Report from the 2019 I-Com Global Summit in Malaga, Spain —
For Analytic Partners, determining whether one of the world’s biggest grocers should reduce or eliminate a weekly promotional catalog is just a typical day’s activity. Except this challenge was literally 24 hours in which analytics modeling teams from around the world competed for the top prize at the I-Com Global Summit in Malaga, Spain on the Costa del Sol.
For the Hackvengers, Analytic Partners’ team made up of Katie deGorter, Brandon Rude, Aisha Ayyakad, and Paul McKenna, there was an excess of data, and a dearth of sleep. In just 24 hours, our team had to assess the problem, come up with a plan of attack, model the data and develop recommendations. The pressure was on – and there was no time for tapas, yet.
The challenge was to leverage clustered non-personal data from Google to improve digital marketing strategies at a local level for Carrefour, the French grocery giant. Carrefour wanted to be more green and needed to make local decisions on how to reduce physical catalog distribution, without a significant impact on traffic to stores and e-commerce sites. They had an always-on strategy with little variation in catalog support levels which meant that it was tough to disentangle incremental impact from baseline sales.
The assignment began at 10 AM one day and was to be completed and submitted at 10 AM the next. It was a long night with each team member taking their part crunching away within the silence of an 18th century monastery (thankfully equipped with wi-fi), where all the participants were housed. They broke a house rule by ordering pizza on their phones late in the evening but the minor conflict with a monk was worth the sustenance. As the sun rose over the Mediterranean, the team was fueled with the knowledge that the machine-learning empowered approach was working.
The next afternoon, after a short break that included lots of caffeine tempered by the conference aperitif du jour, Aperol Spritz, the team presented their findings. Their recommendation? Over 20% of the catalogs could be cut to segments like “young urbans” with no loss in sales. The catalog cut was not only a green maneuver but would save millions of Euro. They were also able to accurately predict Q1 sales for thousands and thousands of micro-region and store combinations. The predictive machine learning model the team built was accurate at predicting Q1 sales and they achieved a score of 9.9 out of 10 on the quantitative portion of the challenge. The analysis was so sound at a local level that Carrefour could apply it throughout the French market.
The winners were finally announced at the conference gala that night and the Hackvengers, now showered and chic, claimed their prize. Analytic Partners won first place for the Carrefour & Google Challenge in the I-COM Data Science Hackathon in the Tier 1 Masters Category. In addition, Analytic Partners was also named Smart Data Agency of the Year. This is the second I-COM Hackathon win and second Smart Data Agency of the Year win for Analytic Partners.
Why did Analytic Partners win? Aisha Ayyakad noted that “AP’s clear strength in storytelling and relating insights to actionable, quantifiable, forward-looking recommendations made the difference. Other teams had strong analytics but they didn’t spend enough time focusing on how to relate it back to the business.”
Team member Brandon Rude concurred: “We approached this as a business problem, not just an academic one. We provided not just recommendations but next steps and action plans. We offered a clear roadmap and treated the project just as we would with clients by answering the three ‘whats’: What is the result? So what does it mean? And what do we do now. That set us apart.”
Congratulations once again to the Hackvengers, and to the entire Analytic Partners team! While Katie, Aisha, Brandon, and Paul might have braved the all-nighter, they were supported by an enormous team effort of folks from around the world who have built the proprietary technology, developed and tested methodologies, coordinated trainings…the list goes on. Congrats to all!