big data | June 02, 2013

Turn Big Data Into Big Sales: Retail Speaker Doug Stephens

"90 per cent of the data right now that exists in the world was created in the last two years," retail speaker Doug Stephens tells the CBC. No wonder they call it big data! While we've been amassing data for years, we are only now developing the ability to apply it in a truly meaningful way. And harnessing this data will bring big changes to the retail world. In fact, it may even help retailers give you the products and services you want—before you even know that you want them.

"What we have now is the ability for a retailer or a brand to really create these incredible queries," Stephens says, "like how many people in the state of Texas, on a rainy day, come to our stores and buy something in the automotive department." This kind of specific question can now be answered thanks to the combination of structured data (credit card transactions, postal codes, etc.) and newly emerging unstructured data (social media activity, emails, etc.). A third kind of data, machine-to-machine data, is also being used to track consumer behavior. "It's conceivable that as these data sources become connected to the internet, my fridge, for example, may calculate and prepare an order of the things that I need," Stephens notes in the interview. Another example he proposes is that our cars may start to schedule our winter maintenance because they can be connected to our calendars via WiFi, and constantly monitor the condition of the car electronically.

While this machine-to-machine process certainly seems convenient—like never forgetting to water your plants again because a sensor will note that the water level is low and text you a reminder—there is always a "creep factor," Stephens admits. These advancements may seem too reminiscent of 'Big Brother' for some people. However, the Retail Prophet founder also points out that we are creating this data anyway. All of this information is out there whether we like it or not. And, when done right, harnessing that data could be more beneficial to consumers then it is harmful. While he is not a big data scientist, Stephens does know how retailers around the world are using big data. His speeches forecast the future of retail: What to expect, when to expect it, and how you can steer your brand toward the future and shoot ahead of the competition.

Up Next

mental health | May 30, 2013