Snowflake met with Mark Stange-Tregear, Vice President of Analytics for Rakuten Rewards, and Andrew Parry, Vice President of IT Application Development for Office Depot, at Data Cloud Summit 2020.

The Data Cloud is unlocking new ways of delivering products and services to customers, managing supply chains, and collaborating globally. Rakuten Rewards and Office Depot are going “all- in” on the Snowflake Data Cloud to transform their businesses.

Q. How does data affect your business?

Stange-Tregear: Data is critical throughout Rakuten Rewards, from product development, marketing, and sales to finance, logistics, and compliance. Our leadership truly understands that data analytics is essential to business success. If we can build data-driven products and draw key insights from internal, business-to-business, and consumer-facing applications, we can deliver a better customer experience.

Parry: At Office Depot, data comes in from many sources: websites, mobile apps, retail outlets, warehouses, supply chains, IoT devices on vehicles, and more. We also capture data from analytics and machine learning sources that measure the performance of our machine learning strategies. The ability to make powerful data analytics available wherever and whenever empowers our teams with a data-driven approach to decision making. 

Further, continuous measurement of our business decisions means we can constantly refine our strategies. For example, in the past, a Customer 360 would capture a point in time. Today, we can continuously create marketing strategies and build products based on evolving customer preferences.  

Q. How does Snowflake fit into your complex data environments?

Stange-Tregear: The Snowflake Data Cloud allows us to realize our vision of a true data hub and produce data analytics that help the business succeed. Snowflake eliminates boundaries between a data lake, data warehouse, and a data market. We are free to use the data we need, wherever it is.

Centralizing data improves how we use it. For example, if data scientists come up with a new model to segment audiences, they can write the model immediately into Snowflake, making it available for use in different segments, channels, or use cases without a huge integration project. It makes the return on investment for our data modeling exponentially greater and helps us build the strongest relationships with our customers and B2B partners.  

Parry: Data analysis is fundamentally different with Snowflake. In the past, having multiple data warehouses meant we had to work with different views of data and choose the data we wanted to keep. Today, Snowflake provides a single data repository for all the structured and semi-structured data we collect and does it efficiently. We’re not paying more to collect all this data.

With the compute power Snowflake provides, we can quickly deliver data and run detailed analytics, so insights are available whenever they’re needed. In the case of analyzing behaviors on our website, we reduced processing time for analytics reporting from hours to minutes.  

The ability to create a data lake with Snowflake also led us to think differently about how we archive data. Historically, we kept data for short periods of time, but now we keep the data history and continue to use it.  

Q. How is seamless data sharing in the Data Cloud helpful?

Stange-Tregear: Data sharing in the Snowflake Data Cloud is a game-changer. It fundamentally changed the way we work. Rakuten is a multinational organization, so we work with a lot of business entities. As a result, we have multiple layers of terms, conditions, and legal requirements. Moving data around within the company is complicated.  

With Snowflake, we can pick up data in very controlled ways and share it with other internal Rakuten groups. We can do this with scale and ease and with a level of security that a team of our size could not have done previously. We can also extend to third parties that don’t have Snowflake accounts. We just set up leader accounts for partners with whom we want to share specific data.

Parry: With Snowflake, we can share data internally in one central location without abstracting two different data points for the same thing. For external data, Snowflakes allows us to maintain control over what we share and with whom. We can easily audit and govern what we’re sharing and then stop sharing when relationships end. We can also leverage data sets within Snowflake Data Marketplace and even look for monetization opportunities.

Q. How has the 2020 pandemic impacted your organization?

Stange-Tregear: We saw shifts in consumer behavior. People began buying more online, using different device types, and interacting differently with websites and apps. More transactions came through the Rakuten platform. Snowflake enabled us to capture data about the shift in purchasing patterns and consumer preferences and plug it into our application experiences, our communications, and our targeting algorithms without missing a beat. I don’t think this would have been possible without the Snowflake Data Cloud at the center.

Parry: Certainly, 2020 has been unprecedented, and Office Depot had to adapt. Customers started to look for different products such as personal protection equipment (PPE) and cleaning products, as well as home office school supplies. Customers also shopped differently, with curbside pickup programs taking off.

Snowflake was central to our response. It helped us mobilize our data quickly, get the right products into stores, maintain the right inventory levels, and make smarter marketing and supply chain decisions.  

Watch Snowflake’s Data Cloud Summit 2020 discussion with Mark Stange-Tregear and Andrew Parry.