Big Data and The Frog

You’ve probably heard the adage a dozen times about bad habits’ correlation to boiling a frog. The old scientific proverb goes like this: Drop a frog in boiling water, it will jump right out; put a frog in room temperature water and let it get slowly warmer, it will stay right there until it boils to death. Though I can’t attest to the accuracy of the fable, the principle applies here to a pending trend with retail: Big Data and the role of the store associate.


Most of my time is spent with big brands and retailers that are very concerned with how to adapt human and consumer trends into their business models.The number one trend I’ve encountered in the past year is the availability and use of user-generated data into the retail shopping process. Just so we’re not speaking in such vague terms, let’s take the world of athleisure as an example: brands like Lululemon will soon be able to see your Strava data on your smartphone, then recommend products based off of what you do with your smartphone. 

So, what does this mean for retail, both big-box and small batch? A lot. With every trend, you can choose to be comfortable where you are while the water continues to heat up to a boil, or you can choose to see the trend as an opportunity to jump out of common practices and change for the future. As a retailer, how can you engage this new era of data? Here are three easy ways to jump on the trend as it is happening: 

But before even get to those first three steps, there’s a preliminary realization that needs to take place:  acknowledge it’s happening, no matter your key consumer demographic. About four years ago, your parents were not on Facebook, but now they are amongst the massive migration to Instagram. Digital trends begin with the youngest first in most digital segments, then the older migrate over, but it’s happening now more quickly than ever. Regardless of the consumer segment that you appeal to, the use of app and habit data as a way to direct purchases is happening. The first step is simply the choice to embrace it.


Once you’ve accepted this new guard you can adapt to it: 


  • Get in the game yourself.
    As a retailer, be in the know. If you own a bike shop, you need to know the ins-and-outs of Strava. Same with running stores correlative apps: Strava, Map-My-Run, Pacer. Outdoor Stores; Komoot, MapMyHike, or AllTrails. You need to know the apps which your customer base uses, in order to engage and track the activities of those customers and apply them to your retailer. They are using them, you should too.
  • Train your team to ask about apps and engagement. 
    Familiarity with the apps is step one, customer engagement is step two-and the most important step. Ask every customer if they track their workouts or activity, and ask permission to see it. It’s an easy way to access data about your customers to offer more customized solutions. Here are some examples:
  • Does their app say they are a “sprinter-more-HIIT” style of athlete? There are product solutions for that.
  • You see that most of their riding in the past year is at night or early morning. Suggest product colors that are more reflective, and also include accessories which make them easy to see at night. 
  • Do they use yoga as a way to diversify their workouts? Make sure and include high-waisted tights in your recommendation for apparel.  
  • Here’s a simple question to ask during the assessment: “Do you track your workouts (or other type of activity) through your phone at all? Can you run me through it? This may help me with showing the best product for you and save some time.” 

·      Know it’s going to change.
Like most aspects of your business, it’s important to always be in “try and refine” mode. Remember, it’s tech-there will be some new app and process that is worth knowing within the next year. It’s something that is going to change, so be adaptable and remember the easy steps: get in the game yourself, and train your team based on your experience. 


The digital integration wave is coming to reality, don’t put your head in the sand and ignore it. Keep your sales staff digitally savvy. The water is starting to boil, it may be time to notice it.


About the Author:

Ryan McCarty is the founder of MC12: A Consumer Insights Agency. MC12 is a scrappy consumer insights boutique which merges human insight with media and technological tools to amplify the consumer voice. Over his 10 year career Ryan has worked with brands such as adidas, Google, Johnson & Johnson and Old Spice (note – he is not the guy in the commercials) He also enjoys driving to Asheville to talk retail strategy with the Mann Group while enjoying homecooked steaks and top-shel bourbon. 


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