Cox Automotive understands millions of data points with Tableau, Cloudera, & Azure

Cox Automotive seeks to provide quality products and services that simplify car sales in the global market, consolidating wholesale and retail data to provide actionable insights. Allison Nau, Head of Data Intelligence, shares how the company has visibility into more than 3 million used vehicle transactions per year from dealer websites. This data all lands in a Cloudera Hadoop distribution running in Microsoft’s Azure cloud. Tableau connects directly to their Hadoop environment, enabling Allison’s team to create a solution that leverages existing data to calculate repair costs. They can now quickly determine the grade to which a vehicle should be reconditioned to maximize resale value. Because of these analytics, vendors see an average 54% return on investment. Allison describes how their success with Tableau has enabled them to keep “a razor-sharp focus” on the commercial value for their clients.

Tableau: What kind of data do you work with? Allison Nau, Head of Data Intelligence: Cox Automotive has more data than any other company in the U.K. around the used vehicle lifecycle. We bring together wholesale and retail data to provide those actionable insights. We have visibility into more than 3 million used vehicle transactions a year for dealer websites that we host—the used vehicle locators for more than a dozen major manufacturers. I have the awesome responsibility of bringing together the data that we have around each of our business areas in order to provide actionable insight for our team members and our automotive clients. Tableau: What databases do you connect to? Allison: We're setting up our own Hadoop cluster, leveraging the Cloudera distribution of Hadoop hosted in Azure that's really going to be able to give us access to streaming information about our websites. We know which consumers from which areas are searching for which vehicles at what time of day, what's coming up in their search results, what vehicles are they clicking through—we've got that vast array of information. Tableau: What challenges were you facing before Tableau? Allison: One of the things that they've been struggling with is trying to convince vendors (leasing companies, manufacturers), that it's worth investing in the reconditioning of a vehicle in order to achieve a higher price when the cars go through the lanes at auction. Tableau: What role did your team play? Allison: They challenged my team to come up with a tool to help with the presales—something that that the sales guys can use, have it on a phone, have it on a tablet, that they can help to convince vendors that they should recondition the vehicles.

I think [Tableau] enabled my team and what we're doing within Cox Automotive to be quite successful... by keeping a razor-sharp focus on the commercial value for our people and for our clients.

Allison: They were blown away by what we were able to demonstrate, because we had built a solution using Tableau that, for every single vehicle that comes through our business on the wholesale side of things, we can take that inspection report, work out what the costs of the repair should be, and figure out to which grade a vehicle should be reconditioned. The board of the inventory solutions business was really impressed with what had happened, so much so that three weeks later they announced at an industry conference that we were turning it into a product. Tableau: What results have you seen? Allison: I think it just goes to show the massive excitement and interest in the business and real tangible financial benefits. We've worked out that on average vendors should spend 82 pounds reconditioning a vehicle, and they would get an average increase in price of 126 pounds for the vehicle being sold. So that's a 44 pound return on investment—54 percent. Tableau: What is your favorite feature of Tableau? Allison: I think the biggest thing for me is how Tableau is an enabler. We need to make sure that we're always thinking about the commercial side of things, the "why we are doing this." And I think that's enabled my team and what we're doing within Cox Automotive to be quite successful and to maintain that executive buy-in and get further executive buy-in, all the way up to the board in the U.S.; is by keeping a razor-sharp focus on the commercial value for our people and for our clients.