Data + insight: why retailers need field scientists not lab rats

Data scientists are only one part of the retail data puzzle. Failing to pair them with someone that has industry insight is like a peanut without salt.

Data without insight is a peanut without salt. It’s good, but it’s not great.

A recent roundtable of high street retailers perfectly illustrates the power of informed insight layered over straight data.

A giant of petrol station forecourt retailing could not work out why sales of coffee were going through the roof, but sandwiches were flat-lining. They had all the transactional data: time of day, total basket. They bought data from credit card networks to discover that their customers were indeed buying sandwiches, just not from them. They revamped the sandwiches. Nothing.

So they sent an analyst to the stores, where she mapped what she knew (transactional data), with what she didn’t (store layout-driven behaviour). Moment of insight: the sandwiches were in the wrong place.

To base decisions on data alone runs the risk of missing things we used to know. Data lakes are pointless without divers who don’t just know the equipment, they know the terrain.


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