Pier 1 Imports Redesigns Business Intelligence With Microsoft

More than half (56%) of retailers are seeking to deliver cross-channel personalization, and 31% are building more one-to-one tactics, according to research from the e-tailing group.

To achieve this level of relevancy, retailers must be equipped to collect, aggregate and analyze Big Data. Home décor and furniture retailer Pier 1 Imports is partnering with Microsoft to become more customer-centric. 

“We want to decorate every room in our consumers’ houses — even outside,” said Andrew Laudato, SVP and CIO of Pier 1 Imports. “Everyone’s home is special to them, so we want to speak to each of those customers about what resonates with her from a style perspective.”


Since completing a six-week pilot of the Azure Machine Learning Service, Pier 1 is embarking on the next stage of its omnichannel journey, which will center on better predicting customer behaviors and anticipating trends. In doing so, the retailer will be able to deliver more relevant, compelling and timely messages to customers across all channels.

“At Pier 1 Imports, we have an omnichannel initiative that we call 1-Pier-1, which allows consumers to shop when, how and where they want,” said Laudato in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. Although the initiative initially focused on omnichannel order fulfillment — including buy online/pickup in-store, buy online/ship to store from DC — it has become “so much more than logistics.”

Now, Pier 1 Imports is focusing on “communicating to customers in a consistent manner, and having that high level of service no matter how and where she interacts with the brand,” said Laudato in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. Most importantly, the retailer wants to “maintain that strong Pier 1 brand experience we’ve had for so many years.”

For the Azure Maching Learning Service project, Pier 1 Imports partnered with Microsoft partner MAX451. Over a period of six weeks, the companies collaborated to extract and anonymize data, port it into the cloud, cleanse it and apply machine learning. The data was then exported back into operational systems.

Moving from traditional BI to machine learning, Pier 1 Imports will be able to better predict future spending behaviors. These enhanced forecasting capabilities will help the retailer generate more powerful incentives, offers and messages for marketing campaigns.

“We want to gather insights about our customer so we can talk to her in a way that’s relevant,” Laudato explained. “If we send an email, we want to send information on the products and offers that truly resonate with her.”

Over the past few years, Pier 1 Imports has established strong analytical capabilities. Although the retailer has always been a “data-driven organization,” the new venture is “very exciting,” according to Laudato. “Now we can operationalize all the data we have and create offers and experiences that are relevant to our customers.” 




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