Are Retailers Too Reliant On (Bad) Omnicommerce Data?

There's no denying that the retail world has become so vastly diverse that analog approaches can no longer make sense of it all. Data-driven decisions have become the method de jure in omnicommerce especially — how else are retailers to know where and when to move inventory if they don't have solid evidence predicting where and when their customers will be ready to buy?

The problem with all of this, however, is that data is far from infallible. And relying on infallible data for too long might just lead to inherently fallible omnichannel retailers.

Evidence against the supreme accuracy of retail data is mounting — 45 percent of retailers surveyed in a recent Periscope report indicated that their omnicommerce data troves were of poor quality. However, another 45-percent segment said that it could be improved if their own and other retailers' IT departments remove digital barriers keeping related data points from communicating and thereby being more accurate.

“The biggest challenge for retailers is the organizational change that needs to take place: The removal of organizational siloes, creation of new processes, and the forming teams that work across, rather than within, channels," Channie Mize, general manager for retail at Periscope, said in a statement. "These take careful planning and execution, but cannot be ignored, because without them any retailer is doomed to fail.”

"Doomed to fail" has a nice ring to it, but where Mize might be wrong is believing that omnichannel retail that fail to improve their underlying data are destined for the graveyard. Instead, it might be those that blindly follow the insights of a binary brain that have their days numbered.

At the very least that was a fear on the brightest retail marketing minds at the Advertising Week Europe 2016 conference. Patricia Corsi, Unilever's vice president of food and beverages in the U.K. and Ireland, keyed in on the increasingly automated mindsets of many retailers during a panel discussion on the future of omnicommerce.

"The other thing that concerns me is the impact on the generation of marketers that we are creating," Corsi lamented, via Marketing. "It would be a bad place if we are developing people to not be able to take risky decisions without data."

Subjectively, according to Corsi, it would be a poor outcome for the retailers to lose their spines if they don't have the data in the palms of their hands pointing them like a compass to true north. Objectively, though, that would be a proverbial death knell for retailers if the data they're signing their critical thinking skills over to is getting less and less accurate.

Which leads to a particularly ironic Catch-22: the data is there to say that this death by data might actually be happening.

The most recent iteration of the OmniReadi IndexTM, powered by Vantiv, showed that retailers are split across a line of the haves and the have-nots. In 2015, the 10 retailers scored highest in omnichannel readiness improved as the year went on; in fact, their collective scores jumped 14.6 percent from June 2015 to December 2015.

The bottom 10? Well, that's a different story. From June to September, their omni-readiness did improve by a modest 7.6 points, but that was followed by a 7.5 point slide from September to December. That's an increase of 0.1 points, not really an increase at all.

There's no telling whether the Top 10 retailers had access to more accurate data than their poor performing peers, but just as likely is the presence in those retailers of people who can make decisions when no data is available to guide their hands, or better yet, when data is available but is guiding them in the wrong direction. That, if anything, may explain why the Bottom 10 saw their omnicommerce fortunes rise before they fell - even a wrong clock is right twice a day, and even inaccurate data on omnichannel operations might lead to better sales at least some of the time.



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