As previously pointed out in a past blog post What is MapReduce?, there are two very important things to know when discussing Big Data – MapReduce and Hadoop.
Hadoop is a term you will hear over and over again when discussing the processing of big data information.
You might have also seen the yellow elephant image, which is the copyrighted icon depicting Hadoop (Hadoop was the name of the founder’s (Doug Cutting’s) son’s toy elephant).
In the other post, I broke down the idea of MapReduce into the most easily digestible way possible; here is the same with Hadoop.
A little history… Hadoop was born out of a need to process big data, as the amount of generated data continued to rapidly increase. As the Web generated more and more information, it was becoming quite challenging to index the content, so Google created MapReduce in 2004, then Yahoo! created Hadoop as a way to implement the MapReduce function. Hadoop is now an open-source Apache implementation project.
Overall, Hadoop enables applications to work with huge amounts of data stored on various servers. Hadoop’s functions allow the existing data to be pulled from various places (since now, data is not centralized, but distributed in places using cloud technology) and use the MapReduce technology to push the query code and run a proper analysis, therefore returning the desired results.
As for the more specific functions, Hadoop has a large-scale file system (Hadoop Distributed File System or HDFS), it can write programs, it manages the distribution of programs, then accepts the results, and generates a data result set.
This, in a nutshell (or more accurately one succinct post), is what you need to know about Hadoop and how it works with big data.
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About Jen Cohen Crompton
Jen Cohen Crompton is a SAP Blogging Correspondent reporting on big data, cloud computing, enterprise mobility, analytics, sports and tech, and anything else innovation-related. When she's not blogging, she can be caught marketing, using social media and/or presenting at conferences around the world. Disclosure: Jen is being compensated by SAP to produce a series of articles on the innovation topics covered on this site. The opinions reflected here are her own.
True success in the business world often depends making the right business decisions at the right time. This has only grown more complicated over the years as organizations are inundated with increasingly complex problems. If you feel overwhelmed at times when making these decisions, you’re not alone.
But in much the same way that technology has made crucial decisions more common, it can also aid in ensuring you make the correct call. Before you make important business decisions that could affect the future outlook of your company, employ some of the following technologies.
1. Big Data analytics
To be sure, Big Data analytics covers a lot of ground and even bleeds into some of the other items on this list. Even with that in mind, Big Data analytics stands on its own as one of the most important technologies to inform your decision-making. With the recent explosion in Big Data, organizations now have access to more information than ever before. With more information, you can be more confident that the decisions you make are accurate and will unfold as you expect. Using Big Data analytics has pushed more businesses to focusing on improving the customer experience over simply pushing out better products. There’s a good reason that data-driven businesses have become so prominent.
2. Cloud computing
Much like Big Data, cloud computing has ushered in a revolution for companies. Within the span of only the past decade, a whole host of new applications and services have become available to businesses of almost any size, giving them more tools to use for making business decisions. It also opens the possibility of more employees working remotely since many of these applications can be used from anywhere. Also worth noting is that there are cloud platforms designed specifically to help businesses in the decision-making process.
3. Artificial intelligence
No longer a science-fiction concept, artificial intelligence (along with machine-learning technology) is already being put to use for business decisions. With AI, businesses can create real-world models and simulations, giving organizations an accurate look at what effects their decisions will have in the short term, as well as far into the future. The data used with artificial intelligence can also inform you of the opportune time to expand into new markets or what enhancements you can include with your products or services.
4. Surveillance analytics
When businesses think about surveillance cameras on their premises, they likely use them for security. However, cameras can offer much more thanks to surveillance and video analytics. With the data from video analytics, cameras can act like a people counter, keeping track of who enters the businesses, where they go, and what they do. Beyond that, the data collected from surveillance cameras can also give you similar information about customer behavior.
5. The Internet of Things
No list of transformative business technologies would be complete without at least a mention of the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT involves embedding web-connected sensors in household appliances, for example, giving them the ability to collect data and communicate with each other. With the Internet of Things, your business will be able to gather more information about who is using your products, how they’re using them, and how often they’re being used. Similar to how data is used from video analytics and machine learning, the information will help you become more knowledgeable about your options and which decision is best.
The IoT is still in its infancy, meaning that its true capabilities have yet to be realized. Given enough time and experience, businesses will find ways to use the IoT to make more informed business decisions for their organizations.
