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Analytics Tide Shifts Toward the Future

John Gaffney |

Tablet sales and eCommerce spending. They’re connected, but not in the way merchants might think. Recent data around both represent a clear move toward predictive analytics and decreasing reliance on rearview data. Awash as we are in the era of data abundance, it’s always telling when the tide starts to show some clear direction.

While historical customer data is still essential to any retail business, it is in the ability to make that data forward-looking that they become useful. First let’s take the tablet numbers. After a series of stunning increases Apple’s Q3 report showed that iPad sales were down 19 percent from Q1 and nine percent year-over-year. You could construe this data to mean that the tablet market is crashing and you wouldn’t be alone in your assessment. But you might be wrong. When you use this data to measure the potential for Q4 2014 tablet sales, it may be that the installed base is waiting to replace their first tablet purchase. Or maybe new customers are waiting to see what prices do. Or maybe the consumer base for wireless devices is happy with smartphones. Bottom line, the 19 percent downturn is a rearview data point. It can help inform what will happen in Q4 2014, but not unless it is matched with more predictive market intelligence.

Next, new reports about the market share for eCommerce. For all the punditry about the death of brick-and-mortar retailing, a look in the rearview continues to show that eCommerce is not exactly replacing it. In fact, a recent report Forrester shows that eCommerce sales is expected to increase from 11 percent of Forrester’s top 30 categories to about 18 percent by 2030. Not the kind of data that would make an offline retailer quake in his boots.

But again, ignore eCommerce at your own risk. The key is not in the rearview look or any data that would suggest limiting opportunity. The key to eCommerce strategy is in omnichannel marketing and in attracting the valuable omnichannel customer. The only way to attract and keep that customer is by gaining as much knowledge as possible about her spending patterns and future economic environment. Again, predictive, not rearview.

As retailers move into the year’s end loaded with uncertainty and opportunity, data is the steering wheel for inventory, pricing, location performance and personnel. It will also provide insights into  2015. And 2016. And…..

Topics: Big Data, Retail Trends

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