Big Data

Analytics, Meet the User Experience

Bill Schmarzo By Bill Schmarzo CTO, Dell EMC Services (aka “Dean of Big Data”) October 29, 2013

“How do you benefit from technology?  Technology in itself means nothing if it doesn’t enable a differentiated customer experience. So those people that are able to figure out how to use technology to enable a better guest experience will win. Those people that don’t, won’t. [1]

Ron Shaich, CEO of Panera Bread 

Lost in much of the big data and data science discussions is the critical importance of the user experience. In fact, the user experience is likely more important than the data science itself. Why?

  • A more compelling and more relevant user experience can drive revenues and support the complete profiling, segmentation, targeting, acquiring, activating, maturation, retention, and advocacy of the customer engagement life-cycle. (see Figure 1)

Engagement Graphic

Figure 1:  Customer Engagement Lifecycle

  • If you can’t present the analytics in a way that is understandable and actionable by the end user or the end consumer, then why bother?

The user experience provides a perfect opportunity to leverage advanced analytics and data science in the background – where no user has to see or bother with it – to optimize key customer engagement processes, drive a more compelling business proposition, and create new monetization opportunities.  In particular, the popularity of smartphone or mobile apps provide an opportunity for organizations to dramatically change the way that they interact with their customers by leveraging analytics to present more targeted and more timely offers and services to their customers.

Let’s cover a few of my favorite smartphone apps that are successful in providing a user experience that not only drives customer engagement and increases customer satisfaction (my satisfaction), but also directly drive revenues (purchases).

User Experience Examples

Chipotle.  Of course, any discussion of the mobile app user experience must start with one of my favorite places – Chipotle!  I love the Chipotle mobile app (Figure 2) because it allows me to easily place an order off-site and then just walk up to the cash register to grab my food. I often order my food as my plane is taxiing up to the gate when I land at SFO and then just drive directly to my favorite Chipotle to grab my food before heading home after a long business trip.

Chipotle AppFigure 2: Chipotle Mobile App

The Chipotle mobile app remembers my previous orders (yes, double chicken and guacamole please) so that I can order with a single click. It also already has my credit card information, so I don’t even need to bother with the payment at the cashier. I can just walk up to the counter, give them my name (which they already know), and go home for a fine meal.

The one big negative for Chipotle is that they don’t have a customer loyalty program.  If any company should have a loyalty program, it should be Chipotle given their loyal and passionate customer base. The added insights that could be gleaned about Chipotle’s most loyal customers could be leveraged to power customer behavioral and product preference insights that could be materialized (monetized) via the mobile app customer experience.

Starbucks.  Starbucks does one of the best jobs of leveraging the mobile app user experience to drive their customer engagement strategy. Through the use of QR codes, the Starbucks’ mobile app makes it easy to complete a purchase by waving your smartphone (with the Starbucks QR code) in front of their point-of-sale scanner. In addition, the app provides all the necessary standard functionality (locating nearby stores, integrating with Google Maps to provide directions to the nearest store, saving your favorite drinks, etc.).

Starbucks AppFigure 3: Starbucks Mobile App

A big plus is that the Starbucks mobile app does a great job integrating with their most excellent customer loyalty program. The Starbucks mobile app makes it easy to electronically capture and manage the “My Rewards” associated with their customer loyalty program (see Figure 3).  Not only does this reduce the cost of mailing the reward certificates to their customers, but it also makes it easier for the customer to have all of their reward certificates readily available when they visit the store (so that we don’t lose them or forget to use them).

Uber AppFigure 4: Uber Mobile App

Uber.  Uber has forever changed the dynamics of requesting a limo ride when traveling by making it incredibly simple to request limo service using their mobile app (see Figure 4). Land in a strange town and need a comfortable ride to the client or the hotel? Just fire up your Uber app, confirm your pickup location (which is displayed on the map leveraging the smartphone’s GPS capabilities integrated with Google Maps), and get a confirmation phone call and text from the limo driver telling you that they are on their way.  After the trip, just jump out of the limo and payment is already covered with your registered credit card (with the receipt emailed to you).

My favorite part of the app is the map that visually shows you the location of the requested limo and how long it will take for the limo to get to your location. You can even watch the limo move across the map towards your location (kind of like a video game). Very cool!

Uber also does not have a loyalty program, but since they already have my information in the app, tracking and interpreting customer usage patterns, behaviors, and trends would be very easy.

