One of the insightful things that has been said to me recently came from an independent consultant working at a major FMCG client. He said: “The problem here is that we have some people who are world-class at marketing to the masses, but they haven’t got a clue about how to speak to a customer.”
Startup WibiData has launched a platform aimed at giving marketing teams and data scientists the means to create highly personalized retail shopping experiences.
WibiRetail, announced Wednesday, builds on a more general-purpose personalization platform WibiData has built on top of Hadoop.
Large retailers are using audience segmentation and other means to provide general product recommendations, but the results are rather "unimaginative and undifferentiated," Wibidata said in its announcement.
In contrast, WibiRetail can help retailers go much further, such as through "intent-aware" e-commerce applications that can figure out who an individual is shopping for, such as their spouse, Wibidata said.
The platform provides tools for bulk import of data; creating a single schema for all of the data a company has on a customer; a set of predictive models for organizing large product lists into subsets such as best sellers or what is low on stock; and consoles for monitoring the performance of models, according to the company.
WibiData's leadership brings significant technical credibility to the problem its software seeks to solve. It was founded in 2010 by Christophe Bisciglia, a co-founder of fast-rising commercial Hadoop vendor Cloudera, as well as Garrett Wu, who previously served as technical lead of Google's personalized recommendations team.
While Cloudera and other companies have done plenty of work building up Hadoop as a data-processing platform, WibiRetail represents the market need for applications that target specialized tasks and abstract away the underlying complexity of Hadoop, said Rob Seaman, vice president of product.
WibiRetail sits natively on top of a company's existing big-data infrastructure, Seaman said. There's no need for enterprises to replace their e-commerce or email marketing systems in order to use it, either, he added.
When it comes to personalizing the retail experience, there are a number of market segments to consider, Seaman said. One consists of "big, pureplay, tech-based retailers like Amazon," he said. "They've been using big data for some time. It's core to their business."
On the extreme opposite end of the scale lie smaller, mom-and-pop business that don't need technology on the scale of WibiData, he added.
One sweet spot for WibiData are large traditional retailers that have had a difficult time competing against the likes of Amazon. WibiData has already landed Macy's as a customer, although Seaman declined to offer much detail about how the company is using WibiData's product.
WibiData's approach to big data and personalized retail is "compelling," Gartner analyst Robert Hetu wrote in a recent report. The toolset "allows retailers to take a page out of the playbooks of the leaders in consumer technology and rapidly iterate, deploy and learn from new personalization strategies that optimize their customers' experience."
But one downside for WibiData lies in the fact that there are "many competitors vying for control of the retail personalization marketplace," with moves being made by big players such as Oracle and SAP, Hetu added.
Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com