. Effective direct customer engagement is everyone’s goal, but flexibility, agility, and the ability to experiment is key to achieving it in your organization. The foundation for this house is shifting sand, so using construction methods that work for solid rock won’t do. What may be a good engagement vehicle one day will be passé the next. When a millennial on a panel at NRF says, “I keep my Facebook account so I can keep up with my grandparents,” alarm bells should sound across direct marketing teams everywhere. Why? The effectiveness of email marketing on the millennial generation was already a non-starter, and social media engagement may be waning as well. One thing is clear: Marketing channels will continue to evolve. My advice is stay flexible. Don’t get trapped in a “we’ve always done it this way” or “we did it this way last year” mentality.
  2. There is more data available for analytics than we know what to do with. This second take-away from NRF is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, organizations have relatively easy access to all kinds of customer, market, sentiment, and sales performance data. On the other hand, very few know how to manage it all. In addition, the signal-to-noise ratio of this data is very low, so it takes work to figure out which subsets of data are truly valuable (predictive of future behavior) and which ones aren’t. I’ll share best practices for pinpointing the right ones in an upcoming post.
  3. There is a short supply of data science and analytic talent for retailers looking to hire. This isn’t specific to retail, of course, but I had a lot of conversations this week on this topic and just about all of them had to do with the difficulty of recruiting in this area. Some locations are worse off than others. If you’re trying to hire this kind of talent in markets like San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, or New York, beware – these are very much sellers’ markets.

There’s no denying analytics went prime-time at Retail’s Big Show this year. It’s a great space to watch.

Are you shifting your strategy and achieving some wins in these areas? Chime in and let me know what’s working (or ways we can help).

PivotLinkCMO-Joe_DaltonAbout the author: Joe Dalton is Chief Product and Marketing Officer at PivotLink ( Questions for Joe? Send him an email via our Editor.


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