Retailers still can’t read the minds of consumers, but leaders in the industry are using big data solutions as the next best thing. Especially when it comes to deciphering the elusive demands of the millennial market.

Eric Thorsen, general manager of Consumer Products and Retail at Hortonworks, says “Most organizations I speak to are stymied by figuring out how we can get inside the brain of millennials – that mysterious category of 18 to 34 year olds. They are very much focused on their phones, really working with screens and devices.  What is fascinating about that is the data coming out of it.”

Companies who utilize big data can get closer to their consumer by capturing, evaluating and analyzing the data that is being created from smartphones and social media.


According to Science Daily, a full 90% of all the data in the world has been generated over the last two years. Mobile, social, local and regionalized data – “it’s exploding, it’s unprecedented and it’s unusual data types – it’s not managed by traditional data warehouse and business intelligence solutions,” Thorsen said.

While this data creates huge challenges, it also presents major opportunities for the corporate world.

Traditional structured systems aren’t capable of capturing this constant and copious river of unstructured data Thorson talks about – including clickstream, geolocation, Web data and the Internet of Things: beacons, sensors and video cameras.

Thorson says the data doesn’t fit in traditional repositories. That’s where big data comes in. Forward-thinking industry leaders are using big data platforms to run their businesses, gain consumer intimacy and to drive revenue and margin.

Once you know your customer, you can better serve their needs.  A big data solution allows companies to combine all customer touch points – purchases, social media, emails, banners, devices, essentially anything collecting or distributing data – to understand a customer’s engagement with the entire brand.

One of the myriad ways retailers are using the platform is by gauging the franchise-wide value of promotions. For example, decision makers take the data generated by giving away a cup coffee – is the customer also buying a sandwich or a salad, or are they taking the coffee and running with it – to determine future strategies.

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