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Winning in retail with IBM Watson Knowledge Catalog

Offering Manager, Watson Knowledge Catalog, IBM

From reading the news headlines of yet another retail chain closing its stores, one can easily be left with the impression that we’re in a retail apocalypse. But in reality, the overall retail industry is very strong and healthyespecially online.

What we’re witnessing however, is a transformation of the retail industry that actually started more than a decade ago with online retail giants like Amazon and eBay. These disruptors leveraged advances in technology to launch new business models that provided consumers with greater options, convenience and personalized experiences. Without a doubt, these trends have presented huge challenges to traditional retailers who have no choice but to evolve quickly in order to stay competitive.

Retail leaders are using IBM Watson Knowledge Catalog to drive transformation at their business and compete on stronger consumer experiences. Read on to see why.

But first, let’s take a look at some of the top challenges retailers face:

  • Multi-channel is the new norm – consumers are not completely abandoning brick-and-mortar stores. Instead, they expect seamless shopping experiences across online, mobile and offline stores. They might first browse and research online, then purchase or pick-up in-store—or the other way around. Successful retailers who can gain customer loyalty are those who can deliver a superior seamless experience across all channels.
  • Data is the new gold – The additional touchpoints mean retailers have greater opportunity and more data to identify their customers and discern their preferences. However, without a proper data and analytics infrastructure, many retailers struggle to mine and analyze huge volumes of data generated daily to gain valuable insights that can help them innovate.
  • Data in silos – When a mix of technology is used that doesn’t integrate well, it can lead to data sitting in silos that also doesn’t work together. This hampers the efficiency and productivity of different teams in the organization like marketing, planning, operations, and finance.
  • Big data, small teams – Even as the volume of data grows, the size of the teams that analyze the data typically stays about the same. These users need to be able to have self-service access to data and analytical tools so that from data collection to analysis, it should only take them hours—not days, weeks or even months.

Recently, one of our clients in the retail industry was facing the exact same issues listed above. At the time, they were growing rapidly in terms of new stores, products and customers. They were generating more data than their outdated, disparate systems were able to handle. Routine operations like data integration, marketing analysis and calculating daily stock inventory positions could take up to months to complete. Furthermore, they did not have a data governance or data quality program at the time, so not only were their users spending a lot of time finding and understanding their data, they also had no visibility to the trustworthiness of their data.

This retailer knew that in order for them to stay ahead of the competition, they needed to upgrade their old data infrastructure. They decided to implement an integrated IBM solution that included data integration, governance and cleanse tools to assure high-quality data. They created a comprehensive business glossary, implemented sophisticated data validation rules for quality analysis, and enriched the metadata so they would have a repository that is ready for business consumption. They also implemented data lineage so that users would be able to trace reports from source to target with all the transformations in-between. They did all that in order to build a trusted data foundation so that it could be used as the launchpad for advanced analytics.

Thus far, the results have been spectacular. Customer affinity analysis that once took 20 days could now be done within a day. This helps the retailer design offers and coupons that entice shoppers and increase store traffic. Impact analysis on source systems could be done in minutes instead of weeks. Faster delivery of data for analytics meant more rapid and informed decision-making. These are just a few examples of the improvements that allowed this retailer to optimize their operations, deliver better service to their customers, and achieve significant financial results.

As our real life example shows, in order to survive in the hyper-competitive world of retail, it’s imperative for retailers to take advantage of the vast amount of data they’re collecting through multiple channels and build a foundation of high-quality, trusted data in a fully integrated environment so that they can turn their most important commoditytheir datainto a gold mine.

IBM Watson Knowledge Catalog is a new generation of our end-to-end solution that seamlessly integrates data governance, data quality, and data consumption. In addition to providing a solid foundation for creating a data governance framework, it is infused with artificial intelligence and machine learning to automatically discover metadata and bring agility and speed to the data supply chain. You can be more productive with your trusted enterprise data faster.

Learn more about IBM Watson Knowledge Catalog.