IRI Brings ‘New Big Data’ Into One Platform

Author: Jarrod Davis

As a supplier or retailer, every decision comes down to the data you pull each week. While we hear a lot about innovation based on what we learn from data, few companies are trying to innovate the data itself. That’s where IRI enters the picture.

We recently sat down with Michael Ellgass, Executive Vice President of Technology and Retail Media Platforms for IRI, on the Conference Call podcast. Michael outlined how he and the team at IRI help suppliers switch from the “old big data” way of analyzing to “new big data” innovation. As he explains, it all comes down understanding a new customer and making multiple systems work together seamlessly.

Getting Away from ‘Old Big Data’

IRI breaks away from old big dataWe began our conversation with Michael by learning about the biggest challenge for analysts. When dealing with “old big data,” there’s a lot of time involved in gathering information with an outdated focus.

“We think of the ‘old big data’ as being very category-specific, very product-centric,” Michael illustrates. “Think about the systems and the structure; they’re designed for that one purpose of helping people buy the right stuff and put it in the right place in the store. It (the information) tends to live in systems built for very specific purposes as well. So, you’ve got data sets that don’t necessarily talk to each other.”

Michael understands the struggles facing analysts and forecasters. Information currently being collected in multiple systems adds much more time and possibility for error. “When you want to do a complex analysis, you have to extract that data and bring it into another environment,” he continues. “There are issues of just getting the right data together and the time that’s involved (in doing that). That’s ‘old big data.'”

Understanding ‘New Big Data’

IRI simplifies the process and improves business outcomes by getting suppliers away from the “old big data” way of thinking. The first step is getting an introduction to “new big data.”

“The key for us is bringing a customer-centric view and bringing all the data sets together,” Michael says. “If you think about trying to align different data across multiple dimensions, you want to understand products and stores. But, you also want to understand households and people. Aligning those sets across brands, geography, and time is what ‘new big data’ is able to do.

“That holistic view of bringing customer understanding and basket understanding to traditional product categories is the way to truly understand the business.”

A New Platform for ‘New Big Data’

Changing the focus to better understand today’s customer is a must for every supplier, and having data systems that work together is ideal for any analyst. But has the need surpassed the tools? A few decades ago, IRI saw the need for integrated data and worked to innovate sharper data consolidation. As Michael explains, getting better requires better tools.

IRI puts new big data in one platform“It does take a different operating system. It’s moving from having things that are built in silos to having things that are interconnected,” Michael points out. “We’ve built a leading-edge platform that can bring together traditional store-level, point-of-sale data with traditional logistics distribution center information. Then, connecting it to that household-level transaction.

“Having that information in one system allows you to answer different, more holistic questions about the business. If you don’t have to jump between systems to do that, you can build stories or protocols to ask the questions you want to have your organization go answer to understand the flow of what is happening in the business.”

Bringing the Data Together to Work Smarter

With years of expertise from industry leaders, IRI has developed a technology platform that makes otherwise disparate data sets work together, and it’s been a breath of fresh air for suppliers. Michael explains the appeal of that platform, IRI Liquid Data®, and the new way to view categories.

“The beginning of it has been traditional category understanding,” he says. “The system is interesting because it can pull from different data sets and bring it into an ‘in-memory’ layer. What that allows is very quick querying and the ability to look at data from all sorts of different cuts, whether it’s a traditional product hierarchy or product traits like flavor or form. Because the system brings transactions into view, now you can start thinking about your categories by customer segments and customer behavior.”

Solving Specific Business Problems

IRIMichael goes on to explain how the applications work to better analyze your customer. Through a single, user-friendly platform, designing a query to best fit your forecasting is made simple.

“The applications have been designed for specific work that has to be done,” Michael concludes. “One application allows you to build audiences. You can take two audiences and look at the overlap or the intersection. You can see people who do ‘this’ but not ‘that.’ There are also about 50 different streams of reporting that allow you to attack a specific large business problem and break it down into manageable pieces.”

(Want to learn more about Liquid Data®? Click here to visit the website. Also, to hear our entire interview with Michael Ellgass, click here for the 8th & Walton Conference Call podcast.)

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