It's Black Friday: Analytics Get to Work

Retailers spend the whole year getting their data collected and analytics ready for holiday shoppers who hit the stores over Thanksgiving weekend and Black Friday.

It's GO time for retailers across the US. The day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, is the official kick off the holiday shopping season for retailers, and it's the busiest time of year for these businesses. Consumers get more catalogs on their doorsteps, more ads on their TVs and radios, and more promotions designed to get them into retail locations.

This year the National Retail Federation (NRF) is forecasting retail sales in November and December to increase by 3.6% to $655.8 billion. That's significantly higher than the 10-year average of 2.5% and the 7-year average of 3.4%.

The numbers are based on the NRF's consumer survey, conducted by Prosper Insights, that also found that 55.7% of consumers have already started their holiday shopping. Clothing and accessories will be the most popular gifts this year, given by 61% of shoppers. A full 56% will give gift cards; 44% will give books, CDs, DVDs, or video games; 42% will give toys; 31% will give food or candy; and 30% will give electronics.

Planning for this big shopping season is a major task for retailers, and these businesses already have their strategies in place and ready to go for this year's busy season. Large retailers and consumer packaged goods companies are among the organizations leveraging machine learning combined with predictive analytics to help them increase customer engagement and create more accurate demand forecasts, according to Charlie Chase, an industry consultant with SAS's Retail/CPG Global Practice.

Other leading-edge data technologies for retailers could include software that tracks customer movement through stores, video recognition systems, infrared sensors that track fitting room activity, and mobile apps that let retailers identify in store behavior of customers.

And yet, many retailers may not yet be doing anything to leverage all the data that they have, according to Emmett Cox, author of Retail Analytics: The Secret Weapon.

"Even today, there are retailers out there, as well as non-retail businesses that don't do much with their data," he wrote in a blog post earlier this year. "You have everyone telling you the importance of the new big data (especially the software vendors) and that the real magic happens when you blend all this structured and unstructured data together."

Cox calls today's retail analytics more of a three-dimensional equation where businesses combine all the traditional data together with all the data coming in from new digital channels.

Whatever the analytics that retailers have in place, shoppers are ready. The NRF said that 137.4 million people plan to or are considering shopping over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Let us know in the comments if that's your plan for the holiday weekend, too.

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