With Black Friday almost upon us there’s been a lot of marketing material circulating from solution providers wishing to convince retailers that their product is what they need to make the most of this now ubiquitous, annual event.

Being one just supplier, it should come as no surprise that we take an interest in what our peers in the industry are saying. One theme that seems to have surfaced this year, as illustrated by this piece from Tableau, is that retailers aren’t making the most of their data. The theory being that if they could better visualise their data retailers could understand and react to what’s happening.

We don’t disagree with the general sentiment – retailers should be making more of their data – but there are two points that we think are worth noting.

The first should be obvious, but, alas, seems to have escaped the minds of our peers (at least those working in marketing departments). There’s nothing special about Black Friday. The techniques and tools being adopted by the industry to be used on Black Friday are the same as those that retailers should be using on the other 364 days of the year.

The second point is perhaps a little more controversial and, I think, what best signifies the dividing line between two schools of thought. On the one hand, there are those who believe that retail analysis is the preserve of a select few schooled in the art of experimental design and statistical analysis. These people like to see themselves as the gatekeepers of knowledge and understanding, an essential part of the retail jigsaw. Their general approach is one of methodical, iterative analysis and optimisation, with them at the centre.

The second school of thought differs from the first in only one way, and that’s frequency. Just as conversion optimisation shouldn’t happen on just one day of the year, we would argue that it shouldn’t happen just one time per day. And that’s the problem with the first approach. Putting people at the heart of the process, without whom nothing can happen, inevitably slows things down. It’s not about these experts being wrong; it’s that they’re slow.

Crucially, much of the real-world outcomes of their analysis can be automated, and if it can be automated, it can be sped up. And if it can be sped up, the cumulative benefit can be exponentially increased.

We humans are still better than machines in most areas of the modern world, but one thing that we can’t claim to be is faster than the machines. And in 21st century retail, speed is everything.

If you’re a retailer then, yes, make better use of your data, but do it quickly – leverage technology and take a programmatic approach, freeing your employees to do greater things.