Big Holiday Shopping Season = Big Data
November 21, 2012

Linh Ho

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The holiday retail season is approaching, meaning retailers will be more focused than ever on maximizing profits and making a strong return on every single one of their customers. Big Data analytics could give firms the information they need, resulting in profit or loss during the busy shopping period.

Data transactions are the lifeblood of the company, and capturing information from all of them could boost analytics. There is a problem, however - each company processes millions of transactions in short stretches of time, across multiple applications, meaning old-fashioned technology can fail to capture any context across the systems. There are many application layers within a company, and making information from all of them come together and form a coherent picture of consumer actions is nearly impossible.

Fortunately, firms with Big Data analytics systems can create context for transactions, to save time and begin analytics usage earlier. Firms often waste time processing their information and making certain its structure is meaningful. When using contextual Big Data, the customer's actions give the data its structure, something it never loses in storage. Saving all that time means rapid return on investment and great analytics in a flash.

Reaching Out to Customers

For example, financial companies are processing untold amounts of payment card transactions. This proves the speed the technology is capable of delivering. As finance and payments grow ever more digital, keeping applications performing at a high level is important, and it is there that the banking industry has found its surest use case for transaction-driven application performance management solutions. These firms need an immediate way to tell if their systems are in trouble, what could have caused the problem and how to fix it.

In addition, retailers are now using transactions for high-speed insight to manage customer experience and expectations. They can channel that information into analytics processes perfectly suited to their needs.

For example, companies can be proactive rather than reactive when stock for a particular item is running low. There is no need to dispatch workers to determine levels of remaining inventory or waste time prognosticating on future sales. The transactions flowing through the company's systems will provide an up-to-date analysis of what has happened thus far and is likely to occur next. Companies don't just know what consumers wish was in stock now - they have a window to the future, enabling them to fill needs before they curdle into disappointment and missed sales chances.

Business leaders armed with analytics dashboards have a view of the company that would have been impossible to gain in past. Streams of insight, informed by real transactional information rather than speculation, can give an edge through knowledge of the exact state of the company. Any worries or pressing issues can become apparent before they erupt into problems, meaning operations will stay smooth through busy seasons. Big Data analytics can provide steady results even in the face of vastly increased transactional activity.

New Opportunities

There are now more transactions than ever that need a watchful eye. This can either be overwhelming in the extreme or a boon to business.

For example, mobile devices have become an incredibly popular way to access the Internet. Now, a significant portion of consumers have a way to interact with a company, in their pockets. Savvy firms with Big Data analytics solutions that can handle an influx of new data will be well-positioned to turn mobile transaction information from confusion into value.

Smartphone and tablet applications specially designed by companies can take in location data to get a geographic view of transactions. Merging the geographic data with other dimensions of transactions bring the company closer to giving consumers what they want and need, thus improving its market position. Holiday seasons are especially competitive, meaning a clear view could make a huge difference at these times.

Faster in Combination

Big Data analytics systems are at their best when they're fast. Transactional data gives companies the speed they need to maximize performance. No matter the season, these methods can help firms take a truly modern approach to customer experience, but these effects could be especially notable around the holidays.

Linh C. Ho is VP of Corporate Marketing at OpTier.

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