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Questions answered at NRF business analytics session

The key takeaway from the NRF business analytics session? Business analytics is hot.

At NRF in January, moderator Lori Schafer, Executive Advisor for SAS, and panelists Chris McCann, President of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, and Tom Davenport, researcher and best-selling author, described to a standing-room-only crowd how leading companies are competing on analytics – and winning.

Over the course of 90 minutes, it became clear that we are in a new era – and analytics holds the key to unlocking hidden insights that can make companies more profitable.  

There are many questions surrounding business analytics, and the panelists did their best to answer them all:

  • What is business analytics?
    Business analytics is forward-looking and uses domain knowledge combined with technology (data management, predictive analytics and business intelligence) to leverage all available data – sales, inventory, social media, etc. – to make better decisions. Find out more.

As Schafer put it:
“Imagine a world in which you could get inside your customers’ heads to predict what your customers will want to buy, at what price they’re willing to pay, in which season and in which quantity and frequency. Imagine a world where you can dramatically increase your customer demand and map your supply to that demand. Imagine a world in which, before the season even begins, you can look into what will be the most popular items, what collections customers will like and how much of each item you should purchase to optimize your assortment.”

  • Where to start?
    Chris McCann noted that 1-800-FLOWERS.COM went through four waves of analytics in the company’s history and growth. Start small and evolve – but start!  (check out “Getting started with analytics” by business analytics expert Zul Sidi).
  • What size retailers are using business analytics? 
    All sizes. Computing costs have come down and retailers can start embedding analytics in decision making step-by-step. Even the smallest business analytics projects can generate strong ROI.
  • What is needed in terms of people and processes? 
    As Tom Davenport noted, the top executives at 1-800-FLOWERS.COM combine marketing genius and analytical prowess. As companies grow with analytics, having an analytical competency center and analytic thinkers who can explore the data and communicate effectively with business leaders are helpful starting points. Resources here include the books Competing on Analytics   and the new book, Analytics at Work , by Tom Davenport.

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