Data plays a vital role in retail operations, from informing product selection to fulfilling supply and demand. We talked to Finland’s largest retailer—S Group—to learn how it uses Snowflake to put data to work.

S Group is Finland’s market-leading retailer. The company has a 46% share in the grocery store market, with nearly 40,000 employees, almost 2,000 locations, and €12.3 billion in tax-free sales.

As a customer-owned cooperative, the group’s goal is to provide the very best service possible to its customers, in both retail interactions and the other services the company provides. This includes service stations and fuel sales, travel and hospitality services, and banking operations.

To meet this goal, the company uses a huge amount of data—a vital source of insight for all modern retailers. In recognition of how important this data is, S Group set out to improve its data operations in 2021, starting with a migration to Snowflake.

The transformation project had several goals in mind. Firstly, the company wanted to improve its analytics capabilities with better tools and easier access to trustworthy data. This would give S Group the ability to react to market changes, and implement a new culture within the organization.

Secondly, the company wanted to cut costs, reducing the number of platforms it used and implementing new agile working processes. To this end, Snowflake met S Group’s needs perfectly.

“Cost optimization is one thing that Snowflake makes very easy,” said Timo Salonen, Retail Analytics Lead at S Group. “It allows you to virtually experiment with cost-cutting exercises and see the consequences of investing more or less in different areas. This was a big benefit for us.”

New insights for suppliers

One of the first steps of the transformation project was to implement a new customer insights platform that would provide vital information to S Group’s suppliers.

“Our stores sell food, clothing, tools, cosmetics—pretty much any consumer goods you can think of,” said Eevi-Inkeri Forsman, Data Engineering Lead at S Group. “That means there are thousands of brands that all want to know what happens to their products when they’re in our stores.”

To answer this question, S Group built a new platform in Snowflake that serves data to each individual supplier. The company uses Snowflake’s collaboration capabilities to create a shared copy of its data, granting access using Row Access Policies to ensure that suppliers can drill into the data that specifically applies to them. This is in direct opposition to the one-size-fits-all approach to reporting S Group had previously operated.

The platform allows suppliers to query data within the Snowflake UI with SQL, create their own custom dashboards using templates in Snowsight, and connect data with their existing data sources and preferred BI tools.

As a result, they now have granular insights into which products are selling best, in what quantities, and during which timescales.

Better insights and experiences for S Group, its suppliers, and its customers

For S Group’s suppliers, these insights into product performance contribute to better informed supply and delivery decisions. As a result, suppliers and S Group work together to ensure that products are always available in the retailer’s stores, creating a more satisfying customer experience.

“Now our suppliers have better knowledge of demand, they can be proactive and prepare for what’s coming,” says Salonen. “That means S Group experiences less waste, can optimize stock more easily, and makes it easier for our customers to get hold of the products they need.”

The benefits of the new platform extend beyond suppliers and customers, too, with S Group’s data teams noticing a major improvement. With Snowflake, a secure front-end and no required platform maintenance means data engineers can concentrate on doing the work that adds real value to the company, its customers, and partners.  

“I’m happy because my team is happy,” says Forsman. “They enjoy using these tools and appreciate that data operations are now easy and fast. It means they can concentrate on our ultimate goal—bringing value to the customer.”