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The Decision Factor offers insightful comments and observations on analytics—from views on new technology approaches and market dynamics to the latest industry trends driving demand for faster, smarter information analysis. This blog contains personal views, thoughts, and opinions from SAP employees, mentors, and friends working in the area of analytics. It’s not endorsed by SAP nor does it constitute an official communication of SAP.


Retail Innovation – A Game of Checkers

game changer retail

The balance of power within the retail ecosystem has shifted many times over the years and will continue to do so. As the game of checkers goes, players methodically attempt to outmaneuver and manipulate towards the outcome of the game.

Within the retail ecosystem, it was the suppliers and vendors that dictated the rules of the game for retail early on. How products would be made available, and when and how they would be promoted, was decided by the needs of the retailer. In the mid-1960s, along came the “Big Box” retailers such as Wal-Mart, Carrefour, Target, and Kmart. …

Subtlety, Complexity, and the Future of Retail

woman pushes shopping cart in grocery store

Why is the future so difficult to predict? It is easy enough to jot down a few paragraphs on a given future topic, say the future of the retail industry and the impact that big data will have on it, but it is very difficult to have any assurance that those projections will map to anything that actually happens. Part of the problem is that we tend to see the future as an exaggerated version of the present rather than a world in which fundamental changes have occurred.

There is an old story in futurist circles, probably apocryphal, about a …

Making Holiday Shopping Truly Merry with Mobility and Data Management

Women With Shopping Bags

If you’re like me, you’ll spend many hours this holiday season shopping for gifts, as well as trying to snag bargains on a few items for yourself. The shopping period between Black Friday and the end of the year has traditionally been a boom time for retailers, and the impact of technology on the holiday shopping season is increasingly evident.

Every day, a myriad of advertisements fills my email inbox to inform me of each retailer’s deals. Multiple iPad applications were launched this year to help shoppers find the best bargains by aggregating holiday deals from multiple retailers. “Cyber Monday” …

Big Data: Cutting Through the Hype and Getting Started

Woman using Card Reader at Checkout Counter

Everyone, it seems, is talking about big data (we’re even doing so on The Decision Factor). Why not, there’s a lot of untapped business value in big data. However, a lot of the hype focuses on how to access that data. Again, understandable—it’s a massive beast. But many companies seem to be stuck in analysis paralysis, focusing on an academic discussion of technical approaches for accessing big data rather than concentrating on where they can derive business value from big data today.

So, I thought I’d focus this blog on three simple …

Everyone Is Talking Big Data — So What, It’s Always Been Here

Advancing technology has created a flood of data, and many retailers are still struggling to turn that data into usable insight at the pace their customers require. The perception of big data—massive amounts of information coming from customer transactions and promotional activities processed online or at newer point-of-sale machines—has led to a compelling need for better insight and analysis.

With customer relationships increasingly driving sales and lifetime customer value, turning big data into deeper customer understanding has become the key factor separating retail success from failure. Retailers wake up in survival mode. The level of information technology is becoming a …

Analytics in Customer Engagement

Does It Matter if a Control is Preventive or Detective?

In a post last year (Are You Engaged?), I talked about the importance of systems of engagement with customers and the role that social media can play. So what do I mean by a system of engagement, and how can it make a difference?

Customer Engagement in Action: Retail

Like any business, retailers must focus on increasing sales and margins, while dealing with a dynamic competitive landscape. This involves increasing those metrics for every customer, product, and store, each of those requires a different focus. Let’s …

Social Sentiment: Getting Closer to the Consumer


Increasingly, consumers and employees are gathering in online communities of like-minded people; and there’s an urgent, growing need to gain insight into these communities. Retail organizations that succeed and leverage this social momentum increase loyalty, brand value, and revenue.

If there’s one critical lesson to be learned from retailers’ early exploration of the social media universe, it would be this: start small, continuously test, and adjust quickly. Not every investment in the new world of social sentiment will be successful. However, it’s the value of the one unique solution to address the new opportunity—along …

Data Governance in Retail — It’s All About the Data and the Attributes

dreamstime_17304865 (data)

When managers think about a business, they do so in terms of data: sales volume, inventory, margin, product turn, operational overhead, and other metrics. Data is the language of business. It’s the basis of functional control and, above all, of decision-making. Our ability to figure out where to go next depends almost entirely on our ability to understand where we are now.

All other things being equal, then, the better our data, the better our decision-making. Unfortunately, business managers often find themselves in the position of having to make decisions based on data that …