/ Optimizing retail BI for the future of work

In the first half of 2020, every business’s ability to learn and adapt was put to the test. As a result, a seismic shift is occurring in the way data and business intelligence drive strategic initiatives and create the ability to respond to whatever comes next, quickly and precisely.

The rise of data science and artificial intelligence is at the heart of this movement, as businesses start to understand that these technologies give them the ability to predict what’s coming next.

This rise is particularly pronounced in the world of retail, as I learned in our recent webinar, “Weather the Storm and Prepare to Come Back Stronger with AI-Powered Labor Optimization,” where I spoke with Ben Schein, vice president of data curiosity at Domo, and Tom Stanek, president of RXA.

Domo and RXA—and Ben and Tom, specifically—understand the pressures of answering the major questions:

  • How are consumers going to behave when making retail purchasing decisions in this new era?
  • How will I adapt to servicing customer desires when I no longer have a reliable baseline?

Ben and Tom have been working together to understand how to help retailers answer these and other get-back-to-work questions. Their experience was evident as they shared the stories of Belle Tire, which used Domo to optimize staffing to increase sales while improving worker satisfaction; and Harmons Grocery, which was able to rapidly pivot and punch above its weight when COVID-19 caused erratic customer purchasing behavior.

Ben and Tom also shared insights gained from their strategy and business intelligence efforts for retail businesses on the cutting edge, revealed where they have learned a lot about driving impact in this new environment, and discussed the impact of BI leverage for businesses as they get back to work. As well, they:

  • Provided tips for adapting to today’s ever-changing market conditions and returning to a “new normal”
  • Proposed questions to ask when crafting get-back-to-work initiatives
  • Explained how to get leverage in unpredictable times by harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to accurately predict demand and harmonize employee scheduling

Ben and Tom also made clear that, ultimately, it’s all about the data. Only when retailers utilize the right input, delivered by a flexible and intuitive data platform, will they be able to take the three key steps to improving their bottom line:

  1. Build reliable demand prediction models — Predictive models are built to forecast daily demand and are powered by all relevant internal and external data.
  2. Utilize labor optimization tools With demand forecasted, retailers must use labor optimization tools to create an optimized schedule to fill that demand—a schedule that must account for, and adapt with, an ever-shifting “new normal.”
  3. Implement scheduling through effective change management — By combining human discretion with the structure of AI-based models, these types of tools minimize uncertainty while ensuring customer satisfaction reaches an all-time high.

Ben and Tom also offered some advice for businesses trying to evolve. Ben knows that businesses leverage their investments in people, systems, and infrastructure, as well as processes and knowledge of the business.

In order to make the most of these investments, “businesses need to be able to react to change,” Ben said. “It has to be part of the business culture, part of the workforce, and part of the tech stack. The more a business can build that change muscle, the better equipped it will be to not only get through this crisis, but the next one, and the next one, and the next one.”

Ben added: “If you have created systems that require you to always load everything into a formalized data source, key information is not going to be part of your stack.

“But if you have, instead, a platform formed around the idea of more API access connectors, ways to bring in different kinds of information from different sources and blend them together, and then cleanse it—while being OK with knowing that it’s not going to be perfect—that is the only way to be able to bring in lots of different data.”

Having flexibility in your tech stack will enable your team to leverage data in a way that Tom and Ben believe is crucial to ongoing success.

While making such changes and investments may sound daunting, Tom emphasized that those who act now will win. “It’s a must for success as we move forward in the retail world,” he said. “There’s opportunity always. There’s definitely opportunity.”

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