IBM’s Predictions: 6 Big Data Trends In 2014

A big data expert shares predictions based on feedback from IBM‘s enterprise clients. Is it time to update your strategy?
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Businesses next year will sharpen their focus on big data and place a greater emphasis on analytics projects, data-related security and privacy, and a new generation of cognitive-intelligence apps. They will even find a seat at the boardroom table for a new executive: the Chief Data Officer.

That’s according to Inhi Suh, IBM vice president of big data, integration, and governance. Her 2014 predictions are based, in part, on feedback that IBM is getting from its enterprise clients. Here are six ways that organizations will react to the big data phenomenon next year, according to Suh.

1. More analytics, fewer gut feelings. Companies will grow increasingly data driven and willing to apply analytics-derived insights to key business operations. Intuitive decision-making will diminish somewhat as companies “infuse analytics into everything that employees touch,” says Suh. Examples include day-to-day business operations, machine-to-machine processes, and management systems. (Lunch is still your call.)

[ Time to broaden your education? Read Big Data Analytics Master’s Degrees: 20 Top Programs. ]

2. Businesses get serious about big data privacy and security. Organizations in 2014 will make a greater effort to build security, privacy, and governance policies into their big data processes. This might involve a careful balancing act, as business devises innovative, data-driven projects that deliver usable insights while addressing security threats that might arise.

3. A bigger investment in big data. Big data insights aren’t free, of course, particularly when they involve spending real money on a Hadoop platform. But that won’t stop companies from investing in big data platforms. New applications in 2014 will enable a wider range of analytics, including “reporting, dashboards and planning, predictive analytics, recommendations, and new cognitive capabilities” for transactional, social, mobile, and other data types, says Suh.

4. Welcome, Chief Data Officer. It seems there’s room for one more at the top. More organizations in 2014 will bring a chief data officer (CDO) on board. As the title implies, this new member of the C-suite will be the enterprise’s “champion of data” and find ways to extract those all-important insights from new forms of digital information. IBM cites Gartner statistics that show some 100-plus CDOs serve in large enterprises today, more than twice the number in 2012.

5. Smarter big data apps. Plenty of software firms are working on big data apps designed to bring the power of analytics to the masses, ideally reducing an organization’s reliance on highly trained, highly paid data scientists. Next year will bring a “new ecosystem” of developers, ISVs, and startups that create a new class of cognitive computing apps, says Suh. These programs will learn and improve with experience, thereby helping organizations solve complex questions.

6. Outside data is as important as inside data. As every big data watcher knows, the explosive growth of social media, mobile devices, and machine sensors is generating a wealth of bits that either didn’t exist or weren’t accessible a few years ago. Some of this data is generated within an organization, but a larger percentage comes from the outside — Twitter streams, for instance.

In 2014, businesses will find more ways to harness this mix of structured and unstructured data, ideally helping them better address the needs of their employees and customers. Customer service pros, for instance, might increasingly analyze social media feeds to respond more quickly to consumer reactions (especially the bad ones). And human resource teams might mine data shared by employees to more effectively recruit, develop, and retain top talent, says Suh.

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Thanks to


Buying local will beat online – the next 5 years

Some great work from the guys at IBM. One of their Top 5 predictions for the next five years really caught our eye at C24 that being the come back of the retail store. The video and information below really highlights the benefits of the cloud and understanding your customers and in order to truly benefit from the potential now is the time to look at the technology available. Anyway enjoy for now….

Buying local will beat online

Shopping online is a national past time.  Online sales topped $1 trillion worldwide for the first time last year, and are growing faster than in-store sales.

Online stores currently have an advantage in their ability to learn from the choices we make on the web. Today, most physical stores are limited to the insights they can gain at the point of sale – and the trend of showrooming is making it harder to compete with online retailers who compete solely on price.

In five years, new innovations will make buying local du jour once again.  Savvy retailers will use the immediacy of the store and proximity to customers to create experiences that cannot be replicated by online-only retail.  They will magnify the digital experience by bringing the web right to where the shopper can physically touch it.

