Sean MacCarthy, Executive Director Analytics & Segmentation, Claire’s Inc.
Since the iPhone first debuted, the pace of digital adoption by consumers and companies competing for their attention has continued to grow each year.
In the retail space, access to data to compete well has been important since the first UPC scanner; big data has existed since the first Supply Chain ERP systems began allowing for localized assortments. And so in one sense, and I suspect this is true across most industry verticals, the need to drive business decisions with data isn’t anything revolutionary. What the internet, mobile devices, and social media have allowed us to do though is not just to understand our customer within our four walls, but also understand our customers within their lives, where they are in their life journeys, where and what they aspire to be, what they care about, and how they want to be interacted with.
Listening to millions of voices all talking at once is no easy task, though, and it takes key foundational pieces in a company’s culture and talent to take advantage of what our customers are telling us and the world.
In regards to culture, there is no way around it anymore; the cliché of being data-driven is true, but what is more apropos is to be data-obsessed. Who cares where we’re driving with data if we already know the fuel (the data) feeding our car won’t work.
Before we even begin to look at what our customers are doing outside of our four walls, do we even know what they’re doing inside and whether our processes and products are meeting their needs? A company that does not obsess about master data will eventually falter as employees churn and “tribal knowledge” walks out the door. This is not just an IT concern as relates to systems integrations; all aspects of a company have to understand that the information they put into many of a company’s systems is eventually used to perform myriad analyses that direct company strategic direction, and so the old adage, “Garbage in, garbage out” is more impactful than ever. What is your company doing to not only ensure an MDM solution is in place that can handle the governance of current and emerging attributes, but that those who own the entry of those attributes understand the importance of this part of their role and have discrete goals or KPI’s tied to proper entry and maintenance?
DATA IS NOT JUST SOMETHING FOR CDO’S AND CIO’S TO OBSESS OVER, IT IS FOR EVERY LEADER IN THE COMPANY TO OBSESS OVER
Do your people running sales, merchandising, finance, operations organizations understand that casual treatment of the inputs into a CRM/PIM/DAM/ERP/etc. can lead to an inability to properly analyze even the most basic things like lifetime value, profitability, sales of products of XYZ color, etc.? Data is not just something for CDO’s and CIO’s to obsess over, it is for every leader in the company to obsess over.
When it comes to talent, strong curiosity is critical (and to be fair, is just as important to a successful company’s culture as well). In general, what I mean by this is that companies ought to seek hiring in technical and nontechnical roles people who ask why, seek answers, and are willing to get creative to solve problems. If it is a technical role, I’d also add that they think in logical systems/ structures (e.g., people with coding, mathematical, formal logic backgrounds).
On the non-technical side of the business, this means that you’ll have an audience who is ready and willing to be educated to the appropriate level of some of the more technical aspects of what goes into the many solutions/ analyses/models/systems integrations that the technical people in a CDO/CIO org are executing and sharing on behalf of the business.
On the technical side of the business, this means you’ll have people who are curious about how their work impacts the operational sides of the business, are willing to seek alternative solutions when budgets or systems constraints are presented and enjoy keeping themselves current with technologies/skills that may not be necessary for their current responsibilities.
Hiring talent with this trait allows for great flexibility in servicing a company’s current and emerging needs. For example, in the analytics world, Data Scientists often have to play the role of Data Engineers as well. So the ability to be proficient in scripting languages, in general, has a huge advantage as it opens the door for data acquisition outside a company’s first-party and paid third-party data sets. Furthermore, with scripting languages, if the skillset doesn’t currently exist, if they’ve got a robust curiosity as defined above, the ability to learn scripting on the web is incredibly easy. I’ve hired many people who had never touched Python or R, but within weeks they were executing business-critical tasks using these languages.
To take it one step further, those who exhibit this type of capability often allow for in house solutions to be built when the budget just isn’t there for an off the shelf solution. Much of the competitive intelligence my teams generate and a few of our robotic process automations are due to just such a skillset, all without cost.
From their social media accounts, their web traffic, app usage, search history, purchases, customer service interactions, etc., your customers are constantly letting you know where they are and what they need, where they will be and what they need to get there, and where they aspire to be. By working in a data-obsessed culture and hiring talent with a strong curiosity, you’ll ensure that your company is ready to meet its customers on that journey in a way that is meaningful to them, drives conversion and engagement, and builds trust and confidence in your brand.