Concur. Concur’s mobile app (see Figure 5) allows you to book corporate travel – flights, hotels, and rental cars – with a few clicks. It also makes it easy to adapt travel plans as your plans change (I once booked a rental car as I was sitting on the rental shuttle).

Concur Mobile AppFigure 5: Concur Mobile App

However, my favorite feature is that Concur takes the absolutely worst part of being a frequent traveler and greatly simplifies what is an absolutely horrible process – completing your expense report. If you travel each week like me, then the expense reporting process can eat up way too much of a weekend gathering the different receipts and then scanning them into the computer for electronic submission.

Concur simplifies the entire process by granting the user the ability to directly download credit card receipts from their credit card into the Concur system, which can parse the credit card receipts and automatically fill in many of the expense reporting fields. It then allows you to take a photo of any receipts not already in the system.


Key Take-Aways

What all of these apps have in common is a focus on executing a few activities to perfection. From ordering a limo to using your reward certificates to buy a coffee, pre-ordering your burrito, or managing the trip booking and associated expense reporting processes, each of these mobile apps makes it very easy to accomplish that one (or two) very-focused customer activities. Don’t try to do too much, but do whatever you do to perfection.

In addition, all of these organizations are in an ideal position to integrate analytics behind the scenes to drive a more engaging and relevant customer experience and create new business or monetization opportunities. This could include the following:

  • Product recommendations – leveraging insights about the customer’s product preferences to make recommendations around complementary products (chips and guac, pastries. etc).  These insights can become key drivers in driving new product introductions by scoring customers most likely to be interested in a new product (pumpkin spice latte) and getting the right promotions to the right people at the right time.
  • Support of third-party partners – creating a partner network that can provide information and offers that are consistent with the mother organization’s user experience. This can also help to uncover new customer insights, preferences, and behaviors in the process. For example, Uber could partner with a credit card company that understands the user’s entertainment preferences and offer coupons and discounts to local sporting events or movies.
  • Provide location-based or real-time promotions – integrating location or GPS data with real-time store conditions (e.g., current inventory, store traffic, local weather) and customer product preferences to drive location-based, real-time promotions and coupons. It’s cold and rainy outside and there’s not much traffic in the store? Then fire up a promotion for something warm and tasty to customers who are within a certain distance of your store! (Maybe I should move back into marketing?)
  • Drive referrals and build advocacy – offering coupons and promotions to my friends with an easy-to-share social media button, and then measuring the effectiveness of the different coupons and promotions. I can then use the referrals to start creating a social graph of my friends and the potential profitability of my social circle.

The user experience is where all the hard lifting analytics bear fruit by driving more compelling user engagements and powering new monetization opportunities based on your customers, products, campaign, and operational insights gleaned from analytics. Having the best analytics in the world do you no good if you don’t have a simple way to deliver those insights in a way that is actionable. As I stated before, if you can’t present the analytics to the users in a way that is understandable and actionable, then why bother?




Bill Schmarzo

About Bill Schmarzo

CTO, Dell EMC Services (aka “Dean of Big Data”)

Bill Schmarzo, author of “Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business” and “Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science”, is responsible for setting strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings for Dell EMC’s Big Data Practice. As a CTO within Dell EMC’s 2,000+ person consulting organization, he works with organizations to identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He’s written white papers, is an avid blogger and is a frequent speaker on the use of Big Data and data science to power an organization’s key business initiatives. He is a University of San Francisco School of Management (SOM) Executive Fellow where he teaches the “Big Data MBA” course. Bill also just completed a research paper on “Determining The Economic Value of Data”. Onalytica recently ranked Bill as #4 Big Data Influencer worldwide.

Bill has over three decades of experience in data warehousing, BI and analytics. Bill authored the Vision Workshop methodology that links an organization’s strategic business initiatives with their supporting data and analytic requirements. Bill serves on the City of San Jose’s Technology Innovation Board, and on the faculties of The Data Warehouse Institute and Strata.

Previously, Bill was vice president of Analytics at Yahoo where he was responsible for the development of Yahoo’s Advertiser and Website analytics products, including the delivery of “actionable insights” through a holistic user experience. Before that, Bill oversaw the Analytic Applications business unit at Business Objects, including the development, marketing and sales of their industry-defining analytic applications.

Bill holds a Masters Business Administration from University of Iowa and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics, Computer Science and Business Administration from Coe College.

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