In five years, retailers could rely on Watson-like technologies to equip sales associates to be expert about every product in the store. With technologies such as augmented reality and the recently announced plan to open Watson as an app development platform, IBM is providing shoppers’ with better in-store browsing and buying experiences.

As mobile devices supported by cloud computing enable individuals to share what makes them tick, their health or nutritional needs, virtual closets and social networks, retailers will soon be able to anticipate with incredible accuracy the products a shopper most wants and needs. As a result, stores will transform into immersive destinations with experiences customized for each individual.

And given their proximity and multiple footprints, stores will be able to offer shoppers a variety of fast pick-up or delivery options, wherever the customer is. Two day shipping will feel like snail mail.

Thanks to

“A digital guardian will protect you online” – IBM

IBM post

IBM recently published a number of innovations they expect to see in the near future which can be seen here.

Among them was the more interesting concept of “smart guardian” that will safeguard you from fraud online.

Basically, the security across the increasing amount of devices we use is fragmented. In 2012, 12 million people were victims of identity fraud in the U.S. In five years, IBM envisions a digital guardian that will become trained to focus on the people and items it’s entrusted with. This smart guardian will sort through contextual, situational, and historical data to verify a person’s identity on different devices. The guardian can learn about a user and make an inference about behavior that is out of the norm and may be the result of someone stealing that person’s identity. With 360 degrees of data about someone, it will be much harder to steal an identity.

“In this case, you don’t look for the signature of an attack,” Meyerson said. “It looks at your behavior with a device and spots something anomalous. It screams when there is something out of the norm.”

Some really interesting ideas and innovations coming out of IBM……

Big Data Analytics 2014 Predictions from IIA


Listen to the recorded webcast here. From Sarah Gates’ post: “At the end of the webcast, our listeners voted on which predictions they thought would come true.  The results of the voting are shown below.  If they are right, we are likely to see our predictions about the focus shifting to analytic teams, analytics driving process improvement and adoption of analytics software as a service come true in 2014.”


Thanks to the guys

Blurring the digital and physical

You may have seen a post I put up a while ago about Angela Ahrendts and her move from Burberry to Apple. There was a video I posted with it called ‘Burberry’s Social Story’. In this video, Angela discusses ‘blurring the digital and physical worlds’. The first time I saw it, I thought it would be a while before we saw this more prominently in the retail industry, but since then I have seen much evidence to the contrary.

Have you been in Topshop recently? They are currently engaging in a brilliant digital-physical campaign. You all know of my love of Pinterest and Topshop has created a Pinterest campaign that works online and offline. Online, Topshop is encouraging Pinners to create a Christmas board with the tag #DearTopshop with the chance of winning some amazing prizes. This feeds into the Dear Topshop gift generator that I discussed in another previous post. So Pinners generate a gift and pin it onto their #DearTopshop Christmas board. Topshop can then see which items are pinned the most and they are highlighting these items in store. In the stores, the most pinned items have tags around them, letting shoppers know whats popular. They also have boards within the store promoting the #DearTopshop competition. So online, they are encouraging Pinners to shop Topshop online or in stores, and offline they are encouraging purchasing almost through a ‘Pinterest Seal of Approval’ as well as encouraging shoppers back online to Pinterest. It all comes full circle. One feeds into the other and in turn helps the other. Its a brilliant end to end campaign.



Topshop isn’t the only store engaging in this ‘Pinterest Seal of Approval’ idea.Nordstrom have a similar tactic of showing customers in stores what is popular on Pinterest. As well as this, they are offering free shipping for the most popular Pinterest items with a separate page dedicated to these items online. Target are also engaging in their own Pinterest campaign with an online store called ‘The Awesome Shop’ which is filled exclusively with their most popular items on Pinterest, while in store they also have the ‘Most Pinned’ tags.

