Interactions: Simplified processes with Tableau Online & BigQuery

Abhi Beniwal and Giovanni DeMeo of retail and consumer brand marketing consulting firm, Interactions Marketing, discuss how their company benefits from a cloud-based strategy that includes Tableau Online and Google BigQuery.

Interactions Marketing offers creative and effective in-store and outdoor experiences to leading retailers and consumer brands. The company also provides data-driven insights that help its customers understand how shoppers make purchasing decisions.

In this video, Abhi Beniwal, Senior Vice President of Global Information Technology, and Giovanni DeMeo, Vice President of Global Marketing and Analytics, discuss how they are using Tableau Online to help customers see and understand their data, including data from Google BigQuery.

Tableau: Interactions Marketing has been a Tableau customer for years now. How has your company benefitted from using Tableau?
Giovanni DeMeo, Vice President of Global Marketing and Analytics: From my perspective Tableau is one of the greatest resources we have for being able to visualize the information for our end users and be able to identify quickly where the value is and translate that for retailers and manufacturers.
Abhi Beniwal, Senior Vice President of Global Information Technology: Tableau really helped change the way we looked at data. We have moved from the boring reports—columns and rows and very simple charts and graphs. We really set a different standard for our own internal businesses, as well as our customers.
Giovanni: The biggest changes have been in how quickly we can analyze data, and how visually appealing we can make it with Tableau.

Tableau: What prompted the move to Tableau Online?
Abhi: In the last couple of years we have moved most of our infrastructure to the cloud. That’s part of our strategic plan for focusing on our expertise—retail. Also, one of the advantages you have with Tableau Online is that it is flexible—we can host it on our own infrastructure or we can host it using the Tableau infrastructure.

Tableau: In your opinion, what are the benefits of a cloud-based strategy?
Abhi: One is the initial investment it takes away, and the second—which for us is the biggest one—is the speed. It just gives you a very different kind of flexibility in terms of agility and speed. And in our analytics, the speed and the time-to-market is very important; there are certain analytics which are only relevant at a certain period of time.

Tableau: Big data is getting a lot of attention in the retail and consumer brands industries. How does that impact what you do?
Abhi: We have been testing big data for quite some time. In the retail industry, it's one of the bigger initiatives in terms of helping to uncover what shoppers and consumers really want.

Tableau: You chose Google BigQuery as part of your big data platform—why?
Abhi: Google BigQuery provides us the simplicity we need; it also provides connectivity to sources which are not limited to our own data, but from all across the world. BigQuery has done a tremendous job of simplifying the back-end part and the big data in terms of query as well as the platform for Tableau.

Tableau: Are you taking advantage of the ability to directly connect to your Big Query data from Tableau Online?
Abhi: That's a great advantage for us and it really makes it simple. With the data connection you can literally connect to online to BigQuery and all the data you have on your BigQuery environment is now available to you for the reporting in minutes.

Tableau: What would you have to do if that direct connection didn’t exist?
Abhi: If you don't have a BigQuery connection, you literally have to go out and use the data like in Excel or some Excel third-party data sources.

Tableau: What sort of data do you look at using Tableau Online and Google BigQuery?
Abhi: With BigQuery and Tableau we are combining various different data sources. To start with, a lot of traditional data from retail partners, also a lot of consumer data from loyalty and shopper cards. In addition to that, we combine and mash-up with the weather data—with severe weather data—which helps us look at insights which we have never seen before.

Tableau: Does your cloud strategy make it easier to manage so many different sources of data?
Abhi: One of the biggest challenges with traditional BI is the initial investment, the cost—every time you bring in a new data source there's a huge capital investment and the time it takes to build the infrastructure. By utilizing the cloud you're really working on a different kind of timeline and different capital and cost, because you pay as you go.

Tableau: In addition to cost, you mentioned the time it takes in traditional BI… is that better now, too?
Abhi: From the time we enabled the Tableau Online with the back-end data sources I think it took us weeks compared to the in the past it would have taken months.

Tableau: One final question: people sometimes talk about surprising discoveries they’ve made with Tableau. Has using Tableau brought any unexpected results to Interactions Marketing?
Giovanni: I think every time we look at the data it demonstrates for us different ways to see the activity and behaviors of the shoppers that we're analyzing. So the question that we ask often going into the problem is very different than the information that we're ultimately extracting and then utilizing to modify programs in-store.

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