Navigating the Retail Data Landscape: A Q&A With Andrew Simmons, Retail and ESG Associate Practice Lead

Author: Wavicle Data Solutions

Meet Andrew Simmons, Wavicle’s Retail Associate Practice Lead and the latest addition to the company’s leadership team. Andrew brings a wealth of advisory and implementation experience spanning more than 15 years in data and analytics services. Leveraging a combination of retail industry experience and technical expertise, Andrew provides a fresh perspective on the future of retail and how today’s retailers can harness the power of their data to build a more sustainable and profitable future. 


Read on to get to know Andrew and gain an insider’s perspective on the role of data, analytics, and AI in the ever-evolving retail industry.  


Q: How did you get started in the retail industry? What excites you about working with retailers?


A: My retail journey started the same way most do – as a consumer.


True story: When I was in first grade, I remember excitedly talking to my mom about my revolutionary business idea: selling everything in Kroger for one penny because then, everyone would only buy their groceries from Kroger.


From that auspicious start, my journey always intentionally pulled toward retail, and my first clients were in the fashion space (for those considering a retail career, I’ll note: it is never a bad place to start – it usually comes with discount codes!). It is an exciting industry to be in because of its constantly evolving nature. If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that customers demand the goods and services they are looking for in the channel of their choice, and they are willing to abandon retailer loyalty to procure them.


I look at this trend as an opportunity. Retailers who have the customer journey at their core and build initiatives and culture around that journey will succeed. Those who don’t will face tremendous headwinds.


Q: The retail landscape has evolved significantly over the past five years. What new priorities do you see emerging for leaders in the modern retail landscape?


A: In many ways, the North Star for retailers is the same as always: delight your customer. In a rapidly evolving and complicating world, that is always my core message to clients.


For instance, if you find yourself in an activity that you cannot trace back to your customer journey, think skeptically about the true value of that activity. That divining rod is the simple secret to separating effective and ineffective spending.


That said, although our North Star has remained constant, the tactics to delight your customer are changing. Retailers have more tools at their disposal than ever before to connect with customers where they are and in the way they want to interact. Both customers and shareholders expect those tools to be used.


To meet this moment, retail executives must have a strategy to deliver increased sustainability balanced against profitable growth and capabilities to service a customer who has zero loyalty, zero middle wallet, and zero patience.


Q: How have you seen the role of data and analytics change for retailers?


A: Gone are the days of data and analytics as a cost center whose responsibility is to connect ERP and application outputs to deliver a report for sales last month.


In today’s world, data and analytics are the key to success. Breakaway valuations for retailers in the last three years (defined as market cap ≥ 2x gross revenue) are directly linked to leading data capabilities in the form of predictive analytics supercharged by gen AI and coupled with the data management maturity to serve up the data required to fuel that analytics engine. These data capabilities drive cost reductions and revenue growth.


Leading retailers are already investing in these spaces and being rewarded by customers and shareholders. Retailers who aren’t are at premium risk for disruption and market-share loss.


Q: Why do you see ESG as a critical initiative for retailers today?


A: Uplift provided by ESG might be the closest thing to a true win-win I have seen in my career in the retail sector.


ESG initiatives are driven equally by compliance, consumer demand, and companies’ desire to positively impact their communities. Retailers providing transparent, traceable ESG results see benefits from revenue to reputation and labor.


To successfully navigate the hype around ESG and reap the very real benefits it can yield, retailers must first focus on identifying the right business strategy areas for improvement and compliance for their organization. Only then should they look to operational technology, analytical technology, and technology services to help support those initiatives as a force multiplier.


Q: What’s next? What big opportunities do you see analytics and AI creating for retailers in 2024?


A: The premium value provided by analytics and AI requires fuel in the form of a solid technical foundation and an operating model capable of delivering the fundamentals of data services.


This reality makes the mandate for retail executives in 2024 clear: invest in your data foundation to amplify your investment in advanced data capabilities. This will be table stakes to remain competitive and grow.


Organizations that invest in data governance, master data, and ways of working are the organizations that will see exponential value delivered through predictive analytics and gen AI capabilities spend.



What’s next for your organization’s data, analytics, and AI journey? Reach out to Wavicle’s team today to get in touch with an expert.