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Is data the new currency?

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Data is an extremely encashable and easy to liquidate asset, making it the most dependable strength for the retail industry in current times…

Data is the new currency
Retailers, business leaders, and experts know that data is important to execute their strategy and therefore they treat data like currency

“You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data.” – Daniel Keys Moran.

Data is a set of values of qualitative or quantitative variables. It’s the most valuable asset today and multiplies a company’s returns many times over. It is instrumental to innovation in product and service design, to efficiencies in supply line management, and to effectiveness in marketing. Data is the new currency for digital transformation.

Retailers, business leaders, and experts know that data is important to execute their strategy and therefore they treat data like currency. However, the fact is still underestimating the importance of data. The information your business generates, and accesses is not merely a tool for operational execution. It is so essential to the success of a modern business that it must be handled as carefully and strategically as currency. Like finances, data requires the focused attention of the C-suite and the Board.

Take customer experience, which is the true driving force behind the idea of ‘digital transformation.’ Personalization is the key to the digital customer experience.

At the India Retail Forum 2017 – held on September 19 and 20, 2017 in Mumbai, experts from the IT industry and the business heads of different categories of retail met to debate on ‘Data is the New Currency’ powered by Minodes. The way forward for any business lies, in good part, through smarter use of its data. Like money and other key resources, leaders must look to comprehensively govern and wisely leverage their data.

The panel included , Head IT Strategy & Governance, Arvind Limited;  Alexander Köth, Managing Director & Founder, Minodes GmbH (Germany);, VP – IT, Virtuous Retail India;  Kiran Komatla, VP – IT, ;  , Central Head of Marketing, , Chief Technology Officer, The Mobile Store ,, Head – Marketing, ; Ranjit Satyanath, CIO, Infiniti Retail (Croma);  Sachin Oswal, Omnichannel Head, ; Reuben Pandian, Chief Omnichannel Officer, TataCLiQ . The session was moderated by , CEO – Loyalty & Analytics, .

“In India, data, in reality, is in our culture. It is the platform on which entire businesses run. But the question is: how much of the data is truly being used in the business? Despite having bytes and terabytes of data today, we are still sending messages and offers in bulk to the wrong person and keep repeating the mistake. Despite having so much of data around, something is still not working, and we are still not serious about it,” said Vinay Bhatia as a part of his introductory speech. He went on to ask questions from the panel pointing different aspects of the data involved in respective categories of retail.

Describing how cell phone market uses the data and leverages the market, Ranjit Satyanath said, “In the initial stages, we thought that using the mobile range at the certain price would be our target audience; therefore, we used NPS and the feedback loop very effectively. What we found that the customers were not concerned about the price points. Instead, they came into our stores, expecting to buy it across all price ranges. Analyzing the data that we collected, we looked into the assortment and noticed that the lower end mobile phones were really flying up the shelves.  As a result, mobile phones and communication is our top category.”

Alexander Köth, pointed out on a new perspective ‘Pay with data’ concept. “As an online consumer, we pay already with our data. Most of us believe that online portals give lots of service for free, like free delivery and all, but in the end, it is not for free. We allow them and give them a lot of data and the smart thing is that big player like Google, Amazon is far ahead of us by making some knowledgeable and consulting chart by the data or fill some AWS service. They really make a profit out of that by selling that data to other parties. This is a crucial thing, it’s not about only collecting data, and it’s about converting them into measures and finally the measures into real money or profit,” said Köth.

Ranjeet agrees. “A lot of retailers give their data, because stores are not working well and therefore they list their products on Amazon, and what you are really doing is that you are giving so much of consumer data to what Amazon in exchange for short terms sales. Large retailers like Walmart believe that Amazon also harvest data of AWS, so Walmart in the USA have a strict rule that they will not work with any IT services company who have their service hosting on AWS.  So that is the kind of importance they give to data.”

Harshavardhan Chauhan spoke on the Non-transactional use of data. “Data is like oil and it is useless in the raw form. The more you refine, it actually keeps on becoming money indeed the currency. One fundamental change which data has brought in is the fact that the business has suddenly gone from being transactional nature to becoming very consumer-centric. Data initially was part of our transactional journey of the top line and the bottom line, typically chaired by the finance guys in the family. The entire data journey in five parts can be summed up as business and retailers; we have the transactional data, we see the sales per square foot in offline stores, and look at the conversion figures. The next stage into it is the targeted segmentation which Google is using which allows them to improve conversions by targeting specific cluster of consumer and finally what you will witness in next ten years is a combination of big data, IOT and pegged with artificial intelligence and machine learning. The non-transactional revenue stream, business will be able to understand it that you don’t need a merchandise, a store even a product to make money. The only thing you know to make money is to know about the consumers rather than sales per sq. ft.,” said Chauhan.

Abel Correa spoke on the Master Data Management (MDM) and its benefits. “We at Arvind started using data primarily on the internal focus first, where our priority was operational efficiency as it helps in cost-cutting. Now we are moving towards the external focus which is customer focused. If we don’t have sanity of master data, our messaging to the customer would get irrelevant. We adopted SAP HANA as our new platform and stretched upon the utilization of master data management. As a result, we got a much more relevant customer engagement. Apart from delivering the service level at the store, master data also helped us in positioning right level of styling and fashion.”

Reuben Pandian concluded the session by highlighting the 360-degree approach to the data. “90 percent of the data has been generated in last two years and as we speak now, we have five billion connected devices which will be around 25 billion in coming three to five years. So we are looking at a deluge of data coming to us from various sources. Given that scenario how do we manage that data and how do we redefine the ecosystem, how the e-commerce and offline players will have to deal in days to come. Data is the single entity which enhances or delivers the true customer experiences. The more data you give back the customer, the more you will get back from them.”

(With inputs from Sandeep Kumar)