The Evolving Data Revolution

The following has been reposted from Convenience Store Decisions. The original post can be found here.

Not so long ago, scan data meant monitoring how many of which items sold. It gave category managers a new response to vendors using purchase data to allocate shelf space. It relieved store employees from taking a best guess at what to order and gave financial analysts added return on investment data points.

Scan data has been at the core of retail system transformation. Point of sale (POS) systems’ wider capture of transaction data (e.g. day of week, time of day, payment method) combined with back-office systems and data warehouses have provided a repository for a growing amount of data.

Add to this, data about loyalty members, weather and traffic — both on the street and in the store — and you have the start of big data. The cloud and business intelligence tools are driving important advances with how we use big data. Advancements are going to increase as this Information Age continues.

Today, c-store customers are using multiple devices, including in their cars, and shopping across different channels. This is the next shift in the retail data landscape.

The Next Level

“At Casey’s, we are in the early stages of building out a more comprehensive data strategy,” Art Sebastian, vice president of digital experiences, told me recently. Headquartered in Ankeny, Iowa, Casey’s General Stores Inc. operates 2,100 convenience stores in 16 states throughout the Midwest and South.

Data accuracy is important and the Casey’s business intelligence team is charged with a process of resolving anomalies they find. The digital data efforts have the Casey’s team watching what happens online and following each customer’s path through its website to last click attribution. Although its customers may receive personalized segmented group offers, Casey’s goal is to make offers specific to each individual customer. Next up will be the role of data scientists, which will allow the digital team to “get to insights faster.”

Data Standards

Karen Shunk, director, technology programs at Object Management Group (OMG), of which the National Retail Foundation’s Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS) is now a part, noted data standards were originally “built around the concept of the POS as the heart of retail.”

She said standards have “expanded over the years to accommodate the data required to understand the 360-view of the customer.” OMG has updates to their UnifiedPOS and the data model standards underway.

“These are intended to help retailers get (and keep) their data in order to support retail uses of the internet of things and artificial intelligence,” Shunk said.

Analytics Platform

In the Northeast, Nouria Energy is taking steps to review data differently using an analytics platform.

The Worcester, Mass.-based chain, which owns and operates more than 115 c-stores throughout New England, found its data analytics tools had limited functionality with its back-office system, and it was struggling to conduct effective analysis by moving scan data into spreadsheets.

Joe Hamza, chief operating officer, retail and marketing for Nouria Energy, said that as a result, the chain had been “reporting as in the past.”

“Unless you have an analytics platform to run insights, you just can’t do it,” Hamza observed.

Now, with a new analytics platform up and running, Nouria Energy is embarking on the next phase of its scan data journey by first providing scanning and POS transaction data into the platform. Then, as data from upcoming digital changes to its mobile app and loyalty program take form, the chain’s ability to collect data will grow.

Hamza’s vision includes using “business intelligence to identify issues and opportunities.”

New Opportunities

Category managers, with the continued data transformation, are discovering new opportunities “to leverage the insight of their partners and wholesalers by sharing relevant data around sales, trip drivers and basket measures so their suppliers can help them localize stores, optimize promotions, and ensure priorities are aligned,” according to Jason Lobel, CEO & co-founder of SwiftIQ.

Hamza noted that in data sharing, he expects the vendor relationship to be “reciprocal” and with some “sense of value they can agree on.” Lobel noted, “trust is built over time, and retailers … can be selective with data sharing until suppliers prove value.”

When thinking about basic scan data that started the retail data revolution, Caseys’ Sebastian acknowledged knowing the basics of “what is selling is still important.”

Ed Collupy is an executive consultant at W. Capra Consulting Group. You can reach him at ecollupy@wcapra.com. Mr. Collupy has IT leadership and business team experience, providing strategic, operational and project leadership to retailers, emerging businesses and technology companies.