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Author's profile photo John Ward

Making Room in the DIY Toolbox for Big Data and Predictive Analytics

After an all-too-long winter, I’m definitely ready for the warm weather. In fact, I’ve had spring fever so bad this year that I’m actually looking forward to painting the front porch and spreading a little garden mulch./wp-content/uploads/2014/05/272243_l_srgb_s_gl_446382.jpg

And as a confirmed DIYer, I’m not afraid to take on wobbly step ladders, close encounters with garter snakes, and a sore back to do these jobs myself.

Working by the Numbers

There are many do-it-yourselfers like me around the world. We are an enthusiastic bunch, but not always good planners. Once I’m in the thick of a project, there can be multiple trips a day to my local home center.

Fortunately, the stores we turn to for tools and supplies are often far better at looking ahead. Many of these retailers are reaching into their own toolbox for Big Data and analytics to gain visibility into customer’s home-improvement plans.

One such company is Kingfisher, Europe’s largest home improvement retailer with such familiar stores as B&Q, Brico Dépôt, and Screwfix.

Making the Real-Time Enterprise a Reality

Kingfisher is called out in a new report by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services titled Making the Real-Time Enterprise a Reality. It describes how companies are taking advantage of an increasing volume of data to not simply react to business demands in real time, but also to anticipate changes before they occur. According to the report, “organizations with the most advanced analytic capabilities outperform the competition.”

At Kingfisher, the starting point for real-time transformation was the proof of concept for a predictive analysis system that would integrate data from its 10 independent operating companies. This POC for a group business information system uses in-memory analytics.

By actively managing the scope of data collection and analysis, Kingfisher has the potential to deliver a broad base of business benefits. The report points out, for example, that the company is better poised to deliver the right product or information to the right customer via the right channel – whether it’s the call center, the Web site, or one of its 1,080 stores in 9 countries.

The company has already launched Click & Collect, which lets home improvement contractors use their smartphones to select supplies needed for the day’s job and have that material ready for pick up at the retail store on the way to the jobsite.

A Lot for Retailers to Consider

Making sense of Big Data is a real advantage because changing seasons are only one of the industry’s market drivers. Everything from housing starts and bad weather to homeowner demographics and local politics affects the DIY space – often in some surprising ways.

In the UK, for example, The Telegraph reports the “perfect storm” of a severe winter and a house-building boom has created a recent shortage of garden fences. This has led to skyrocketing prices and an active black market.

Even business hours can be an uncertainty. Across the channel, French courts have been debating a hotly contested legal question for months. Can French DIY stores remain open on Sundays in conflict with a century-old tradition of “le repos dominical?”

Time to Get My Hands Dirty

My fellow DIYers on the other side of the Atlantic have reason to be happy. The recent Easter holiday is traditionally a time when stores like B&Q offer enticing discounts and sales to brighten the lives of seasonally distressed homeowners.

Back here in Pennsylvania, my to-do list grows. I see a garden still strewn with broken branches and a mailbox bent and battered by this winter’s parade of snow plows.

I need to get going. That porch isn’t going to paint itself.

Learn more about in-memory analytics powered by SAP HANA, and follow me on Twitter at @JohnGWard3.

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