By Alex Broxson, Head of Marketing, Clekt
I play a game called ‘Guess Who’ with my six-year-old. She thinks of a character, and I ask her 10 questions where the answer can be either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. My aim is to identify who the character is. Given that I know the books she reads, the films she watches, and the toys she plays with, you’d think I would win more often than not, but I don’t. Despite using everything I know about her, and my experience of playing the same game with her many times before, she still surprises me and takes great delight in telling me that I’m wrong when I finally make my guess. I wonder, are there parallels between the ‘Guess Who’ game and retail?
We all know that retailers need to continually re-invent to remain relevant, achieve market advantage, get ahead of competitors, and stay there. How they do this will be different for each business as they all have their own specific set of circumstances that define them. But there’s one thing for sure, none of them will achieve a successful outcome if they keep thinking how they have always thought, and doing what they have always done.
We all use our past experiences to know how to deal with certain situations, its human nature, but how do we make sure we don’t allow our past to restrict our future, because sometimes a different approach might have led to a better outcome. Another challenge is how we deal with conformation bias. We are all guilty of this, although I’m not sure we are always aware of it. If you have an opinion about something, you look for information that backs up your thinking, and as soon as you find it, you stop looking. Maybe if you read a little further, you’d find facts that change your mind, or at least alter your preconceptions. There are many more, but these are two great challenges for retailers to overcome if they are to find a better way of working.
Obviously at Clekt, we are advocates of the use of data and we understand the benefits that can be unlocked by retailers if only they used their best asset to greater effect. But we are very aware that for many the current approach to analytics is failing to deliver anything useful when it comes to gaining forward momentum. Look at the outputs your business gets from its data and then question are these observations or are they insights. In our world, observations are a factual record of what is happening, whilst insights provide the background about how, and why. The right solution is not one or the other, it’s the right combination of both.
You can’t get real insights from data unless you are in a position to use all of it. To exclude anything from your analysis is pre-judging its worth and who is to say that a connection between two seemingly unconnected elements is not the magic you are looking for. Just because you don’t think something is important doesn’t mean that it isn’t. Don’t let your past determine your future, and never succumb to conformation bias. I will leave that there because we’ve already covered it once, and to labour a point makes it boring.
We spoke recently to Nelson Blackley, an Independent Retail Analyst working with Nottingham Trent University. He said “I believe retailers now increasingly understand they need to fully embrace and implement predictive and prescriptive analytics, often in real-time so that trends can be identified and prepared for before they happen.”
The good news for retailers is that the technology to allow this is now catching up with a long running business need. The use of machine learning and AI will provide opportunities that previously never existed. Data analytics are no longer limited to serve the ‘what if’ queries of users, we are moving into an age where systems are prompting retailers to take actions aligned to achieving the success they are striving for. This will be based upon data driven insights that are not influenced or determined by human experiences or pre-conceived bias. If you disagree, then that’s fine, but ask yourself ‘why’ before you dismiss the idea completely. The approach you take to addressing this problem are equally as important as the outcome you arrive at.
Adopting a data driven approach to business will require two things. Firstly, you need lots of data and a systems architecture that allows you to use it, and secondly you need a mindset that means you will trust the outputs to determine your direction of travel in the future. Neither step is easy, but both are now achievable and easily in the reach of most retailers. Those who ignore this opportunity to do things differently may well have dismissed the first online sale in 1994 as something that ‘won’t take off’. Please don’t be that person.
Getting back to the ‘Guess Who’ game, I need a different strategy. All ideas are welcome!
Get in touch if you would like to know more about what could be possible to release the data and insight within your business.