Do Spreadsheets Still Belong In Retail?

Spreadsheets are usually associated with endless mundane cells containing numbers and convoluted formulas. Unlike most stereotypes, this one is generally correct.

Historically, spreadsheets were a necessity to understanding data. With the advent of new technologies and new ways of doing business, spreadsheets are quickly becoming less and less relevant to time-conscious business owners.

What A Spreadsheet Is

A spreadsheet is a giant table with built-in calculation functions, and all the color-coding and rich text features are just aesthetic. Looking back at the history of spreadsheets, they have not changed very much. Yes, maybe the user experience is a lot better and the user interface is a lot more pleasing to the eye, but the core concept remains unchanged: cells upon cells upon cells of data. At the end of the day, spreadsheets are meant to organize and present data.

What A Spreadsheet Is Not

Though modern-day spreadsheets have many built-in functions (for instance, Microsoft Excel has over 300), none of these functions are meant to do the most important thing—to actually analyze and learn from the data. That is up to humans working with the spreadsheet, such as analysts. They scour the data and determine the right formulas to gain meaning from the data set.

This might sound like a rant about spreadsheets, but that is not entirely the case. From a computing perspective, spreadsheets are highly respectable applications, with a remarkable level of computing potential. For logs, reports, and specialized financial statements, spreadsheets simplify the calculation experience dramatically.

Why Does This Matter? Spreadsheets and Retail Do Not Mix.

While there is always a right time and place for spreadsheets, it is definitely not for the fast-paced retail industry. Very few small and medium-sized business owners have the technical expertise to process complex retail data. Moreover, even the most spreadsheet-savvy managers don’t have the time to pour through thousands of columns of spreadsheet information. In retail, time is money, and retailers need the fastest possible access to insights and analytics so that they can respond to the trends of their business.

As a merchandiser or allocator, would you rather spend time analyzing the data or compiling the data?

The Right Technology Is Not Intimidating

Thanks to the power of big data technologies and intricate algorithms, it’s possible to gain deep, usable meaning from data without spending time building the equations and functions over and over. Instead of simply making straightforward calculations based on data, new technologies can analyze data and extract trends and patterns - much like a human analyst would. With a little emphasis on design and user experience, these findings can be presented in a simple, human, and intuitive at-a-glance experience.

About 42 Technologies

We understand that much of the retail industry still relies on spreadsheets. At the end of the day, we eliminate the task of compiling different data sources into spreadsheets so users can get the insights they need at the pace they deserve.

This is just a small glimpse into the design philosophy of 42. We believe that good software should be a fusion of power and usability, and our innovative dashboard product is a great example of this concept in practice.

42 Technologies

42 Technologies