The Hitchhiker's Guide to Big Data

Oct 10, 2016 — Aaron Shauf
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There are millions upon millions of dollars being spent today on data analysis in retail and in most every industry that you could think of. 

With computer processing speeds seemingly approaching the processing speeds of ‘Deep Thought', (the computer in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who was tasked with finding the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything) new advantages are being thought of, tested and proven every day. From what we are accomplishing today, though, to what is being hypothesized for the coming years, we are still in the infant stages of utilizing data to drive efficiencies, and maximize revenues. 

When analyzing big data, the question is the key.

The most unique thing about data as a business tool is the nature of its creation. The more action taken to increase sales and customer touchpoints, the more data is generated, which could create more sales and customer touchpoints, and on and on. It is akin to a Fibonacci sequence, spiraling to huge numbers and creating an ocean of data. To make use of it, someone or something has to dive into this ocean and pick out the relevant and meaningful droplets of water, put them in a straight line, and look at them closely.  

The key is to start with the question. Deep Thought took 7.5 million years to come up with the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything, but unfortunately, no one knew exactly what the question was, so the answer given was not exactly the revelation of all time that was hoped for. When analyzing big data, the question is the key.

The next frontier in data

To know what question to answer, one must have a problem to solve. This point in the process is where we can get creative, and creativity is how the largest advantages are going to be formed from data sciences. Not to say there isn't some pretty cool stuff happening today. Trend forecasting algorithms are allowing manufacturers and buyers to more accurately predict popularity of new products.  

Data analysis as a service companies are allowing the small players to gain the same insight and advantage as the big guys, simply by reading into the data that the store themselves own already. But to one degree or another, most people are starting to look at the business practices that can take advantage of data. 

The next frontier is really the data combination that can be had from partnerships that already exist. Brand, manufacturer, and vendor data combined with retail data, generates a powerful thesis for creating the right products. Knowing when the customer base is ready and willing to buy their favorite line of products can make the timing of product line creation even more of an event. 

The day that my favorite retailer knows when I am shopping with expendable dollars in my pocket along with insight into the probability that I need one particular product based on my last purchase, and making me aware with a friendly alert with a personalized message right to me, well, I think that would be inherently more valuable than the number 42. 

Want to learn more about using data to create better experiences? Click below to read our blog titled, 'Boeing 737 Big Data Blunder'.

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Topics: Business Intelligence

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