Few industries have access to more data regarding consumers, products, and channels than the retail and consumer industries. Data-derived insights should be at the heart of what drives this business. Yet beyond the hype, most attempts at using big data to build a competitive advantage have been dismal failures.

Despite a decade of advice from pundits that retailers need to improve the overall consumer experience — both in the physical and digital stores, the same problems persist. It drives me nuts that in 2016, search still offers zero results or way too many; that you can’t tell why the Sony TV costs $500 more than a similar Samsung TV (the details are in the “sparse data”), and that the overall experience is just not fun nor intuitive.

And the proof is in the stats – according to industry analyst Monetate1, a mere 3 percent of online visitors to e-commerce websites actually buy anything. That’s not to say that retailers are not trying to improve their e-commerce conversion rates. In fact, some of the largest retailers in the U.S. – Wal-Mart and Target are investing billions of dollars in their e-commerce infrastructure, however – most U.S. consumers prefer Amazon.com as a shopping destination. A recent Reuters/Ipsos2 poll found that 51 percent planned to do most of their online shopping at Amazon over the holiday season, compared to 16 percent at Wal-Mart, 3 percent at Target and 2 percent at Macy’s.

So, as Marvin Gaye so famously said, “What’s Going On?”. What may be holding retailers back is in the way they’re organizing their data. I recently addressed the data conundrum that retailers are wrestling with in an article for TDWI’s Business Intelligence Journal (Vol. 20, No. 4). In it, I explore why big data projects, particularly with respect to e-commerce initiatives, fail and why traditional database technology is ill-suited for creating an agile, responsive e-commerce experience for consumers. Learn how NoSQL represents a transformational opportunity by bridging data disconnects with a more flexible and scalable database.
Read the entire journal edition here.


  1. Monetate Q4, 2014 Report
  2. Reuters/Ipsos poll: U.S. consumers favor Amazon for online holiday shopping article in Reuters by Nathan Layne
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