Looking Beyond Customer Insight
Web analytics vendors have tended to focus on customer issues in part because e-commerce initiatives are often led by sales and marketing types, but cross-channel insight could benefit operational decisions as well.
"If you're running a data warehouse, you're not just looking at sales and revenue, you're looking at inventories, pricing strategies and internal process efficiency," says Madsen. "The trouble is, depending on the company, inventories can be controlled by different business units. Some companies are capable of taking merchandise out of a store distribution center and bringing it back for use on the e-commerce front, but other companies are very segregated and can't easily shift inventories around."
Despite the prevalence of entrenched business units and internal political factions, Madsen says the larger trends are leading toward consolidation. As a result, "the BI functions are getting more centralized in terms of the technologies."
So the cross-channel trend may, in fact, favor general-purpose BI technologies, but for now, executives such as Smith of Best Buy seem to have enough of a challenge their hands. "As our relationship with the customer deepens, we have to figure out how to be relevant to millions of customers at a time," says Smith. Solving all analytic challenges and doing so with a single tool set may be next year's - or perhaps the next decade's - challenge.