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Data: a powerful trend that’s here to stay

Author: Lindsay Gaskins
President, The Bike Cooperative
Senior Executive responsible for bringing innovative operational and technology solutions to fuel the growth of the independent business members of one of the largest purchasing cooperatives in the retail space, with more than 2,800 locations in North America, spanning 14 business units.

Almost everywhere you look, read, or listen, there’s a discussion going on about data. Who owns what data, what is “your data”, should we get paid for the contribution of our data — and what even is the Cloud anyway? The hashtag alone has over 1M posts on Instagram (#data), and According to statistics featured on Forbes , 79% of executives agree that companies will perish unless they embrace big data. 

Big retailers and corporations are making huge changes to compete with today’s tech leaders. Check out the latest annual report of any Fortune 500 company and you’ll likely see they are prioritizing data technology and analysis to increase their profits. Home Depot, for example, recently spent $11.1 Billion dollars to build their technology hub – an investment that allowed them to hire over 1,000 technology professionals in 2018 and transform their understanding and operation of their business. 

Big companies are jumping on opportunities to use new data insights to better understand their customers and boost their profits, and we know there will continue to be massive amounts of data produced, collected, and analyzed. So, how can we help local business owners modernize their views on data quickly enough to keep pace with their online and much larger “brick and mortar” competitors who are using it to sharpen their claws?

Worldwide, people are already generating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day (IBM)


Identify small business blindspots with metrics 

In the last two years, I have had the opportunity to talk to many successful retail business owners spanning a range of industries including flooring, childcare, and bike shops. These are creative, passionate, persistent, and profit-minded individuals. Many of whom continue to run family businesses for the second and third generations. And yet, most of these owners are operating with data literacy levels far behind the bigger retail operators and not even close to any of the tech competitors. 

Many of the small business owners I have worked with have trouble calculating important retail metrics such as same-store sales, average transaction value, or units per transaction. Sometimes they don’t even know what those terms mean. Local stores are missing out on powerful opportunities to compete because they aren’t looking at important consumer/retail-specific metrics. Even if they did look at these numbers, they don’t have any means of comparison to determine success.

When I operated a 40-store retail chain, I used data every day to make decisions in terms of priorities and initiatives by store. Often, I would seek help and feedback from other business owners as well as my team to identify potential blind spots. If I had access to data points from other retailers, it would have pushed me harder to improve in places I hadn’t realized there was a problem.

Nowadays I am able to help my network of bike store owners (as President of The Bike Cooperative) to use shared learnings and data metrics. By using tools and technology from CCA Member Solutions, I am able to harness the power of shared insights to help my cooperative. I’ve realized that when local business owners are equipped with the right data and insights, they become so much more powerful. 

As organization leaders, we need to help our members become data literate and to fuel our network with the tools and insights that help them understand their performance and their customers’ behaviors better. If our members are successful business owners for generations without the insight and benefit of decisive data, just think how much more successful they can be with that data!

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