Companies of all sizes rely on customer relationship management tools to automate sales processes and manage customer contact information, and these days many are making the transition to cloud-based solutions. For small to midsize businesses, the ability to increase efficiency by automating sales processes, provide deeper customer understanding through analytics, and drive profit by social selling makes it an essential platform from which to launch sales and marketing efforts.
Automation builds relationships
It may be obvious how automated processes such as those CRM offer can improve the lives of sales reps, but automation can also improve customer experience. These systems allow a small business sales team to create a unique sales process, combining automated touchpoints with personal ones. They also capture data from every interaction a prospective customer has with the sales team, and this data informs the messaging they receive. A prospect always receives the right number of touchpoints and the right kind of messaging to keep them moving toward conversion.
Understanding through analytics
Data drives understanding, and capturing customer data from multiple touchpoints throughout the buying cycle and beyond is pivotal. While we may commonly think of tracking interactions from online advertising, email marketing, and landing pages, a cloud-based CRM system can also capture and house data from:
This provides a trove of rich customer behavior information as well as a detailed record of customer engagement.
How does all of this data result in better understanding? High-functioning tools can transform data into predictive behavior insights, providing a holistic view of every customer. This ability to see and engage each customer as an individual enables sales to better anticipate challenges a particular customer might face in the buying process and identify opportunities for contact. Marketing can target campaigns toward specific customer needs and interests with laser focus, then deliver messaging on a preferred platform.
Great customer management systems can also record key interactions with other internal teams such as service, accounting and any other customer-facing department. This unified engagement history creates a better customer experience, as every department can quickly access a customer’s complete history with the company and cater to the customer’s needs or address issues faster and with more personalized attention.
Social selling is about connection
One of the most exciting tools a great customer engagement system offers businesses is the ability to sell on social.
Put simply, social selling is utilizing social networks to engage influencers and buyers within a prospect’s organization. Building connections through social creates a wide network of shared connections, further informing a customer’s unique profile and driving better sales efforts. An integrated tool that gives insight into customers supports social selling by proactively identifying social information of leads in its database.
The software can also feature social feeds so sales reps can stay current on prospects’ and customers’ news, events, and content. Social interactions can be automated based on trigger behaviors, keeping a company relevant in the customer’s mind, reducing the possibility of duplicate contacts, and saving time for the individual sales rep.
Ultimately, the tools and features a customer management and marketing tool offers small business sales teams aren’t about “the sale.” What they offer are more opportunities to communicate with prospects, better conversations through greater understanding, and the ability to connect with customers on the platforms they prefer.
The Digitalist Magazine is your online destination for everything you need to know to lead your enterprise’s digital transformation.
Read the Digitalist Magazine and get the latest insights about the digital economy that you can capitalize on today.
About Jennifer Schulze
Jennifer Schulze is Vice President of marketing for SAP. In her role, she manages customer marketing as part of the office of the COO. She has over 15 years of technology marketing and management experience and is a small business owner in the San Francisco Bay area.
The lines between the digital and physical customer experience today are largely artificial. Customers shop in retail stores with their devices at the ready. They expect online-like personalization and recommendations in the aisles. They’re looking for instant gratification and better sensory experiences from digital channels. It’s an omnichannel world and companies must figure out how to live in it: delivering a superior customer experience regardless of the entry point.
Luxury fashion brand Rebecca Minkoff, for example, opened its first three retail stores with the intent of taking customers’ best online experiences and bringing them to life. “In the past, you had this brick-and-mortar experience, and you had the online experience,” says company president Uri Minkoff. “There were such great advantages and efficiencies that emerged with shopping online. You could get recommendations, see how something should be styled, create wish lists, access user-generated content. In the store, it was still just you and the product, and maybe a sales associate. But [unlike online] you had all five of your senses.”
Rebecca Minkoff’s new stores still stimulate those senses while incorporating some of the intelligence that online channels typically bring to bear. Each store features a large interactive screen at the entrance, where customers can browse products or order a beverage. Shoppers can interact with salespeople or they can make purchases on a mobile app without ever talking to a soul. Inside a fitting room, RFID-tagged merchandise is displayed on an interactive mirror, where customers can request new sizes or the designer’s recommended coordinates (a real-life recommendation engine).
