Transparent Enterprise BI

Making better business decisions requires retailers to break down silos between company divisions, and deliver scalable predictive tools that allow managers enterprise-wide to sift through mission-critical information.

Chain Store Age talked with Andrea Morgan-Vandome, VP retail strategy and solution marketing, Oracle Retail, about the importance of business intelligence (BI).

What is the biggest change today related to retail analytics and BI? 

As shoppers come into stores with more knowledge, sometimes more than store associates, it is more important than ever to put analytics capabilities into the hands of line managers. These associates need access to role-based corporate information — from multiple places in the enterprise — to make the best decisions regarding assortments, promotions, pricing and customer service. 

What challenges do retailers face in reaching this point?

There are a few. Retailers are trying to provide decision-making capabilities to managers — functionality that they never had before. However, retailers are finding just how narrow and siloed their information really is. That said, the biggest challenge is how to break down these silos.

The next problem is managers need to gain a better understanding of what is happening across the enterprise — not only what is going on, but also how to best make changes in the current context of the business. This includes delivering tools that allows them to question what is going on, and why it happened. The only way to answer these questions is to provide them with access to better information.

Finally, retailers are struggling with the speed of access to data and reports. BI is an interactive tool, and business users need BI tools that will allow them to get answers they need on their own. As the volume of data increases, this takes a toll on speed. Retailers need to focus on solutions that can quickly crunch data and deliver data in more digestible ways, such as through more visual tools. 

How does cross-channel demand add to the scenario?

Cross-channel creates even more pressure. Retailers need to begin thinking from a customer perspective, and that includes learning how they shop in-store, online or on the go through mobile devices. If they can understand how the consumer shops, they will see how their actions will impact their ongoing business decisions.

This can’t happen until retailers break down the silos between business channels, and operate cross-channel as a truly integrated process versus separate shopping channels. Once they do, retailers are in a better position to use BI to understand and respond to enterprise pricing, merchandising and promotions.

How is big data impacting retailers’ BI strategies?

Big data comes from all directions, including increasing store-level customer touchpoints, as well as digital touchpoints, such as mobile and social media. Retailers need to use analytics to learn from this information.

Previously, retailers didn’t have the access they needed to understand the impact of this information from an operational perspective, from a sales performance point-of-view, or from a demand standpoint and its impact on the supply chain. 

Related to big data, retailers need to deliver BI tools that provide self-service capabilities. By merging these tools with predictive analytics to sift through big data, retailers have what they need to ask the best questions and get the best answers from these volumes of data. 

Why is scalability so important?

A successful BI solution has to be multi-source and able to draw data from throughout the organization. It also has to be scalable to support increasing data volume and deliver speed for analysis performance. Retailers no longer want to manage information at corporate and push data down to stores. Instead, they are considering cloud capabilities to allow decision-makers to pull data as needed. 

What’s next in retail analytics?

The biggest goal right now is getting mainstream adoption and having people latch on. The other goal is moving away from structured reporting and toward more analytics by asking questions. By adopting these concepts, retailers will more easily be able to apply BI to their business processes. The final goal is to educate retailers on the value and advantages of cloud-based BI solutions. Retailers want to move in this direction, and by doing so they will be in a better position to run more cost-effective operations.