Stylish, high-tech and good for you

From fashion to manufacturing to dairy, analytics helps small to midsize companies grow

Most people would be hard-pressed to find similarities between an online luxury fashion retailer, a high-tech manufacturer and a milk delivery business in the suburban Midwest. Gilt Groupe has made a name for itself selling fashion-forward merchandise to budget-conscious trendsetters. BGF Industries has been perfecting its heat-resistant fibers for aircraft and automotive parts, bullet-proof vests, movie screens and more.

And Oberweis Dairy has been getting its dairy products out the old-fashioned way – delivered right to customers' front doors. And yet as diverse as these companies are, they all share one key advantage: All three are using advanced analytics. Their successes show what small to midsize businesses can accomplish without hiring a team of analysts and programmers.

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Tapping into the market for thrifty lovers of luxury

Online retailer Gilt Groupe has grown its membership mailing list by 90 times in just four years. As the company added more members and new merchandise to its mix, managing all the customer data in disparate systems and formats became a huge challenge for marketing analysts, who still relied on manual SQL (Structured Query Language) queries. It took them a long time to produce reports, and the company couldn't easily segment its customers.

Gilt Groupe recognized that it needed a better way to gather, analyze and report data so it could know customers more intimately and be able to customize marketing more effectively. "We were able to get a deep understanding of our customer base through the profiling, segmentation [and] predictive analysis that we conduct with SAS Analytics," says Tamara Gruzbarg, Senior Director of Analytics and Research. With analytics the company can now "dig deep into all of the behavioral patterns and understand the preferences of different customer segments." Among its successes:

  • A 10 to 20 percent lift for customers browsing in new merchandise categories who had not purchased in those categories.
  • A 100 percent lift (for the first three deciles) for women who shopped at the men's site but had not yet purchased.
  • A 20 percent increase in new member conversion rates (customers who join but haven't purchased).

Gruzbarg's counsel to other SMBs: "It is never too early to start with analytics, even if you don't have full-blown capabilities right away. Simple segmentation based on one or two key variables, implemented at the right time, could go a long way in helping to move the business forward."

Read more about Gilt Groupe.

Weaving superior protection

You may not have heard of BGF Industries, but it's likely that you've come in contact with their products. This manufacturer's woven and nonwoven materials, made from glass, carbon and other strong, heat-resistant fibers, can be found in hot-air filtration systems, aircraft and automotive parts, ballistic vehicle armor, electronic circuitry and even surfboards. Improving the quality of its high-tech materials and its manufacturing processes is critical to the company's ongoing success.

With SAS Enterprise BI for Midsize Business, BGF created a cost-effective, easy-to-use early-warning system that helps the materials firm stay ahead of its competition on quality and productivity. Data is available in minutes instead of hours. "SAS allowed us to create an early-warning system that constantly monitors data and production trends so we can keep our quality high and our customers satisfied," said Bobby Hull, a BGF systems analyst.

BGF has always prided itself on minimal quality issues and a quick response when one emerges. "This just gives us another tool to respond quicker, faster and more accurately and that turns into dollars for us," Hull says.

Reinventing home milk delivery for a 21st century world

In Illinois, Oberweis Dairy is growing as a regional food manufacturer and retailer with home delivery, dairy stores and a wholesale business. Each business model has different customer databases and information systems, but with analytics the company can look at customers across all channels. For instance, Oberweis linked its "Moola" customer loyalty card, representing in-store sales, with the home delivery customer database. The company found that it could easily mine dairy store receipt data, match it against loyalty card information and select the best candidates for home delivery sales campaigns.

It also learned that running specials on milk sold through grocery store chains doesn't cannibalize from dairy store or home delivery sales. In fact, a sevenfold increase in sales at grocery stores during a recent promotion helped introduce many new customers to the Oberweis brand. And one of the side benefits of switching to analytics is increased productivity.

The company was able to automate reports that previously took its analysts 20 hours a week using Excel spreadsheets. "I think implementing analytics is a great way for a small company to become a large company," says Bruce Bedford, Vice President of Marketing Analytics and Consumer Insight. "One of the most valuable assets of any company, large or small, is its data, but you have to analyze it."

Read more about Oberweis Dairy.


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