These are just Pinterest examples, but there are many, many more examples using different digital platforms. Personally, I think its a very exciting time for retailers. Its time for shops to embrace digital and integrate it with their physical space and hopefully enrich the customer experience. Saul Berman of IBM recently wrote an article for Gigaom discussing how companies that embrace the digital-physical innovation, have more of an opportunity for success. Its time for retailers to use their imagination and to create ways of making digital-physical work for them.

Thanks to


Social Listening by IBM

Great 3 minute video about social media analysis and sentiment. Worth a look

Cognitive Computing from IBM

Can computers think like humans and help diagnose problems? Eric Brown of IBM Research discusses the new intelligence that is going to take healthcare into smarter directions.

Big Data Analytics – Acquire, Grow and Retain Customers

Start of this year in Jan 2013, I had discussed in my blog Is Customer the King? In Retail, Analytics Say “Yes” about how Retail industry can leverage big data insights to optimize and personalize customer interactions, improve customer lifetime value, improve customer retention and satisfaction, improve accuracy and response to marketing campaigns. In an article by The Wall Street Journal last year, WSJ said that Big Data refers to the idea that companies can extract value from collecting, processing and analyzing vast quantities of data about their customer experience. Businesses that can get a better handle on these data will be more likely to outperform their competitors who do not. Kimberly Collins, Gartner Research vice-president stated that big data, will be the next major “disruptive technology” to affect the way businesses interact with customers.

In this new era of big data, companies need to create team of customer relationship management experts that can understand the psychology and buying behavior of their customers, apply their strong analytical skills to internal and external data and provide a personalized and individualized experience to their customers. In addition, companies will also need to apply futuristic insights using predictive and prescriptive models that will help steer innovation in the industry. Steve Jobs and his company created a need. Nobody knew they needed an iPhone or iPad but today it’s a need for millions of users. Companies need to reorient themselves to 21st century thinking, which unequivocally involves applying big data analytics to their customers (clients, employees and other stakeholders).

Today, companies have access to data unlike they have ever had before from internal systems and external media. This includes all structured data and unstructured data. And now companies have access to advanced modeling and visualization tools that can provide the insight to understand customers and even more powerfully, predict and prescribe behaviors.

Ironically – athough the retail industry is under tremendous pressure to stay competitive – the industry as a whole lags behind other industries in its use of big data analytics. A report from Ventana Research suggests that only 34% of retail companies are satisfied with the processes they use to create analytics. According to a recent infographic from marketing optimization company Monetate, 32% of retailers don’t know how much data their company store. And more than 75% don’t know how much of their data is unstructured data like call center notes, online forum comments and other information-rich customer data that can’t be analyzed in a database.

In one of the recent industry case study, CMO of a retail company convened a group of marketing and product development experts to analyze their leading competitor’s practices, and what they had found was the competitor had made massive investments in its ability to collect, integrate, and analyze data from each store and every sales unit and had used this ability to run myriad real-world experiments testing their hypothesis before implementing them in real world. At the same time, it had linked this information to suppliers’ databases, making it possible to adjust prices in real time, to reorder hot-selling items automatically, and to shift items from store to store easily. By constantly testing, bundling, synthesizing, and making information instantly available across the organization—from the store floor to the CFO’s office—the rival company had become a different, far nimbler type of business. What this customer had witnessed was the fierce market competition with effects of big data.

Retailers that are taking advantage of Big Data’s potential are reaping the rewards.  They’re able to use data to effectively reach consumers through the correct channels and with messages that resonate to a highly targeted audience.  Smart retailers are using advanced revenue attribution and customer-level response modeling to optimize their marketing spends Although there are obvious benefits, many retailers are surprisingly still failing to act on these trends. This delay is largely due to a dependence on siloed information, lack of executive involvement and a general trend among marketers to fail to understand analytics. Without advancing internal structures, gaining executive support or educating internally, jumping on these Big Data trends is nearly impossible.

