Big data has become the key to capturing consumers and keeping them, and smart software is helping companies manage the wealth of data now needed to do business across platforms.
To truly accommodate omnichannel retailing and offer customers the seamless shopping experience they seek, brands have to take in various streams of data and use them all to make well-informed decisions about best practices for driving sales — and without the tools to manage that data, gaining valuable insight can prove challenging.
Qlik, a leader in data discovery, said its software helps brands streamline the data they use and turn it into meaningful metrics to better understand what’s necessary for improving performance.
The company’s self-service Qlik Sense data visualization and discovery tool, which it said, “lets your instinct lead the way,” provides brands with visibility into sales, inventory, customer and supply chain processes, and even social media mentions. It consolidates all of the information to allow users to control the analysis, uncover trends, and encourage collaboration in real-time.
David Telford, Qlik’s senior director of global market development, said, “Data has become the raw material of our time. If they [companies] use it properly, it can be a real competitive differentiator.”
Brands are already operating off of low margins, and with omnichannel operations, many now have the added complexity of taking orders online, delivering the goods to consumers who may then want to return them to stores, and keeping track of the inventory and the flow of product can get tricky. “And they are having to do all of this with additional markdowns and the pressure to do it faster and faster and faster,” Telford said.
“We remember when if the product came within a week that was fine, it was acceptable. Now we expect product to arrive almost as soon as we’ve clicked the mouse,” Telford added. “It’s all about bringing data in from all the different systems and being able to manage the data.”
Business intelligence (BI) has developed in distinct ways, according to Telford. Whereas the old, restrictive ways of reporting, where only IT and analysts could dive into data and generate a specified set of information, companies can now empower employees to get more insights.
With Qlik Sense, users can “interrogate” the data and quickly create reports based on figures from multiple sources — which is key considering the places brands consistently pull data from.
“Some of it is internal like CRM [customer relationship management] and ERP [enterprise resource planning] systems, some external that perhaps your clients are running, electronic point of sale data, syndicated sales data from companies like Nielsen and social media data, which is being generated by customers and consumers,” Telford said.
Qlik Sense users can create visual dashboards, use Smart Visualizations indexing engines that uncover relationships between data dimensions that traditional query-based data models might miss, and use Smart Search to type in search strings and let the tool connect the dots to uncover data relations that may not have been initially apparent. It also works across desktops, tablet and smartphones so users can access analytics on-the-go at any time.
“It’s very easy for non-tech people, people like me, who know the kind of information reports they want but they are not tech minded,” Telford said.
Brands like H&M, American Apparel, Target and Ted Baker, are already using Qlik products. The company also produces QlikView, a business discovery platform with in-the-box analytical application development that allows analysts with minimal development expertise to build and publish powerful analytical applications.
One Qlik customer, for example, tracked RFID inventory movement, units and dollars per transaction and traffic, pulling in point-of-sale data, e-commerce system, workforce management and RFID data, to name a few, and ultimately realize it could reduce contract workers at its distribution center by 66 percent and maintain efficiency.
The data in today’s supply chain has further complicated already complex operations, but if brands can use their in a way that works, it would be one less battle to broach in a constant race to command market share.
“It’s incredibly challenging for all sectors,” Telford said. “Massive pressure on margins and increasingly competitive landscapes are pretty prevalent in most marketplaces. Add to that this huge explosion in data and it puts even more pressure on businesses to have a means for getting value from and to drive insights from data.”
Telford said omnichannel is the biggest challenge Qlik customers are facing, and to accommodate it, business will need a more diagnostic capability for data. “That is clearly the future of where BI will get to and is getting to,” Telford added, “Moving forward of course, you want to be able to predict. And more than predict, you want to be able to try and influence what’s going to happen.”