Why is it a great time to be a consumer right now? How does an iconic retail company like Macy’s utilize the latest technology to drive business decisions? Did you know that Macy’s has an entire team devoted to interpreting vast amounts of data to drive strategy? We sat down with Graham Poliner, GVP of Analytics at Macy’s to learn how this team is leading our company to the top of the retail industry.
It’s not a secret that the retail landscape is changing rapidly: competition is intensifying from non-traditional sources, customization of products is higher than ever, and pricing has become more transparent than at any other point in history. Today products are just a quick click away and the digital shopper can easily compare prices online in just seconds. As a result, customer expectations about the retail experience have evolved. Over our long history, Macy’s has been a leader in retail innovation with recent examples including localization, omnichannel selling, and the magic of in-store experiences.
“As an organization, we will be continually forced to think: ‘how do we stay at the forefront of customer expectations?’” says Analytics GVP Graham Poliner. As a young executive of the company, Poliner has been leading the Analytics team to revolutionize some of Macy’s core processes by integrating more and better data into decision-making at Macy’s. The team is comprised of data scientists and analytical consultants, many who flex advanced degrees in applied math, engineering, and operations research. “Increasingly, the ability to aggregate, derive insights from, and quickly react to the vast amount of internal and external data will become a competitive advantage to anticipate customer preferences and respond with directed operations,” adds Poliner.
“It’s a great time to be a consumer right now,” said Poliner. “People can get whatever they want for a compelling price. There’s been a lot of deflation in retail recently. It is super easy for shoppers to compare retail prices and this forces retailers to respond.”
What products do we offer in each Macy’s store location? How much of each item do we offer? When do we flow inventory? How do we understand our customer and how do we enhance their experience of shopping?
These are not new problems in retail; these are fundamental questions which retailers have asked for years. What is new is access to vast amounts of data that have the potential to inform business decisions, and this is where the Analytics team steps in. “Humans are talented at understanding subjectivity, unstructured problems, abstract thought, context, and emotion,” Poliner suggests. “Computers are better at almost everything else.”
However at the end of the day this brilliant team, with its vast and complex processing power, computers, and data scientists, is trying to answer just one, simple question. How do we provide the most inspiring shopping experience possible to our customer?