eCommerce Trends

Turning Big Data into Smart Data: My Predictions for 2014 in Retail

The Big Data revolution at Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple has transformed the consumer journey across channels, and even helped turn a presidential election. This transition simultaneously poses tremendous challenge and opportunity to retailers.

In our session “How Relevance Can Get Your Brand Elected” at last week’s NRF Big Show, Rayid Ghani (Obama for America’s Chief Scientist) and I shared how data scientists have utilized key methodologies for capturing value and turning Big Data to smart data—using it to win votes and create profit. The analogies between data usage in the Obama campaign and my experience at Amazon and RichRelevance are deep: there are three ways to use data in operations, and it is necessary to take small steps toward a very specific goal using an agile, fail-fast methodology.

The methodologies for data usage are analytics; prediction and interruption; and optimization. They transcend the emergence of “Big Data” and extend in their impact from the last century, as do the learnings from their failures.  The “big transformative project” is doomed to fail; only iterative implementations see the huge ROI of data-oriented technologies.

As I traveled the exhibit hall, I reached my personal predictions for 2014:

  1. 2014 will test us: We must know our identity—who are we to our customers and how we maximize that.  This challenge exists in a highly competitive and unfriendly ecosystem: Amazon is on a tear and will not stop; will Google, eBay, Apple and Facebook turn out to be friend or foe?
  2. Omni-channel ROI at scale: 2014 will be the first year with enough historical case studies of successful omni-channel strategies to support systemic investment. Retailers can invest in 5-10 major initiatives and each can build on the successes/failures of past years.
  3. Emergence of Big Data, Year 2 of 5: Big Data is a long-term trend. We are still in the early adopter phase, where practitioners familiar with the technology and business can be successful, but not enough business people fully understand the technology’s capabilities, ROI or risk in order for 2014 to be the year of mass scale. That said, Big Data is complex and will require numerous years of investment and learning to reach maturity.  Executives know that, so this year will see significant investment from both capital and time budgets.

I invite you to learn more about how you can turn your Big Data into smart data for a relevant brand experience by visiting

"Measuring Shopping Media" at JUMP NY

Jake BaileyToday’s top brands are leveraging the retail channel like never before to speak with consumers on a one-to-one basis as they do price comparisons and shop online.  But how do brands truly measure their advertising within online retail? When we consider that most publishers optimize around content consumption, and a retailer’s entire existence is around conversion, an accurate measurement strategy must center on understanding consumer context and its impact on conversion.

To truly measure the ROI of purchased media, you must have a direct tie into the purchase funnel. Luckily, online retail provides just that. For brands that are endemic to the online retail environment (those sold online), you can measure your direct influence on sales.  For those that aren’t, there exist a wealth of opportunities to understand your brand’s online presence by defining the needle and how you can move it.

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Monday matters: how day of week affects online shopping for four major retailers

In my last blog, I demonstrated how the noise in online sales data could be correlated (to some extent) to the weather. What I didn’t tell you was that I was saving my more interesting findings for a separate post. It’s the nature of science that many discoveries are accidental, and so it was for me when I discovered (by checking my y-axes of all things) that the effect of weather pales in comparison to the effect that day of week has on our shopping.

This is a bit obvious in retrospect; I for one frequently buy electronics early in the week in the hopes that I’ll have my cables or components by the weekend, but I know quite a few weekend electronics shoppers. So given an entire population’s varying predilections, how does the timing of our purchases pan out on the national scale?

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Take your ecommerce infrastructure to an Olympic level

Ecommerce on an Olympic level: Darren Hitchcock, VP of EU/UK at RichRelevance, shares three important tips.

There has been a lot of discussion—since 2008, in fact—about the consequences of intensified demand on London’s data centres during the Olympics. As a retailer, you may have taken note of the warnings and put a plan in place long ago to ensure your infrastructure’s uptime and reliability. You’re sorted. Right?

Maybe not. If you haven’t considered how your third-party application providers could impact your website during the Olympics you could be putting your business at risk. Recommendations, reviews, video, gamefication—any time you’re adding technology to your site through a partner, you need to consider what precautions they’re taking to ensure their own data centre solutions are reliable. If one of your features goes down it could disappear from your site or, worse, cause your site to slow down significantly.

It’s too late to make serious changes before the Games, but the Olympic challenge retailers are about to face does shine a much needed spotlight on this issue. So what can to ensure your website is as good as gold?

Read full guest blog on Catalogue E-Business

The Power of Me

Back in 2006, when Time magazine named “You” as Person of the Year, there were mixed emotions across the board. Some thought the choice was a short-sighted gimmick which ignored other newsmakers that year while Peter Sagal from Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me! ventured that “if we truly controlled the media, we should have picked a much better choice for the Person of the Year issue.” ☺

This aside, the simple fact is that We (You) are making choices that surpass the infamy of Time’s cover, and in fact are changing the market dynamics of branding and retailing forever. Today’s consumer – you, me – is complex, demanding, connected and in control of how, when and where we want to interact with brands and retailers. Furthermore, not only am I in charge, I may exhibit different personas based on my shopping intent. I may be a “shopper of workout gear and accessories” in the morning, a “shopper of office supplies” later in the day and then a “darn, I forgot the birthday gift shopper” in the evening.

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Big Dada: A glimpse into transatlantic gift trends this Father's Day

I’ve now been a father for 26 days, so for the first time, I am on the other side of whatever recognition/acknowledgement rituals might ensue this Father’s Day. Despite centering my career around retail data, the nosey-child-poking-around-the-attic-before-Christmas in me quickly succumbed to the fact I can never predict any gift that my wife comes up with; she has proven time and again her ability to latch (no pun intended) onto that thing I said I wanted in passing last fall, realizing that I would never buy it for myself. No pressure, darling.

So, starting smaller (or larger, depending on your perspective), we recently conducted a study at RichRelevance to observe Father’s Day retail trends, with the hypothesis that there would be differences in shopper behavior in the United States vs. in the United Kingdom, both celebrating the holiday on the same day. Incidentally, there are many retail trends this time of year in addition to Father’s Day, such as gardening, fishing, camping, and graduation; the latter most often gets coupled with Father’s Day, if for no other reason than habitual reliance on the tiredly rhyming promotion “Dads and Grads.”

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