Can data science save real world retailers like Macy’s?


Change always happens in every industry, and perhaps it was inevitable that the retail trade would move from the high street to the online world. 

While many people might say online retail giants like Amazon, eBay and others are accelerating the changes, the fact remains that many so-called “brick-and-mortar” stores are either under severe commercial pressure or have already shut up shop.

Macy’s is one of the oldest, most famous chain of stores in the US. Having been established more than 150 years ago, the brand has approximately 800 stores across the nation.

However, Macy’s been seeing its business slow down more and more over the past few years and there are many questions about whether and how it can survive.

In its latest effort to stay in business, Macy’s has appointed a new president who knows a thing or two about data science.

It’s hope by Macy’s that Hal Lawton can bring the know-how he would have picked up as eBay’s senior vice president, and during his time at companies like McKinsey and Home Depot.

Retailers like Amazon and eBay not only collect huge amounts of data about their customers, but also use it in a way that enhances the shopping experience.

But that’s online, where a web page can be created dynamically, showing products that the individual user may also be interested in or has viewed previously, and such pages are mostly different from customer to customer.

How can such capabilities be transferred to the real world? The simple answer to that is they can’t.

But Macy’s obviously believes that a combing its online with its real-world stores will help keep its brick-and-mortar branches open.

In appointing Lawton, Macy’s announced the creation of a single simplified merchandising organization and an enhanced focus on the company’s data analytics capabilities.

Lawton has been responsible for  all aspects of the Macy’s brand, including merchandising, marketing, stores, operations, technology, and consumer insights and analytics.

Jeff Genette, CEo at Macy’s, says: “Hal Lawton has deep expertise at the intersection of retail and technology, a diverse set of business experiences that give him a unique perspective, and a track record of successfully driving a change agenda at scale.

“This is a key step as we look to further transform the business and work through the volatility of today’s retail landscape. Macy’s already has one of the strongest omnichannel businesses in the industry, and with Hal on the team, we will accelerate the integration of digital both online and in our stores to deliver the world-class experience our customers demand.”

Lawton says: “At a time when there is both dramatic change and great potential in retail, I’m excited to be part of the team that will shape the future of the Macy’s brand and, along with it, consumer expectations of what a great omnichannel experience can be.

“I look forward to working with Jeff, the management team and Macy’s associates across the country. It’s great to play a part in the transformation of this iconic company.”