Retail: a balance of art and science

Tyson Dujela
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The world of retail used to be much simpler. It was an industry that was driven by creativity, trends and a gut feel for what would sell.

It was a race to create memorable and sensory experiences that would resonate with customers.

To be successful, you had to have this instinct to predict the future and to be the first to take it to market.

Today, retail is increasingly a scientific process with more and more retailers learning to harness the power of data.

The typical recruit for a successful retailer is no longer a talented buyer, but a science graduate, employed in the advanced analytics team to make sense of customer information and how it can be used to better generate sales and profit.

Harnessing this data is a good thing for retailers who are operating at a time full of challenges, uncertainty and unknowns as a result of the global pandemic.

It is why large retailers like Wesfarmers, Coles and Woolworths are investing tens of millions of dollars to build data and digital ecosystems.

Because they know digital engagement is growing and online sales is increasing exponentially. And it also provides customers with a more seamless and personalised digital experience.

The only problem is that much of this data has been distorted in recent times due to the stop-start nature of ongoing lockdowns. The usual milestones and trends throughout the calendar year are now less predictable.

There is no escaping the digital shift and how it is impacting retailers around the world.

As Australia starts to open up post lockdowns, retailers are presented with a unique opportunity to reset and look at new ways of understanding the attitudes of their customers.

Perhaps there's even room to bring some art back to retail, while at the same time harnessing the power of data.

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