Consumed by Information!

Not only do we live in the Information Age but we are consumed by it.  What does that mean?

Well, if you’re a retailer it probably means you collect mountains and mountains of data about everything from sales by hour and day of week, to inventory by SKU and manufacturer, the cost of labor by minute, customer buying patterns looked at six different ways, individual store traffic counts, the average sale and line items per transaction, the forecast future plans of your competitors, distributors, and the marketplace in general.

Of course, this is all gathered on a nightly basis, neatly and cleanly, via the power of the Internet or a LAN/WAN, using the most up-to-date and immediately obsolete point-of-sale system money can buy.

The result of this all consuming endeavor is neatly boiled down to the most critical 200 reports.  These appear printed and bound on your desk first thing the next morning.

Depending upon the size of your organization, you are apt to identify with this scenario at one extreme or the other.  If not, you are probably fretting over the fact that you have not yet subjected your business to the rigors of being consumed by an information frenzy and are fearful of subjecting yourself to total economic annihilation.

Here’s the real problem!  What all this Information Age fury doesn’t ensure is that we as business people will understand, even remotely,  how to interpret, or, even more importantly, utilize all this information to enhance our businesses, improve operations and training, drive sales, increase customer traffic, or, ultimately, put more money to the bottom line.

In a little less than ten years we’ve gone from wishing we knew more about the ins and outs of our business to mind-numbing information overload.  So much information, in fact,  we wish we didn’t have it.  Then we wouldn’t feel like we were missing something and we’d be able to go back to the “old” way, ye old “gut feeling”.

On the other hand, there are those who feel they have the cat by the tail when it comes to the circuit popping flow of data they collect day in and day out.  For these retailers, there lies the constant ebb and flow of making a decision and then changing it.  There is the false sense that they are on top of every event and every situation, no surprises here!  Our minute by minute report on the system-wide supply of widgets will never leave us lacking.  Why then is that for this group nothing ever changes.  Life is like running on one of those new high-tech treadmills.  “I’m sweating like a pig, I must be accomplishing something!”

In a nutshell, despite popular belief, it’s never been about having enough information.  It’s always been about having the right information.  Information that can be used by the business owner, manager, salesperson to improve operations, better service the customer, drive the marketing plan, put sales on the board and profits in the bank account. Depending upon the business, this may be one single piece or a whole host of pieces of data.  It all depends.  Whatever it is, its got to be the right information that allows the business to combine “gut” business sense with facts and figures.

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