An important aspect of communication and engagement is the data that is developed and captured related to the customer interaction.  This data provides the basis of the ‘ company memory’ captured and collected throughout the customer relationship.  The small retailer utilizes the salespersons’ memory of the interactions with the customers as the basis for the company memory.  This is obviously much easier because the human brain is a very powerful tool that store and relates vast amounts of information.  In order to be successful in this new social shopping environment retailers must develop a method and the means to collect, store and then most importantly access information in a manner that develops the engagement and retention of the customer.

Ten years ago this would have present a major hurdle to overcome, however today’s advances in Big Data tools and techniques can be utilized to support the business requirements.  These capabilities have been supported and encouraged by the reductions in storage costs so that we have now reached the point where all data can be captured for future reference and use.  Its not just the NSA that captures the information related to interactions with others!  The technology also provides retailers with the capability to communicate and develop the relationship with their customers.  This technology allows the retailer to develop the two-way communications that customers demand in their interaction with the retailers.

Big Data technologies provide the tools to develop the two-way communication, however these are only tools and the magic is realized from the manner in which you use these tools.  The tools can collect a vast amount of data that requires business objectives and query techniques to actually turn the data into information.  Vast amounts of information is useless unless there is an objective for using the data and techniques to query and analyze the data.  This is a necessary and critical exercise to turn this data into information in order to realize the value and turn the interaction with the customer into two-way communication. 

I have found a general rule of thumb that I use to help to explain technology and technical tools; the easier a tool is to use, the more complicated the technology.  This Big Data challenge is no different and requires skill and patience to bring value.  The Big Data challenge is simply a hurdle to overcome, it is not a small hurdle and it is also not in insurmountable hurdle.  I think the trick with Big Data is to focus initially on the collection of data and not how it will be used, data use will change and grow over time and so it is important to collect all data that is related to any interaction, no matter how small or where the interaction occurs.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?