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Introducing the New Retail BRAIN

November 24, 2015 No Comments

By Ashley Stirrup, CMO, Talend

data brain 300x170 Introducing the New Retail BRAIN

This year that annual shopping frenzy in the U.S. known as Black Friday will take place on November 27, the day after Thanksgiving. Sales, according to the Black Friday website, will actually start early on Thanksgiving Day and extend throughout the weekend. Total sales are expected to top $80 billion. Also, the number of bargain hunters will increase this year to well over 300 million. Sales channels will include both brick and mortar stores as well as online retailers.

For e-tailers, there will be some subtle changes to the program this year, but by next year, the wave of change is expected to be so dramatic that it could sink companies that don’t react in time. The Otto Group won’t be one of them.

The Otto Group is the world’s second-largest online retailer in the end-consumer (B2C) business. The company has over 54,000 employees, operations spanning 123 major companies in more than 20 countries and sales of 12 billion euros.

Otto is well aware that the e-tail environment is changing, requiring a new approach that is more agile, automated and customer-centric and takes full advantage of advances in business intelligence, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

“Consumers, conditioned by the services of big e-tailers such as and Alibaba, expect to see timely recommendations and special promotions, as well as simplified site navigation and an expedited checkout process,” says Rupert Steffner, Chief BI Platform Architect, Otto. “For e-tailers like the Otto Group, the question becomes how to take these capabilities to the next level and be able to respond more quickly and specifically to the needs of an individual shopper.”

For Steffner, there are three overarching goals for the infrastructure he’s helping build: Improve the company’s information capital; advance its decision quality; and, increase revenues.

Achieving these goals, notes Steffner, is only possible through the effective wrangling of massive amounts of data coming in from the various channels the retailer supports, including online, mobile and physicalstorefronts. And, this in turn requires an infrastructure that is capable of handling big data very rapidly. And by rapidly, Steffner is really talking about split seconds or real time.

“In 2014, we began to build a new BI platform from the ground up called BRAIN to gain a competitive advantage,” he says. “Providing a modern and modular architecture, BRAIN delivers near- and real-time integration of big data as well as a full range of analytics.”

At the core of BRAIN is Hadoop from distributor Cloudera, and a range of Big Data technologies that includes MapReduce, Hive, Apache Spark, and data integration from open source vendor Talend.

The Otto Group’s approach, anchored in the multi-faceted capabilities of BRAIN, goes far beyond simply streamlining the shopping experience. Rather, the customer and etailer are forging a new relationship where the etailer’s customer-facing system is accepted as a friend and shopping companion.

This requires, as a baseline, the processing of big data at high speed. A series of steps follow to shape and personalize the shopping experience for the individual customer. First, an automated decision making process is used to give a “score” to each shopper (e.g. customer conversion propensity). The calculated scores or metrics are then used to trigger an action based on a pre-defined set of rules. In a reactive approach, the score and contextual information (e.g. customer preferences for categories, brands, or price points) are sent back to the customer interaction touchpoint (web site, ad server, call center etc.). Additionally, a real-time dashboard is used to report the decision parameters and its quality, along with customer interaction metrics. Impressively, all of this can happen in the blink of an eye.

The ability to handle real-time big data or turn massive volumes of data into instant insight and actions is the future of retail. So, while perhaps this year, it will still be all about satisfying your desire for a great deal, next year systems like BRAIN will undoubtedly be able to tap far deeper emotions.

Ashley Stirrup 2 Introducing the New Retail BRAIN

Ashley Stirrup joined Talend in 2014 as Chief Marketing Officer.  In this role, Ashley is responsible for driving market leadership, global awareness, product management and demand generation.  Prior to Talend, Ashley held a number of senior leadership positions in marketing and products at leading cloud and software companies, including ServiceSource, Taleo, Citrix and Siebel Systems.







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