It’s hard to get two people to decide what to do for dinner on any given night of the week. It’s even more difficult when you add in a few friends or kids, are tasked to keep it local, and are queried, “Which is the best place to go with the best deals?” Now, take that and multiply by 50 million active customers, with more than 55% of transactions on mobile, across 28 countries in more than 500 markets.
Groupon, the global e-Commerce marketplace, connects its subscribers with local merchants by offering activities, travel, goods and services. The company uses staggering amounts of data to figure these decisions out for the masses, seamlessly and in real time.
The Challenge Of Mass Merchandising On Mobile
The biggest challenge in all of this is Groupon’s ephemeral, constantly shifting localized inventory. Add to this the limited screen real estate of mobile devices, and one gets the idea that every pixel is incredibly valuable. In 2013, Groupon decided to implement Tableau Software and the company has not looked back.
“Every offer must be personalized and as exciting as possible,” said Meghna Suresh, Technical Product Manager for Groupon in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We must take into account both negative and positive personalization. For example, if a person buys a mattress, we don’t want to have a mattress in the next offering. Plus, customers may only scroll down through a few offers and give up."
“The data available now is so granular, Groupon can make deals based on what you scroll and engage with and base future offerings on what you scroll past,” Suresh continued. “If a customer has essentially ignored the last few hair salon offerings, they will be removed from future deals. The key to merchandising is relevance.”
The Power, And Quirks, Of Data Democratization
The ability to democratize data is useful in that all levels of a company can put data to work. The key to implementing an efficient data democratization solution is aligning the company and its stakeholders with its core KPIs. Retailers must be sure everyone is on the same page. Tableau enables users to make powerful data visualizations using easily customizable dashboards. Users can then share these dashboards and data across the enterprise for true collaboration.
“It was incumbent upon me to prove that Tableau was the best method going forward,” explained Ibrahim Maali, Technical Product Manager for Groupon. “We were going to completely upend our entire existing process.”
With Tableau, Maali and Suresh found that the sharing and interpretation of data become much easier than before; maybe too easy.
“We were overenthusiastic about Tableau at first,” Maali laughed. “There were so many different dashboards from so many different people; but it was a visualization of data that people had never seen before. Big analytics were usually the domain of data scientists with complicated visual charts.” Now, everyone from Groupon’s decision makers to its merchants could see data in a new, easier-to-interpret way.
“Data democratization is a two-way street.” Maali explained. “We are transparent on the data we’re taking and our stakeholders are also sending back good data.
With its merchant-facing dashboards, Tableau helps every merchant understand how many people saw their offer, and the algorithms that drove customers to those merchants. Merchants are able to see what Groupon can do for them in real time.”
A Seamless Future For A Daily Habit
Maintaining their spot as an e-Commerce leader with nearly 700,000 daily deals and counting is a Herculean task. But customers, who may never know the behind-the-scene intricacies of Groupon, will soon be treated to an even better, more seamless experience.
“In the past, a customer needed a printed-out copy of a coupon,” Suresh said. “That has moved to mobile, but we’re looking to make the process of redemption even easier. We will have optimized offers that reflect your location, and be relevant to the time of day and the day of the week. We want to be the go-to spot for anything to do locally; offer our customers the things they want and want to do at that moment in as frictionless a manner as possible. We want to make Groupon a daily habit.”
Current Challenges And Advice
The biggest issue facing Groupon is that, as Tableau can be refreshed every hour or day, the practically limitless amounts of ingested data need a home. Retailers need to scale accordingly and place it in the right data warehousing infrastructure. Both Suresh and Maali advise any retailers who wish to pursue a data democratization solution that they will need a top-notch data pipeline to store and manage that information.
“You’re building a culture of data democratization, not just building something around a tool,” Maali explained. “You are building a company around Tableau. Anyone can look at the data, learn the ropes and build a dashboard. But they need to share the same core KPIs. You don’t want a cross-functional project to come together with a different base of knowledge. They need to come up with a common base of knowledge for this to work effectively.”