The management of big data is “the next frontier in retail,” says Sodero. “It is the platform that will bring product to consumers whenever and wherever they want.” Companies are looking to engage in gathering, storage, analysis and decision-making based on large data sets in near-real time. But they face at least four distinct challenges in coping with the wave of data: volume, velocity, variety and veracity.
Big data isn’t just about running an enterprise resource planning suite, which collects only transactional data. The ability to do real-time processing is essential, says Sodero. Only then can retailers engage in deep analysis and gain access to real business intelligence.
Why big data now? Emerging technology is allowing for the collection and processing of data to a degree that wasn’t possible before, Sodero says. In addition, the rise of social media has provided a new and “gigantic” source of unstructured data, while the internet generally is putting pressure on retailers to adopt omnichannel strategies.
Another challenge for retailers is to avoid being flooded by excessive and irrelevant data. Just cleaning the data is a huge problem, says Sodero. “They cannot rely on what they’re receiving.” The result is inaccuracies in the inventory record, with data failing to match with what’s on hand.
The ultimate promise of big data lies in the acquisition of global visibility of inventory – “still a dream,” says Sodero. “We want to get there, but in order to do that, firms need to do their homework. They need to become much more integrated, across their supply chains and internally. And they have to invest in capabilities to process and analyze the data.”
Big data remains elusive, he says, because so many companies are still tied to batch processing and are just at the initiation stage. Only a few are at the adoption level, Sodero says.
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