The company has found that 30% of women ask for additional items based on the recommendations. It has also sold three times more of its new ready-to-wear line than it anticipated. “We were an accessories-dominant brand,” says Minkoff. “But we’ve been able to build this direct relationship with our customers, helping them with outfit completers and also getting a better sense of what they want based on what’s actually happening in our fitting rooms.”
Each piece of technology adds to the experience while capturing the details. Rebecca Minkoff’s integrated systems can remember a customer’s previous visits and preferred colors and sizes, and can enable associates to set up a fitting room with appropriate garments. On the back end, the company gets the kind of visibility into in-store conversions once possible only in digital transactions. “The technology gives us the ability to create the kind of experience each customer wants. She can shop anonymously or be treated like a VIP,” says Minkoff.
Build Around a Big Idea
Rebecca Minkoff’s approach is a bellwether. It’s not enough simply to provide continuity or consistency from one channel to another. Customers don’t think in terms of channels, and neither should companies. Rather, it’s about defining the overarching experience you want to deliver to customers and then building the appropriate offline and online elements to achieve that intended outcome.
As more goods and even services are commoditized, companies must compete on the experiences they create (see The ROI of Customer Experience). That means coming up with a big idea that drives the design of the customer experience. “Every great experience needs to have a theme,” says Joe Pine, consultant and coauthor of The Experience Economy and Infinite Possibility: Creating Customer Value on the Digital Frontier. “That’s the organizing principle of the experience. It’s how you decide what’s in and what’s out.”
For example, Rebecca Minkoff serves as an image consultant to its Millennial customers, who expect personalization, recognition, and tech innovation, using a mix of online and offline techniques. To stand apart, companies must come up with their own unifying idea and then integrate data and systems, rework organizational models, and rethink key strategic metrics and employee incentives in order to integrate the physical and digital worlds around that idea.
Here are some examples of companies that have created a theme-driven experience using online and offline elements.
Nespresso: Imparting a Sense of Luxury
At the most basic level, Nespresso is a manufacturer of coffee and coffee machines. But the company has successfully turned what it sells and how it sells it into a very specific type of experience. Nespresso strives to impart a feeling of quality, exclusivity, even luxury in a host of ways.
The company has created the Nespresso Club, which maintains direct relationships with thousands of customers. Its customer service centers are staffed by 1,000 highly trained coffee experts who don’t just push products but offer advice and guidance as a sommelier might do with wine. Its 450 retail stores (up from just one Parisian in 2000) are called boutiques; the largely inventory-free showrooms are built around tasting and learning.
Online, the focus is on efficiency and service. Customers who prefer digital interactions can order through the web site or mobile app, which offers the option of courier delivery within a two-hour window. The company also recently introduced a Bluetooth-enabled coffee machine, which when paired with a smartphone app, can track a customer’s usage, simplify machine maintenance, and as Wired pointed out, enable remote brewing.
Success didn’t happen overnight, but today Nespresso is one of Nestlé’s fastest growing and most profitable brands, according to Bloomberg.
QVC: Using Online to Complement the Experience
The theme that has driven television-shopping giant QVC’s customer experience for decades has been “inspiration and entertainment.” Traditionally that was delivered through the joy of spontaneous discovery while watching the channel.
Matching that experience online has been difficult, however. At a digital retail conference in 2015, QVC’s CEO explained that in the past the company had failed to deliver the same rich interactions online that it had developed with its TV audiences, according to Total Retail. So the company decided to rethink its use of digital tools to focus on complementing the experience it delivers through TV screens, according to RetailWire.
For example, after enticing TV viewers with products, QVC introduces the next step in the buying journey—“impulse to buy”—in which viewers are spurred on with televised countdown clocks or limited merchandise availability. Online, the company has been experimenting with second-screen content (for instance, recipes that compliment a cooking product being sold on TV) to further propel purchases. The QVC app features the same item that is on-air along with a prompt that reveals all the items featured on TV in recent hours. On Apple devices equipped with Touch ID, customers can check out in less than 10 seconds with the fingerprint-enabled “speed buy” button. The third phase—“purchase and receive”—is complemented by a simple and reliable online browsing and purchasing platform. The last stage—“own and enjoy”—is accompanied by follow-on e-mail communication with tips on how to use products.
Last year, the company reported that 44% of total QVC sales came from online channels (up from 40% in 2014), and nearly half of those were completed on a mobile device. In fact, QVC is currently the tenth largest mobile commerce retailer in the United States, according to Internet Retailer.