The new IBM/Kantar Retail Global CPG Study of over 350 top CPG executives revealed that 74 percent of leading CPGs use data analytics to improve decision making in sales compared to just 37 percent of lower performing CPGs. By the same token, the new IBM study of 325 senior retail merchandising executives, conducted by IBM Center for Applied Insights in conjunction with Planet Retail, reports that 65 percent of leading retail merchandisers feel big data analytics is critical to their business compared to just 38 percent of other retail companies.

The two independently developed studies found interesting trends:

  • Sixty-three percent of top retail merchandisers have the data they need to conduct meaningful analytics while 33 percent of other retailers do not.
  • Thirty-seven percent of leading CPG companies make decisions predominately on data and sophisticated analytics versus 9 percent of lower performing CPG companies.
  • Eighty-three percent of leading retail merchandisers are focusing more on the consumer, compared to just 47 percent of lower performing retailers.
  • Forty-three percent of leading CPG company’s sales organizations are highly focused on the consumer versus 28 percent of others.
  • Sixty-nine percent of the marketing departments of top retail merchandisers are highly collaborative vs. 39 percent of other retailers.
  • Forty-four percent of leading CPG companies report a “robust partnership” between marketing, sales and IT versus only 20 percent of their competitors.

For retailers like Macys, the big data revolution is seen as a key competitive advantage that can bolster razor-thin margins, streamline operations and move more goods off shelves. Kroger CEO David Dillon has called big data analytics his “secret weapon” in fending off other grocery competitors. Retailers are moving quickly into big data, according to Jeff Kelly, lead big data analyst at Wikibon. Big retail chains such as Sears and Target have already invested heavily in reacting to market demand in real time, he said. That means goods can be priced dynamically as they become hot, or not. Similar products can be cross-sold within seconds to a customer paying at the cash register. Data analysis also allows for tighter control of inventory so items aren’t overstocked.

To stay competitive, retailers must understand not only current consumer behavior, but must also be able to predict future consumer behavior. Accurate prediction and an understanding of customer behavior can help retailers keep customers, improve sales, and extend the relationship with their customers. In addition to standard business analytics, retailers need to perform churn analysis to estimate the number of customers in danger of being lost, market analysis to show how customers are distributed between high and low value segments, and market basket analysis to determine those products that customers are more likely to buy together.

Retail Banks such as Wells Fargo has gathered electronic data on its customers for decades, but it is only in the past few years that the fourth-largest U.S. bank has learned how to put all that information to work. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Capital One are also taking advantage of the big data opportunity. Big banks are embracing data analysis as a means to pinpoint customer preferences and, as a result, also uncover incremental sources of revenue in a period of stalled revenue growth. Smarter banks will increasingly invest in customer analytics to gain new customer insights and effectively segment their clients. This will help them determine pricing, new products and services, the right customer approaches and marketing methods, which channels customers are most likely to use and how likely customers are to change providers or have more than one provider.

Banks, Retailers and CPG companies that are applying big data analytics to better understand consumers and adjust to their needs are outperforming their competitors who don’t, according to a pair of studies released by IBM. Advanced Big Data analytical applications leverage a range of techniques to enable deeper dives into customer data, as well as layering this customer data with sales and product information to help retailers segment and market to customers in the ways they find most compelling and relevant. Historically, retailers have only scratched the surface when it comes to making use of the piles of customer data they already possess. Add social media sentiment to the mix, and they can access a virtual treasure trove of insights into customer behaviors and intentions. The timing couldn’t be better, because these days’ consumers award their tightly held dollars to retailers that best cater to their need for customized offers and better value. The ability to offer just what customers want, when they want it, in the way they want to buy it requires robust customer analytics. The opportunity is now: It’s critical that retailers step up their customer analytics capabilities as they transition to an all-channel approach to business.


A Conversation with Ginni Rometty :BIg Data

IBM chairman, president, and CEO Ginni Rometty discusses the use of big data and the ways in which organizations are learning to compete in a new landscape, as part of CFR’s CEO Speaker series.

