I attend the eTail West event, annually if I am able, because that’s where the enablers hang out. The worlds of retail, fashion, and e-commerce offer plenty of glitz and glamor. If what you are looking for, however, are serious discussions and actionable business opportunities with the big data and analytics providers, and like-minded brands and retailers, that are putting data-driven strategies and systems in place to make retail and e-commerce go, eTail West is a great place for that.

It was at eTail West last year that a series of events began unfolding that opened my eyes as to some changing realities in data and commerce. None of these is especially noteworthy on its own, but collectively, they speak to the occasionally eye-popping results that are possible when companies put actionable analytics to work across their operations—and to the disappointment, and questioning, that can occur when they (apparently) do not.

At eTail West 2017, I had my normal full schedule of briefings and events with vendors, brands, and retailers in full swing when sales types in one of our world regions picked up the red phone to our company’s top executives, whereupon said execs reached out, um, enthusiastically to me to put together something sizable and crucial about 24 hours. The mission: Create an analysis on spec in the hopes of dazzling a hot sales prospect in the aforementioned red-phone region. The subject: how effectively an entity I refer to as the Retail Death Star uses analytic insights to bedevil the competition. Using a bracing combination of secondary and primary research, analyst magic, and Starbucks, I pulled it off to (muffled internal) applause. I analyzed how the Death Star is combining some truly high-quality third-party vendor offerings with its own internal data smarts to create systems and processes that use data about a lot of relevant things including the weather to anticipate and meet consumer demand.

The Death Star is not ‘killing it’ for this online shopper

My command performance, however, is not really the point. This is. Over the past year, intrigued by the fireworks and hurrahs emanating from the Death Star, seeing its acquisition of a property that looked it should propel the Death Start into the thick of the e-commerce derb and noting its more aggressive e-commerce posture in the market, as well as its whiz-bang new website, I have placed two online orders with the Death Star.