Science Magic Pairing data-driven decisions with reason in the form of context and experience can make a huge difference in consumer experience


n God we trust, all others bring data,” had adorned the walls of NASA headquarte­rs for decades. Then, one day on a cold morning in Florida in Jan ’86, the Challenger space flight disaster changed everything. Seventy-three seconds into the flight, the spacecraft had disintegra­ted, killing all seven astronauts. What went wrong? Richard Feynman, Physicist, and Nobel Laureate, who was commission­ed to investigat­e the disaster, concluded – in the absence of data, the scientists had failed to argue by reason.

This story teaches us an important lesson in applying artificial intelligen­ce (AI) and data science to the world 30 of retail that is led by consumer decisions and choices, which are not always rational. In such a scenario, pairing data-driven decisions with reason in the form of context and experience could make all the difference.

Traditiona­l brick-and-mortar retail has always relied heavily on merchant (or ‘buyer’) instincts and experience­s to run the business. On the contrary, new-age digital commerce has turned to data and experiment­ation to make business decisions. Omni-channel commerce, mixture of brick-andmortar and digital, has been the messy middle. This is driving several companies, including the Fortune 50 companies like Lowe’s to reinvent itself and stay relevant for the future.

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