Drones skyrocketing through the sky, delivering us packages that we have not even ordered yet—a dream of how technology, Big Data and analytics will influence the retail landscape in the near future. But fantasy aside, the way we buy and sell is evolving rapidly. Retailers are learning how to embrace a data-first strategy to understand their customers and match them to products.

On March 17th, 2016 in the SCET Stadium Office, Professor Ikhlaq Sidhu spoke to teams about the Data in Retail Collider. Students will imagine they are the CIO of a company and develop big data strategies and recommendations for retailers. This is a rare opportunity for students to learn valuable industry information and judgment about what really works for firms who are considering new uses of big data.

Sidhu explained that when he talked to a retail company in Chile they said, “We have 18 years of customer data but we have nothing to do with it.” While a few firms are well known for setting the standard on how data can be used (i.e. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, etc.), most firms do not have the resources, expertise, or strategy to monetize their data.

For 5 weeks, teams will do research to understand what “normal retail firms” can do to leverage data for their businesses. The questions below are representative of common challenges they will answer:

  • What data can a retail firm practically collect, how do they do it.
  • What can they actually do with this data given the skills and tools they have?
  • Why would they do it from a Business Model and ROI perspective?
  • What tools are actually available?
  • What services are available, what is the cost, and do they actually help?

Big Data analytics is now being applied at every stage of the retail process—predicting trends, forecasting demand for particular products, optimizing pricing for a competitive edge, and identifying customer interests. Retailers can greatly benefit from analyzing data. There is a great deal of untapped potential in data, and there are benefits to those who put it to best use. Who knows, Big Data could change retail completely. Drones could even be skyrocketing through the sky to deliver us packages that we have not even ordered yet.