Why ARC’s Elevate Data 2024 Summit Has Something for Every Retailer & CPG — And Every Budget

April 3, 2024
By The Association for Retail and Consumer Professionals (ARC)

At the end of April 2024, something big is happening in Orlando, Florida: the first-ever Elevate Data Summit. It’s not just any event; it’s where the worlds of retail, Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), data science, and tech come together to dive deep into the buzz around artificial intelligence (AI) and business intelligence (BI). Think of it as the ultimate meetup for folks who’ve got burning questions about AI: like what it really is, how to start using it in business, and what it means for their jobs. It’s a chance for people from big corporations to mid-sized businesses to get real about using data, understanding AI, and figuring out where they stand in the grand scheme of things. So if you’re in the realm of retail or CPG, or a middle-market CFO, or part of a private equity consumer deal team, or a data scientist, or a category manager, and you’re curious or maybe even a bit anxious about how AI is shaking things up, this summit is where you’ll want to be.

As we’re sure people would love to learn more about this summit, ARC, and how this event came to be, we caught up with ARC President Emily Callahan to get you all of the answers you might be looking for. Let’s dive in!

Q: Why Elevate – and what is it?

Callahan: Over the past 18 months I have met with and chatted with so many of our members and industry colleagues, and their No. 1 concern today centers on data — the proliferation of data and the cost of data.  They are trying to understand where they are, and where they should be, on the data sophistication journey. How do they hire, train or upscale talent in today’s data-rich landscape? What does AI mean for them? How do teams even ingest, cleanse and structure data, let alone explore AI?

As a result, last fall we invited a group of 10 brands to our offices for a mini data summit and discussion, and these were the main topics of conversation with companies small and large. Ultimately, the day was incredibly fruitful, and our members built new relationships with non-competitive industry peers that they would not have met otherwise, and they had very meaningful discussions around these crucial topical areas.

When asked what would make the trip successful in their eyes, they answered with some ideas around tools and tactics, but they also told us frankly that more conversation needed to be had. More conversation, with more people, more information and learning, and even a hackathon to get hands-on with data and tools.

From there, the broader Elevate event concept was born! It is not meant to be another conference. It is a learning and sharing summit bringing together the key stakeholders and to explore the challenges that you are facing together.

Q: Who is the audience for the Data Summit?

Callahan: It’s got something for everyone in our industry. Category managers and shopper insights professionals desperately need to be able to leverage clean data for the actionable insights their roles demand. And when we put the Summit together, we expected category managers to come. What we are experiencing is that the Elevate idea is expanding well beyond category management to the data science teams, middle-market CFOs and analytics teams, and even data engineers and more.

To that end, we strongly believe retail and CPG solution architects, data engineers, machine learning engineers and data scientists would benefit from attending. Our Elevate Hackathon, sponsored by Microsoft, is tailor-made for data professionals to bring their data and build dashboards in a day. And they will leave there with a working dashboard prototype.

Q: For CatMan or Shopper Insights professionals specifically, what opportunities will the data summit provide to sharpen technical skills and get a leg up on solving vexing data issues?

Callahan: In our Learning Lab workshops, Category Managers or other folks on their teams will be able to dabble in building some AI-related tools they can take home and implement. We are committed to hands-on building and experiences. Here’s an example: you’ll have a chance to build an AI bot, to leave with your own code to start to gather data into a bit of an AI model. Such a valuable session.

Q: This summit only costs $199 to attend. How is that possible?

Callahan: This inaugural summit is not meant to be a for-profit event. We want to attract the right people who want to participate and attend and we do not want cost to be a barrier. We recognize things are tight in the CPG and retail industries, and so we are only asking for a little bit of help to make the event possible for all. We have also bought down the hotel room rate from $311 to $199 to help summiteers as well. We want the event to be well-attended and a beehive of discussions, learning and activity.

Q: What are you hearing are customer’s biggest data problems? And how will this event tackle them?

Callahan: I’ve been working around data for a really, really long time. When talking to customers who want to learn about AI or even analytics/BI tools, my initial hypothesis is that the root of issues is not actually dashboard problems or Power BI problems. My guess is that the challenges began back at the beginning of their dataset’s lifecycle and compounded after that.

People have enormous amounts of data, and expensive data as well. It is difficult to ingest, cleanse, structure, attribute and align. That is a very technical and complicated process. If you are lucky enough to do this well (not easy, and people need to discuss it and need help), then getting to the answers of the real business questions with confidence is very complicated and almost impossible. But who do you discuss these challenges with? Where do you go to learn? It’s scary out there in the unknown. It is vitally important (to individuals and to companies) to have people to share and learn with collectively — to understand where tomorrow is headed, and how do we prepare and get better today.

For those companies with travel holds or uncertainty, I think there is so much value here that it would be shortsighted not to attend. A couple hundred dollars to figure out how to leverage your $2-to-5-million or more data spend seems like an easy decision.

Q: Will the summit focus solely on artificial intelligence (AI)?

Callahan: AI will certainly be covered in depth at the conference, but first things first. Most people are not really on the AI path. They’re on the business intelligence (BI) path. You’re trying to get BI and you’re not even ready for AI, which is going to be a lot of what’s discussed at this conference.

There are things that you can use related to AI. But to begin to leverage AI, you first have to properly ingest and store, cleanse, structure and align your data. Then you are on an exciting path to insightful analytics and true business intelligence. Once repeatable, your data is ready to put it into a model that can be fed, and it can grow.

This summit is focused on a few big areas:

  • AI 101: what is it, what is it not? What does it take to get started? What is it capable of today, and what is the future? How do data science teams and consultants understand the key business questions and partner with their stakeholders for amazing and meaningful results?
  • Hearing from the experts: Companies that are the best in this business and are building the roads of AI and Technology such as: AWS, Microsoft, MasterCard, XGS.ai, Snowflake, InContext, Crisp, Answer Rocket and more.
  • The roundtable discussions and topic line-up will be incredible. They are the right conversations and meaningful conversations to be having about the CPG and Retail industry’s data and the challenges everyone is facing. You must check out the discussion topics.
  • The Hackathon is super exciting, given that you will bring your own dataset and actually work side-by-side with the world’s leading data engineers and data science architects from Microsoft to build a fully functional prototype ready to bring back to your organization and present.

Overall, there is great programming at the Elevate Data Summit, and something to benefit everyone.

Q: Finally, the biggest question: why should attendees come to Orlando?

Callahan: It’s the opportunity to come together in a non-competitive environment with industry peers as well as work with and meet the different technologies and experts to understand this entire landscape. It’s a chance to learn where things are going, to understand what you have today, how to leverage it better — and how to start to prepare for tomorrow. It’s both practical and future focused. And it is priced to be cognizant of your budget, as well as the need for us to get as many diverse and skilled voices to Orlando to meet on these key industry issues.

It is the “unconference,” and we have found so many wonderful, wise and cutting-edge presenters to facilitate and guide this journey. They are all volunteering their time to make this possible, and I so hope the event is embraced and is a huge success. I know our members and many others need help – we are here to answer the call!

Click here to learn more about ARC Elevate Data 2024, including information on programming and registration.