Rometty predicted that data will be the basis of competitive advantage going forward, calling it the “the next natural resource.” She believes it will change how decisions are made, how value is created and how value is delivered. Here’s a look at what the future may hold. Please see the video below

Sunnier Days Ahead for Retailers that Use Cloud Computing

Brick-and-mortar retailers have long favored highly visible investments, such as advertising or store design over spending hard-earned income on back-office information technology. In fact, the retail industry devotes only about 1.7% of revenue to IT. Compare that with banking, which spends about 6%.

Big-box and boutique retailers alike see that e-commerce competitors continue to use technology as a means to win on price and selection, and know their customers increasingly use smartphones in-store to compare prices or search for deals.

IBM’s latest Big Data-based retail forecast suggests that some brick-and-mortar retailers are turning the tide against showrooming, a trend in which consumers look at items in a store before ultimately buying them online, usually at lower prices. In order to remain competitive and press their advantage further, brick-and-mortar stores must look to the cloud computing revolution as a way to upgrade their technology without busting their budgets.

Perhaps most important, clouds offer retailers a way to explore the potential of big data analytics to understand their customers better. In order to compete with e-tailers, retailers are tapping social networks to learn what customers are saying about them and about their competitors. Weather data is being used to influence product purchasing decisions, and merchandise promotions are organized around social events.

In many cases, brick-and-mortar retailers are even finding new data sources. Some companies are tracking movement of customers within stores and analyzing how many stop at displays to improve the effectiveness of merchandising. Others are considering installing license-plate cameras in parking lots to find out which customer is about to walk into the store.

All of these innovations make use of massive amounts of data. A cloud based solution, with elastic storage, computing and analytics capability, can make it economically viable for retailers as they dabble with these nascent approaches.

Cloud computing involves a new way of thinking about data. In a cloud, a single server can host many virtual servers, slashing hardware costs. The virtual servers can scale on demand depending on the need for computer capacity. That’s very useful for retailers, whose businesses are notoriously seasonal. Automatically expanding capacity on Black Friday, for example, can reduce lines at checkout counters and ensure quick service.

Further, the retail industry is aided by thousands of specialty software programs that are designed for various niches and needs. The average retail chain uses about 450 such applications — far more than most other industries. Naturally, those software programs get heavy use at certain times while they are shut down at others.

For instance, Planogram software, which lays out how boxes and cans are displayed on shelves, may only run once per month. Order entry systems run during the day and in the evening when shoppers are in stores and online. Inventory replenishment systems run full bore overnight. Frequently, each system is operated by a different part of the corporate organization. Managers order capacity based on the maximum use they anticipate for the system, knowing that it’s hard to expand later because of the need to authorize new capital budgets.

The result is that retailers use only about 10% to 15% of the computer capacity in their data centers. Some 85% is sitting idle at any time. Huge economies of scale could be gained by using the same infrastructure across multiple applications in a cloud-computing architecture.

Companies can either build private clouds in their own data centers, purchase dedicated private clouds hosted by infrastructure providers, or they can move their data and applications to a public cloud used by several different companies and run by infrastructure specialists.

Many companies choose to do both by using a hybrid cloud solution with some applications in the retailers’ own data center and others in the public cloud. In a public cloud, retailers only pay for the capacity they use, just like buying electricity from a public utility. Further, many retail applications can also be rented on a monthly basis as software-as-a-service.

As mobile, social and ecommerce continue to explode in popularity, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers must understand and harness the benefits of cloud computing to optimize the in-store experience, market to the individual and maximize every sale. If they don’t, they risk falling behind their competition.

Vish Ganapathy is the Director and Chief Technologist for IBM’s Global Retail business, and has more than 22 years of consulting experience working with retailers worldwide. Ganapathy particularly focuses on bridging software applications and technology that can enable retailers to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.