Scott Thompson made the following statement today, only 6 hours into his tenure as new CEO of Yahoo (coming over from PayPal):

I am certain that the battle of the next generation of internet businesses will be made up of who has more data and who knows how to use it better than anyone else...

I’m not talking about your classic segmentation stuff. It’s the segmentation of one and what the data of one tells you about what to do next. That’s fascinating. If this business is going to be really successful five years from now, we’ll get this right better than anyone else. As a result, the consumer experience will be better than anyone else’s and the advertiser ROI will be, too.

He is talking about internet businesses and Yahoo in particular, but I was struck  how perfectly his comments apply to the retail industry as well.

Retail has become Omnichannel. Not multi-channel with many, independent sales avenues, but one brand and experience consistently delivered across all possible touch points. At the same time traditional marketing channels are failing (newspapers and network TV for example) while new digital ones are both growing and fragmenting ( are you on facebook and/or twitter and/ or foursquare and/or…?). This digital relationship is driving a veritable explosion of customer data and with it rising consumer expectations that you are going to do something useful with that data ( “How well do you know ME? Why are you relevant to ME?!”).

In this  environment,  Scott Thompson’s two questions – who has the data? who can use it best? – could not be more poignant! And I would add one more:

Who knows yours customers better –  You or Amazon?

The answer could do more to define a retailer’s fortunes over the next 5 years than anything else!