Sir: Two articles last week highlighted the importance of using research to inform retail strategies (‘Sainsbury’s improves delisting decisions using Self Serve tool’ and ‘Shoppers damning of prices and promotions in c-stores’, 11 May).

Many organisations have so much information that they don’t know what to do with it. The issues for big data in the future will be around which parts of it will be relevant and useful and whether the right questions are being asked.

Before mining big data, real benefit is derived from asking customers and staff what they think and feel about a retailer, an in-store experience, a product or service to define the information you need. Big data may tell you how many customers you have won or lost but not necessarily why.

It’s important that data is used as an aid but not as a replacement for judgement. As the horsemeat issue has shown, continuous cost cutting over quality has resulted in poor value and organisations have failed to appreciate that customers see them as responsible for the whole value chain. This approach is coming back to bite them. Data transparency is important to consumers and organisations need to ensure it doesn’t become the next scandal.

A data strategy must support your customer understanding, include standards and ethics and be focused on the small number of indicators that really make a difference.

Jane Frost CBE, CEO, Market Research Society