Monday, May 18, 2009

Empowerment Through Data: Follow The Leaders

Keith Bradley, EVP of Ingram Micro and president of Ingram Micro North America, is a cavalry-leading optimist. “This time next year, the upturn will be here in full swing,” he told me in an interview at the Ingram Micro Data Capture/POS Partner Invitational in Phoenix last week. “And Q3 of this year it will start.”

Perhaps. Still, Bradley had more imminent good news he wanted to share with retailers. Ingram Micro, a leading technology distributor, has spent the last several years cleansing its customer database, so that it now has up-to-date sales information on 3 million purchasers of hardware and software.

The company intends to use that information, in coordination with its vendors and resellers, to help retailers uncover the real-time buying habits of retail industry leaders. Bradley believes such data analytics would provide vital advance warning to retailer companies.

“Hypothetically,” Bradley told me, “say we see that 5% of the retail leaders just bought a type of technology they never have purchased before. With a little research, we’ll be able to go to retail end-users and say, ‘You don’t know you have this opportunity, but here’s what your industry leaders are doing. Here’s what the opportunity or problem is, and here’s how we can help you.’

“If we can create that framework for trend spotting through analytics, that’s huge. It’s proactive and it’s all about empowerment through the data,” he said.

As proof of concept for the possibilities retailers may soon enjoy, Ingram is already utilizing its improved database to help government-related end-users capitalize on grant opportunities presented by President Obama’s $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Using analytics to help retailers essentially spy on each other’s technology purchases may feel a little like Big Brother is watching. But if you’re a retailer feeling bullied by today’s retail environment, it’s not so bad to have a big brother on your side.

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