Analytics, big data, privacyA number of recent articles on “The New Inquiry” by sociologist Nathan Jurgenson and Kate Crawford’s “The Anxieties of Big Data” examine topics around the pros and cons of Big Data including the vastness of information being used with claims of statistical certainty by certain government bodies. One of the issues they pointed to is the interpretation of data, that it can be interpreted in any number of ways to ensure a favorable end result whatever that may be. In addition to this, a concern around the infringement of privacy on the individual is also at the forefront of their debate.
That said, a survey carried out by IBM for NRF 2014 found that consumers are becoming more and more willing to share their information for a more personalized service and improved customer experience. The report also found that the number of people willing to share their GPS coordinates with retailers doubled in a year to 36%, with 38% prepared to share their mobile numbers. With the increase in sharing of personal information with retailers comes an opportunity for retailers to engage with their customers. It also brings a greater responsibility for retailers in terms of privacy and security around their customer data.
Analytics drawn from big data collection can drive key retail business processes by gaining knowledge and practical experience from working with relevant insights. These insights can support customer service, improve retailer purchasing decisions and supply chain processes. The interpretation of big data through analytics in retail really is an iterative process and what is right for one retailer may not be the exact fit for another.
As consumer behavior patterns change and Omni channel shopping is becoming more widespread, retailers need to be able to identify trends at a local and individual level as well as at a macro level. With data and analytics both online and in-store at the center of this iterative process. The key to success for retailers is to understand ways to extract value from data while ensuing the privacy of all users.

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