Monitoring shopping with good (old) new methods

droneThis coming Friday is marking the kickoff of the 2014 holiday shopping season. After feasting on turkey and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and watching a football game, many shoppers in America will rush to the stores at the wee hours of the morning to snatch the best discounts of Black Friday or will wait for midnight by their computers in order to beat other shoppers to Cyber Monday’s best deals. In other countries, where we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving this week, holiday shopping is following a similar pattern anyway.

And of course, financial analysts who are tracking the performance of the retail sector will be watching every move. The official numbers may not be out for several months, between consumer spend indexes and quarterly earning reports, but traders want to buy their way into advance information to get an edge. And they do this with a combination of good old practices – and new, advanced technology. Continue reading

The digital dentist

ToothmoldOne of my neighbors is a dentist who does cutting-edge teeth implants. A few months ago I was chatting with him at a social gathering, about how digitalized dentistry has become. Specifically, I we were discussing 3D printing, and whether he thought he would ever be able to print teeth implants in his own office, instead of ordering them from a specialized lab. It turns out that the mechanical and durability constraints of implants make this unpractical, at least with 3D printers that are affordable enough for a practitioner.

But, he said, scanning teeth instead of using clay molds (this horrible thing patients have to gag on for several long minutes), is already happening. Not is this infinitely less disagreeable for the patient, but it also saves days of shipping, need for storage, etc. Continue reading

Writing for InfoWorld

infoworld-logoA few weeks ago, I was having dinner with a good friend at the San Francisco Ferry Building. I was on my way out of Talend, and we were discussing my plans for the future (plans that are still largely up in the air). My friend had been in a similar situation a year or so ago, and had picked up the opportunity to write a regular column for InfoWorld. He asked me if I would be interested in an introduction to InfoWorld’s editor-in-chief.

After a few discussions with the InfoWorld crew, and the submission of several writing samples, here I am: an official member of the IDG Contributor Network! My InfoWorld blog is named Data Insights, and I am committed to one to two posts per week. I will be commenting on data technology trends, discuss examples of how data drives digital transformation, and react to major headlines/events related to data and its ecosystem. Continue reading

Aurora amazona

Red_and_green_aurorasAs the dawn rises on Las Vegas and AWS re:Invent, the twittosphere is abuzz with the latest market disruptor from Amazon: Aurora. I first heard about if from TechCrunch, with Silicon Angle following suit, and I am sure numerous other outlets that I simply did not read yet.

And I am not even in Las Vegas – re:Invent is one several high quality events I am not attending this week – but just keeping up with the tweetstream. It’s probably better anyway, since I doubt I would be writing this post that early in the morning after a long night of attempting to defeat the odds at the tables. Continue reading

From store to internet to store

Cabinet_AisleThe internet has digitalized the way we buy, and the way we interact with brands. But it has also changed our expectations as far as shopping convenience. The opening phrase of this Wall Street Journal article was meant as an attention grabber: The Internet is moving to a shopping center near you.

And indeed, the article explains how data center operators are leasing and transforming huge acreage of floor space in declining shopping malls, to turn them into data centers. Ironically, these data centers may in turn be hosting the servers that run the eCommerce sites that are replacing the physical stores – either the sites of these stores, or more likely of competing online retailers that managed to steal their market share. Continue reading

The segment of one

DimplerI was at Strata + Hadoop World in New York last month, but did not notice this presentation in the agenda (FWIW, I don’t think O’Reilly’s conference agendas are easy to read nor attendee-friendly). But then, I somehow stumbled onto this excellent piece by Virginia Heffernan on Backchannel: Big Moose Is Watching You. It tells the big data customer segmentation story of Maine-based outerwear retailer L. L. Bean. Obviously Virginia is better at navigating the conference agendas than I am, and was able to relate this story told at Strata.

I won’t repeat what’s in the article, which is definitely worth a read. Just maybe summarize the conclusion: your marketing is much more efficient if you are targeting the customer with the exact products they like and are interested in. It’s “know your customer”, but elevated to the power of 10. This reminds me of another story I have heard of fine-grain customer segmentation. Continue reading

A high tower could make a difference

WestertorenAmsterdamI am just back from a family vacation in The Netherlands, during which we got to admire (among others) the architectural treasures of Amsterdam – a very active merchant city through the 17th and 18th centuries, at a time where long distance travel and trading was a risky endeavor, and instantaneous means of communication inexistent. So when merchants would expect ships bringing home coffee, spices or silks, all they could do was wait – and pray (for they were devoutly Christian).

It is hard to imagine in today’s times of instantaneous communication, GPS and online real-time tracking, not to know when one’s shipment would arrive, even if it would arrive at all, for enemy fleets, pirates, and just bad weather, were always to be feared on the open seas. But beside the nerve-wracking wait for the families of the sailors, lots of money was in play too. The merchant cities of Northern Europe were then operating as marketplaces, pretty much like today’s commodities exchanges: a fresh supply of coffee or sugar would generate fresh income for the importer, but could also cause wholesale prices to drop, whereas a shortage due to delayed shipments could cause price inflation. Continue reading