IBM Debuts Netezza Analytics Appliance Geared to Retail Industry

Thor Olavsrud

Updated · Jan 24, 2012

Big Data analytics are already a mainstay of ambitious scientific research projects and financial institutions, but now IBM is gearing up to bring similarly sophisticated tools to retailers with a new analytics appliance from its Netezza portfolio.

The IBM (NYSE:IBM) Netezza Customer Intelligence Appliance is capable of analyzing up to petabytes of Big Data including consumer sales data and online shopping trends, all in an effort to help retailers evolve from product-centric to customer-centric sales models.

“IBM analytics allowed us to quickly get information across our multiple channels and lines of business in one place to deliver meaningful analytics that drive top line and bottom line results,” said Leslie Weber, chief information officer at Bass Pro Shops, which uses the appliance to analyze data from all its channels, including retail stores, boat dealerships, Internet and catalog sales, wholesale and hospitality. “We can now create and deliver more targeted promotions, circulars and catalogs to create a better shopping experience.”

The new appliance, part of IBM's Smarter Commerce initiative, is intended to help retailers build stronger and more profitable customer relationships by better understanding buying patterns across multiple channels.

Big Blue said 70 percent of a customer's first interactions with a product or service now take place online, which means getting the digital consumer experience right is essential. Of course, physical shopping experiences remain important as well.

To that end, the Customer Intelligence Appliance is a combined solution from IBM Netezza and IBM business partner Aginity intended to help retailers achieve a single view of customers that encompasses all channels and sales touch points, from mobile and online to in-store shopping. By bringing all this data together, IBM said retailers can gain insights on the fly and better predict and target products and promotions. The information can also be used to improve store design and pricing strategies.

“To effectively deliver on a cross-channel brand experience and optimize customer loyalty and satisfaction, retailers need to understand their customers' behavior throughout the shopping lifecycle—from awareness and browsing through purchase, receipt and use—and across all channels,” IBM said. “By translating that omni-channel understanding into customer intelligence using customer behavioral analytics, retailers can create insights to drive customer-based decision making across their organization. From supply chain and merchandising to marketing and store operations, these omni-channel customer analytics can help retailers optimize their value proposition to more perfectly match each customer's individual needs.”

The appliance delivers a core set of customer analytic reports, functions and metrics out of the box to help retailers understand how customers interact with a retailer's complete value proposition (including product, price, promotion, channels and more). IBM said it provides 35 to 40 core customer segmentation models and actionable behavioral attributes to offer insight on potential improvements across the enterprise, from marketing and merchandising to store planning and product enhancement.

Unlike many Big Data announcements these days, which focus on Apache Hadoop and unstructured data (like information from social media streams), Netezza is a SQL-based enterprise data warehouse designed to handle structured data, like customer records. IBM has been working to integrate Netezza with its Hadoop-based InfoSphere BigInsights software to provide more complete analytics across both structured and unstructured data.

IBM said the appliance can be deployed within 12 weeks.

Thor Olavsrud is a contributor to InternetNews, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals.

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