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Do retail businesses have the maturity to tackle analytics challenges?

The retail sector today is brimming with optimism about what companies can do with an influx of data. If they have more robust collections of information about their operations and the greater circumstances of the economy around them, they can do a lot with that knowledge. They can improve their workflow internally and their marketing initiatives externally.

But there's a lot of concern out there that despite the influx of "big data" that's invading the business world today, many companies lack the level of maturity required to tackle their data-driven goals.

Using data effectively in the retail space entails starting by asking the right questions, collecting knowledge effectively, ensuring data quality and having the critical thinking skills to figure out what it all really means. This is a lot to ask, and if companies aren't ready for all of the above challenges, they may need to take a step back.

Preparing for data
According to Information Management, weaknesses exist across the board. The news source recently publicized the results of a study, entitled "Big Data and Analytics in Retail in North America," which presented benchmark data on companies' ability to deploy data effectively. The organization's findings were not flattering.

IDC found that retailers can broadly be split into two camps, the analytics "haves" and "have nots," with approximately 20 percent falling into each category and the other 60 lingering in the middle. Simply put, most companies aren't confident that they're using analytics effectively.

"Many retailers today do not yet have the big data and analytics maturity to address the range of technology, staffing, data, process, and strategic intent requirements needed to capitalize on their data assets," said Greg Girard, program director at IDC.

Striving for quality
The report elaborated that finding "maturity" in big data analytics is a multi-step process. There are five core dimensions that companies need to consider, and getting on the same page across all five can be quite difficult.

Possibly the most important element in the process is quality data. If companies don't have information they can rely on, they'll never be able to achieve enlightenment - they'll be left in the dark if their systems are filled with misspelled names, wrong addresses and duplicate entries. Companies can achieve success through analytics, in retail or in any other sector, but they most begin with only the most accurate information.

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