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October 23, 2015
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Leveraging Big Data to Drive Retail Consumer Demand

This post was co-authored by Eric Thorsen, Hortonworks GM for CPG and Retail, and Jeff Seibert, Analytics Strategist at Blue Granite.

More and more, consumers interact with their retailers through mobile devices. Because communication is easier, consumers tend to assume that customer service is similarly responsive. And so, they are more likely to become frustrated and abandon a shopping cart, whether online or in the store.

Retailers, Consumer Products Companies, and Quick Serve Restaurants (QSRs) are racing to bridge this gap between consumer expectations and their ability to provide quality service at the speed of mobile.

Register for the Webinar: Leveraging Big Data to Drive Consumer Demand

Those industries understand that the “plugged-in” consumer demands special treatment that exceeds the expectations of past generations.

Hortonworks and BlueGranite partner with companies in those consumer-facing industries to streamline their business processes using Big Data. These are some of the use cases that we address with Hortonworks Data Platform and Hortonworks DataFlow:

  • A single view of the consumer – strengthen loyalty with repeat buyers by understanding their behavior across all channels and every touch point
  • Basket analysis – analyze social media for a deeper understanding of what products tend to be purchased together
  • Product recommendations and targeted promotions – predict the next best product to recommend or promote, based on a consumer’s past behavior
  • Loss prevention – improve visibility to prevent theft and fraud

We find that Big Data is the only way to focus on those critical topics. We have all reviewed a countless number of reports, analytics, and metrics that come out of legacy data platforms. They provide aggregate data on past average historical spend but not enough detail on behavior at the individual level. That type of granular detail is necessary to determine how each consumer is likely to behave in the future.

Big Data makes individual predictions economically feasible for the first time

According to recent statistics, the sheer volume of available data (whether from social media, web browsing, or traditional legacy systems) has grown at staggering proportions. In her NRF keynote address in January 2014, IBM’s Ginni Rometty indicated that over 80% of all the data that existed at that time had been created in the past 2 years. All of this information has value that can help consumer-facing industries change their processes to promote consumer intimacy, raise revenues, and protect margins. Here are some examples from Hortonworks subscribers:

  • A single view of the consumer. A large home improvement chain is using Hadoop to collect all available information to determine the complete end-to-end view of their consumer, in order to promote product and provide guidance on the next purchase.
  • Basket analysis. Multiple Quick Serve Restaurants analyze social streams to surpass traditional basket analysis. QSRs can enrich these analytics with social media to truly understand public sentiment, to make product decisions and to promote important events to.
  • Product recommendations and targeted promotions. A Midwest-based department store has raised revenue by importing item-to-item collaborative recommendation logic from a third-party outsourced provider.
  • Loss prevention. One customer is tracking sales data and comparing it with data flows on inventory movement in real time. Now this forward-thinking retailer can react more quickly to fraud, reduce losses, and drive both top and bottom line results.

BlueGranite implements Hortonworks solutions for retailers

BlueGranite is uniquely qualified to collaborate with its customers to define and implement a Hortonworks-based business analytics solution for retail. The team works with clients to turn data into knowledge and help them make better decisions—using BlueGranite’s unique agile and iterative development approach to create role-based experiences. Those experiences could roll out in the cloud, on premises, or in a hybrid configuration. Here are some specific examples of how BlueGranite and Hortonworks have worked together to help retailers, restaurants, and CPG firms manage their Big Data:

A large Consumer Packaged Goods client stored retail sales data from major big box retailers in a hosted system, but it had no way of leveraging this information for business insight.  BlueGranite used HDInsight and Microsoft Azure (powered by Hortonworks Data Platform) to ingest files with sales, inventory, store and product data. It cleansed and shaped the data with Apache Pig and Apache Hive to cleanse and shape the data.  Finally, BlueGranite configured Power BI and Azure ML to pinpoint marketing campaign and promotion effectiveness, leveraging demographic mash-ups to compare sales with associated marketing expenditures. Predictive models to project inventory levels and minimize stock-outs. The client benefited from huge gains in marketing return on investment and boosted retailer and manufacturer profitability via enhanced supply chain efficiencies during a crucial retail season.

A national QSR franchisor hired BlueGranite to create a cloud platform for analytics.  The client’s challenge was to unify disparate data sources across a diverse franchise base, even though it included inconsistent data definitions and business rules. That inconsistency threatened to derail their goal of creating a robust, reliable, and high-performance analytics platform. BlueGranite ingested POS data from on-premises SQL Server databases and web services from SaaS POS solutions in the cloud. It unified the multiple file formats into a curated data set in SQL on Microsoft Azure. Using Power BI to present the data, BlueGranite created consolidated dashboard reporting.

A global marketing information and measurement client had a 20-year-old legacy application providing sales data. Subscribing customers wanted detailed, granular sales data around their products as well as those of their competitors. BlueGranite helped the client ingest files directly from an old mainframe system into cloud storage. The solution cleansed the data and loaded it into a SQL Server Analysis Services Tabular In-Memory data mart for immediate consumption by dashboards in Power BI.  Where the client’s mainframe application originally took days to refresh with new data, BlueGranite’s solution could present billions of records at speeds orders of magnitude faster than before.

About BlueGranite

BlueGranite spends each day helping clients get the answers they need from data. Whether that’s through using tools and solutions that provide easier access to data or creating data models that are easier to understand, our experienced team of experts makes sure that companies get more insight from their data—helping them get more done with less.

Operating across the United States and Canada, BlueGranite staffs projects that include training for change management and skills transfer. That training is built in conjunction with Microsoft for Azure-based cloud solutions like HD Insight or Hortonworks Data Platform clusters on premises or in private clouds. Furthermore, BlueGranite supports clients with retainer-based Center-of-Excellence (CoE) services that make affordable use of OPEX for part-time access to big data analytics architects.

About The Authors

Eric Thorsen
General Manager, Retail and CPG
Hortonworks

Eric Thorsen

Eric holds over 25 years of technology expertise. Prior to joining Hortonworks, Eric was a VP with SAP, managing strategic customers in Retail and CP industries. Focusing on business value and impact of technology on business imperatives, Eric has counseled grocers, e-commerce, durables and hardline manufacturers, as well as fashion and specialty retailers. Eric’s focus on open source Big Data provides strategic direction for revenue and margin gain, greater consumer loyalty, and cost-takeout opportunities.

 

Jeff Seibert
Analytics Strategist
BlueGranite

Jeff Seibert

For over 20 years, Jeff has earned a strong reputation as a versatile executive and management consultant. Hallmarks include revenue growth, cost reduction, strategic planning, and organizational change management. Jeff cultivates strong relationships and helps clients lead company initiatives to great results. Specialties: Advanced analytics, strategic planning and execution, big data, cloud, social, mobile, governance, technology outsourcing, and corporate technology best practices. Jeff collaborates with executive clients to understand their mission, revenue streams and cost drivers and then rapidly unlocks strategic insights hidden in interactions with customers, employees, and partners.

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