Tesco increases sales with supply chain data in Tableau

Tableau: You help to analyze supply chain development at Tesco—one of the world’s largest retailers. Tell me about the scope of data that you’re dealing with.
Adam Yeoman, Senior Analyst, Supply Chain Development, Tesco: At Tesco, we have over 3,000 stores in the U.K., and the average store will have over 15,000 products. So it's a huge amount of data to try to look at all at once.

We use a Teradata data warehouse to hold most of our data, and it has a 100-terabyte capacity. We keep on it five years of sales, waste, product, store level (data.) We've found that we just have connected Tableau live to the Teradata and it just works really well.

Tableau: How is Tableau helping you be more effective?
Adam: So visualizing that (data) in the clever ways that Tableau allows you to, you can quickly spot trends or areas that could be easily improved. Now when we're trying to communicate ideas, it can be a lot faster, a lot easier to just show them visually rather than trying to explain it through just tables and numbers.

I think retail lends itself to data visualization particularly well because a lot of the trends we see are different in different areas around the country. A warm day up in Scotland won't feel like a warm day down on the South coast. And so you get very different things happening based on where a store is—and Tableau lets us see that.

Tableau: How do you use that information?
Adam: We try to improve the customer experience by either improving availability or the quality of products that they buy in store by looking at the end-to-end supply chain from getting the products from the suppliers into the stores.

Tableau: Can you give me an example?
Adam: We developed a weather model to predict effects of weather on sales. And as part of that, we got really good at predicting when an event that we called the "hot weekend" would occur, when the weather starts getting nice and everyone decides that they're going to have a barbecue on this particular weekend.

So we want to make sure we get all the barbecue foods and salad and rolls into the stores in time for that weekend. And we knew that -- we knew from previous hot weekends that there were some stores that we could improve on and provide better availability for customers. We put the data into Tableau, and just showing that on a map, you instantly see, “Oh, these are the stores in which we need to be doing a better job.”

Another use of Tableau that we found was a stock trial that we knew from looking at results we saw that London stores were behaving differently to stores around the country. And we needed to communicate this message to directors. We put those results onto a Tableau with just basically colored dots on the map and took that to them. And the directors could really quickly see what the problem was and move the conversation straight on to the solution that we had in place to deal with that.

Tableau: That’s great to hear. Are you finding that it’s more developers or business users working with Tableau?
Adam: Tableau has great potential in Tesco because some teams don't have people with the skills to be able to write custom SQL, and Tableau can really open up data for them.

Tableau: How about for you? What sort of difference do you see now that you have Tableau?
Adam: I'm finding it's a lot faster to get analysis done, and more enjoyable. I'm freed up from manipulating the data into certain formats and just being able to drag and drop and see trends easily is a great benefit.