Retailers are increasingly mining huge troves of digital information to improve the decisions they make about pricing, shelf-stocking and offerings. The better tools, they say, are ever less expensive and faster computers and so-called business intelligence or analytic software for finding useful information and patterns in that data.
Most people think of the grand challenges in computing as big science projects. But with the holiday shopping season just ended, retail marketing is emerging as a real-world incubator for testing how computer firepower and smart software can be applied to human behavior.
Major retailers have long sifted through in-store sales and demographic information to aim goods at different stores and to tightly manage supplies. What is changing, experts say, is the rapid surge in the amount and types of digital data that retailers can now tap, and the improved computing tools to try to make sense of it.
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