Back in 2011, Tesco’s acquisition of BzzAgent left many scratching their heads. What business did a UK-based, global (non-US!) retailer have cozying up to a Boston-based social marketing firm? Maybe they were just trying to catch a wave of street cred…or maybe they just had a thing for bees?
Think about it like this: BzzAgent’s word of mouth marketing powerhouse is the marshmallow of retail. It’s sticky, delicious, and fulfilling. Everybody loves marshmallows. Tesco, on the other hand, owns a business called dunnhumby – a.k.a. the chocolate. It’s data and analytical capabilities are rich, addictive, jaw-dropping. Layer on open access to the rich datasets powering these companies, and what do you get? The best s’mores of your life, or…the dunnhumby Hack/Reduce hackathon (limited spots, so sign up only if you’re a developer/analyst!).
Gather ‘round the campfire to hear how its all gone down—less than two years after being acquired, BzzAgent is nearly fully integrated into dunnhumby, the big data and customer science outfit of parent company, Tesco. When word of mouth, the voice of the customer, meets actual shopper activities, the possibilities are endless. Already, the impact of tying together this data together has been nothing short of stupendous – now in its 11th year of business, BzzAgent grew nearly 50% last year alone.
While all this was brewing, Boston was building heat, quickly becoming a hub for innovation in big data and a hotspot for startup activity around retail and data innovation. Combine that with dunnhumby’s new integrated presence in the city, and you get ooey, gooey, goodness.
Retail? You think Boston’s a hub for retail startups?! Ya, sure. You betcha. On the innovation front, there are countless transformative models all around the region. Here’s a handful:
- Aisle Buyer (sold to Intuit): Allow(ed) shoppers to skip checkout lines by paying with their credit card directly on their mobile phone
- Alignable: (in stealth – and it’s awesome)
- Card Star (acquired by Constant Contact): Puts all of your membership and rewards cards on a single free app
- Green Tape: Provides real time reviews for the in-store shopping experience.
- Level Up: Mobile payments for smaller retailers, with amazing analytics ta boot.
- Locately: Analyzes local data to determine shopper activities
- Plastiq: Enables payments via credit card for very high ticket items
- Privy: Connects online promotions to in-store activities
- Promoboxx: Connects brands with multiple retailers for co-promotion programs.
- SavingStar: Saves you money on your groceries without printing or clipping anything.
- Swipely: Utilizes point of sale terminals to provide transaction analytics to retailers
- Swirl: Hilmi Olzug’s outfit augments the in-store experience with personalized shopping delivered via mobile phone.
- True Lens: Appends social data to customer lists to help retailers grow loyalty and improve ROI.
- Unbound Commerce: Develops mobile commerce for retailers
- (I’m sure I missed a ton – put in the comments, please!)
And the reason so many retail startups are calling Boston home? Well that gets back to big data. With the development of Hack/Reduce in Kendall Square, there’s a centralized location for hacking big data. And did I mention that MIT, Harvard, IBM, Google, Microsoft, Atlas, Bain Capital, Matrix Partners, Goodwin Proctor, and others are founding sponsors?
All of this is why dunnhumby has decided to throw an all-out, over-the-top, never-before-attempted, retailer hackathon at Hack/Reduce on May 11th, from 9 AM – 9 PM. We’ll provide an actual transaction data set (real customer purchases, anonymized) for analysis, manipulation, introspection, and all sorts of coding madness – with a goal of helping forecast the success of new product launches more effectively.
Winning teams get cold hard cash ($2,500 for first place winner) and there are all sorts of goodies to be had (not to mention food and all that). But the real gold is the fact that you’ll be working side by side with dunnhumby executives and data scientists, getting exposure to their world and how they have created a Big Data and Customer Science juggernaut.
If you want to hack in person, sign up now or miss out. Especially if you are working in one of the amazing retail startups in our region — this will be an eye-opening, retail-bending experience that won’t soon be forgotten.
See you there!