In the 1992 campaign for the President of the United States, then Governor Bill Clinton’s campaign manager, James Carville famously quipped, “It’s the economy, stupid!” This captured the essence of what he perceived as the most important issue to the American people at the time. Carville’s quip became a coalescing battle cry for the campaign, which went on to put Clinton in the White House. In multi-unit retail, changing behaviors across thousands of associates could have it’s own coalescing idea.

Data That Matters in Multi-Unit Retail

When it comes to marshaling the in-store changes to behavior needed to drive performance, you could paraphrase the thought above as, “It’s the data, stupid!”  With no insult intended, I mean this as a fun reminder that data is a key element of the influence required to lead actions. Sitting around a staff meeting, you’re unlikely to be challenged too often on the importance of data to your organization, but step back and ask yourself, how well do we really make use of what we “know?”

To get a return on their data investments, operations groups in multi-unit retail have a dirty secret. Almost invariably, the lion’s share of the data captured by their processes is never used! One Fortune 50 manufacturer admitted to us they spend millions per year on customer satisfaction surveys, and that more than eighty percent of that data is never looked at…by anyone! A major retailer recently told us he used to receive an entire binder worth of data to his store every week. The VP of Operations told us this practice was recently suspended when it was learned that just reviewing this amount of data would take three quarters of store manager’s work hours. Similarly, a store manager for a department store system shared with us each week he has his assistant print the reports from corporate, put them in a binder, and…put it on a shelf.

To capture a meaningful return on an investment in data, it needs to be used to change behaviors. Whole categories of software have been aimed at “performance management” in hopes of changing employee behavior. Human resource organizations have deployed performance management systems to help management teams lead their companies. Unfortunately, while most of these solutions do automate basic HR functions, they fail to change employee behaviors because they are too removed from actual business processes. How do you tie employee behaviors to the business? It’s the data! To make a material improvement in performance, systems need to be completely intertwined with the data.

Actionable Data Drives Behavior Changes

It’s impossible for the data to cause an employee to do something differently if the relevant data is in a binder in the back room. To be actionable, data needs to be in front of the right person at the right time, and be consumable in a way that helps them make better decisions about what they do next. Today, whole cadres of “Smart Enterprise” companies are rising to go beyond business process management. Where enterprise software sped up business process by automating workflows (essentially pushing around what had been on paper around more efficiently), Smart Enterprise companies use data to give this automation “teeth.” With the incorporation of data, and the algorithms that provide “narrow” or “practical” artificial intelligence capabilities, humans are supported to make better decisions. With data at its core, a Store Relationship Management system can flag inconsistencies, identify opportunities, or recommend actions that improve your operations.

A word of caution, yelling, “It’s the data, stupid!” at your next staff meeting could be career limiting! However, with the idea in mind, what would it mean for your team if operational decisions were to coalesce around the data? What would it mean if in-store team members could make decisions based on data from your best performing stores?

Store Relationship Management can help your organization use data to change behaviors. Interested in learning more? Download our whitepaper now.


Mike Ditson works in the Product group at Square Root, a provider of Store Relationship Management solutions based in Austin, TX.