Like a lot of retailers, Brooks Brothers collects rivers of data about the sales it makes at its more than 500 physical and online clothing outlets around the world. And for a lot of retailers, the deluge of analytics can be overwhelming.
We couldnt get to the answers fast enough, said Cindy Lincks, Brooks Brothers analytics director. Her team was mired in spreadsheets, she said, trying to make sense of data about how many people viewed the online store and why, sometimes, they didnt buy anything.
So last year, the menswear giant turned to a firm to help it analyze which marketing campaigns work, which products to promote and where to invest more.
Brooks Brothers is hardly alone. A new market has developed for companies that can digest and analyze all the big data that retailers and others now collect. Some, like Nordstrom, have invested in internal data analysis, creating what it calls the Nordstrom Innovation Lab. Others use software provided by giants like Oracle, IBM and Microsoft, or start-ups such as Domo. Corporate business intelligence and analytics software generated $13.1 billion in revenue last year, according to Gartner, an information technology research company.
Often the focus starts with e-commerce, said McKinsey Global Institute principal Michael Chui: Because its occurring online, its easier to track whats going on, and tends to be more cutting edge.
Brooks Brothers, for instance, signed on with London-based analytics firm eCommera last year. For about $6,000 a month, customers of eCommeras DynamicAction software can automatically track and visualize large volumes of sales data, according to the company. Other eCommera customers include Neiman Marcus and Sur La Table.
Using the new analysis, Brooks Brothers can adjust its marketing to meet customer demand, Lincks said. For instance, a suit that Brooks Brothers recently promoted was selling out faster than the warehouse could stock it, and disappointed potential customers were told to wait.
Logically youd put the suit in the first spot in the store order, but what we didnt notice was it was being overexposed in so many places, and it was being sold out quickly, Lincks said. DynamicAction suggested rearranging the items in the email blasts, pushing images of the suit below other items in the email.
The software considers factors such as inventory counts, customer views and items viewed but not ordered, among others. Lincks said she better understands which items to place on clearance based on the data.
DynamicAction provides an analytics dashboard for merchants along with a list of simple changes that could save money, ranked by profitability. Each week, Lincks and her team discuss the dashboard, deciding where marketing dollars can be reinvested.
Lincks estimates she would take about eight hours to calculate what the software provides automatically.