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Digital transformation

Data as a performance lever for retailers

Gilles Fiolet Cenisis Data retail

Essentially using data effectively is at the heart of successful retail operations, whether personalizing the experience for customers and prospects or improving logistics operations. However, even though retailers understand the benefits, many still find it difficult to leverage their data effectively. To learn more about these challenges and how to overcome them, we interviewed Gilles Fiolet of consultancy CENISIS.

Mabrouk Chouikri
Digital Marketing Project Manager, Opendatasoft
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The value of data is widely recognized across business – and the retail sector is no different.

Essentially using data effectively is at the heart of successful retail operations, whether personalizing the experience for customers and prospects or improving logistics operations. However, even though retailers understand the benefits, many still find it difficult to leverage their data effectively.

To learn more about these challenges and how to overcome them, we interviewed Gilles Fiolet of consultancy CENISIS.

Gilles has been Offer and Innovation Director at CENISIS since 2011 and heads up the CENISIS Academy, launched in 2022. As a data consultant for more than twenty years, he has helped many companies with their approach to data, especially in the retail, finance, insurance and agri-food sectors.

Retail players have long understood the importance of data, whether it is for marketing to prospects, targeting the right customer at the right time or optimizing their supply chain.

The world of retail is changing very rapidly. Companies need to take on board trends such as the need for customer proximity, declining interest in large shopping centers, changes in purchasing behavior, phygital, click & collect and the requirement to be more sustainable. And of course you have to add in continuing competition from discounters and e-commerce platforms such as Amazon.

In this context, retailers must make data even more central to their strategies. They must make the knowledge and insights it generates accessible to all, turning it into a lever to help every employee to respond to these new challenges.

The data must be available and used at all levels of the company, from the buyer to the forklift operator in the warehouse. You need a fluid exchange of information to enable operational excellence.

Retail players have a real interest in becoming data centric and making data-driven decisions, as well as embracing AI for more automated, deeper insight.

Generally, it is empowering better decision-making and enabling artificial intelligence, using data to improve the customer experience or optimize the supply chain such as through more intelligent sales forecasting.

And, as in all businesses, retail can also rely on data to improve its internal, financial, and wider performance. I’m thinking here of improving employee satisfaction by eliminating useless or repetitive tasks. On the HR side, data makes it possible to recruit new talent, while it can be used to improve the carbon footprint of the supply chain and design or source sustainable products.

Rather than talking about current uses that are already well understood by retailers, we must address areas where, in our opinion, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Improving internal data sharing

The internal sharing of data is far too often poorly done. Providing all employees with simplified access to data is essential.

Failing to share means that the data that’s at the heart of the business is not exploited sufficiently. To scale up and derive value from data, it’s essential to put governance rules in place, such as around sharing product names, customer hierarchies, etc.

Sharing internally also means increasing transparency and communication, encouraging people to come up with new uses on a daily basis. This will make the value chain and communication between departments more fluid and will remove silos.

Creating new data services for external partners

Finally, data can also be shared externally in order to monetize it. Why not allow innovative players to use it to put new services in place?

I am convinced that retail, like other businesses, would really benefit from thinking about data sharing on a daily basis. Pooling the expertise of the various players in the value chain through data makes it possible to innovate in all areas and create value for all stakeholders.

At CENISIS, we first address data around the four pillars of its governance:

  • Knowledge: Which data is useful to the company, and are we all aligned with what it is?
  • Quality: We have targeted the useful data, and we have a common language around it, but is it high-quality data? Does it meet the set business requirements?
  • Accessibility: The company knows which data is useful, and it is high quality, but is it accessible to everyone? How is it accessed?
  • Security: Are all the access rules identified, and does the data comply with current laws?

Once these pillars have been established, the question of understanding the actual value of data can be tackled. Retailers need to look at the data – it may be useful, but useful for what and to whom and why?

CENISIS supports its clients in the definition and implementation of strategies, organization, methods, tools and acculturation to put data at the heart of their operations.

We are convinced that in order to create a healthy data culture, i.e., solid data foundations around these four pillars, the entire company must be on board. Everyone has a role to play in the collection or transformation of data.

Most of our retail clients have understood this very well, and have either:

  • Placed the management of data front and center with Data Managers or Data Steward each leading their own team.
  • Established a cross-functional team with a Chief Data Officer, supported by a team of Data Stewards on one side and Data Quality Managers on the other.
  • Set up a hybrid organization with Data Managers in business departments and a cross-functional center of excellence team for practices and tools.

However, too often, creating a dedicated organization means that they are too far from where data is generated, yet not close enough to business departments to create value. To get the entire company on board, you need to be as close as possible to the origin of the data – as close as possible to the business activities that created it – because that’s where you can truly understand its value and potential uses.

I’d sum it up in three words:

Open your data!

First open it internally: We need to make data useful for everyone and not just for a group of expert insiders. To achieve this explaining its importance and its benefits is critical.

Then why not share externally: Employees must identify, within their data sets, the data that might be useful to others and share this to stimulate innovation, increase transparency and establish relationships of trust with external stakeholders, including consumers, the media and the general public.


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