Domino’s: Focusing on Speed and Convenience
Domino’s Pizza built a fast-food empire not necessarily on the quality of its pies but instead on the experience of getting hot food delivered quickly. What started out as a promise to deliver a pizza within 30 minutes to customers who phoned in their order is now a themed experience of efficient food delivery that can be fulfilled a number of ways. Domino’s AnyWare project enables customers to order pizzas from their TV, their Twitter account, their smartwatch, or their connected car, for starters. The Domino’s app features zero-click ordering functionality: Domino’s will start fulfilling the usual order for customers who opt in 10 seconds after opening the app.
Domino’s Australian stores are piloting GPS tracking whereby employees begin working on an order only when the customer enters the “cook zone”—a dynamically updated area around a given store that results in the customer arriving to a just-prepared order. The tool builds upon previously developed GPS-based technology for tracking delivery drivers, according to ZDNet. And the company that came up with the corrugated pizza box and the Heatwave Bag to keep pies warm is now building the DXP—a delivery car with a built-in warming oven. All in the name of the fast- and hot-food delivery experience.
Mohawk Industries: Using Social to Streamline Customer Interactions
Mohawk Industries grew to become a US$8 billion flooring manufacturer by relying on customers to visit its dealers’ retail locations to see, touch, and feel the carpet, hardwood, laminate, or tile they planned to purchase.
Today, instead of waiting for customers to find Mohawk, it has redesigned its experience to find them. It has adopted new technology and reworked its sales processes to reflect that new focus. The company’s 1,200 sales representatives have access to a 360-degree view of each customer, complete with analytics and sales tools on their tablets, enabling them to capture and follow through on leads generated through social media engagement.
By analyzing online discussions in real time, representatives can jump into the conversation and help customers find the product they may be searching for and direct the consumer to a retailer to finish the sale. In one episode, a woman was posting about her interest in a particular leopard rug on Twitter. Mohawk’s team surfaced the tweet, passed it on to a channel partner who contacted the woman and closed the sale within two minutes. Today, the company boasts an 80% close rate on sales started and guided in social media and has made $8 million on 14,000 such social leads. Mohawk Industries expects an increase of $25 million in sales year-over-year, thanks to its new customer-centric approach.
Customer Experience Design: Where to Begin
Developing a unique, valuable, and relevant customer experience that combines the best of offline and online capabilities is a huge undertaking. All corporate functions, including marketing, customer service, sales, operations, finance, and HR as well as product or business lines—all of which typically have competing metrics and agendas—must buy into the experience and collaborate to make it happen. And the ideal mix of digital and physical components will vary by company. But there are some best practices to get companies started on their own journeys.
Start at the Top
Without leadership buy-in, changes will not happen. “Customer experience is not a feature, it’s not a shiny button. It’s a concept that sometimes is tough to grasp. But we believe that if done right, it will keep customers loyal. And so we put a lot of effort into it,” says Kevin Scanlon, director of total customer experience at tech company EMC. “That’s why having that top-down support is paramount. If you don’t have it, you’re spinning your wheels. It’s going to give you the resources, the focus, and the attention that you need to design that consistent experience.”
To demonstrate its commitment, every VP and above at EMC has a customer experience metric as part of their quarterly goal.
Begin with the End in Mind
Companies can take a page from the design-thinking approach to product development, starting with the experience they want customers to have with their company and then putting in place the people, processes, and systems to make that happen across various touchpoints. Uber didn’t start by buying 1,000 cars. It started with a completely new customer experience it wanted to deliver—straddling the digital and physical—and then built the organization around that. Uber ultimately leveraged people, process, and technology to bring that to life, but it started with a unique customer journey.
Design for the Customer, Not the Company
To date, most corporate processes have been designed for internal efficiency or cost savings with little consideration for the impact on the customer. Companies that want to design for consistent experiences have to reexamine those business processes from the customer perspective. In order to deliver a standout and consistent experience, enterprises must bring together an assortment of data from a variety of systems—including POS transactions, mobile purchases, call center activity, notes from sales calls, and social media.
The average retailer has customer data in more than a dozen different systems. But it’s not just the front-end customer-facing systems that need orchestrating; back office systems and processes, from your supply chain to fulfillment to customer service, must be designed to deliver the intended experience. For example, Nespresso has to orchestrate a number of back-end and front-end systems to offer customers premium courier delivery within two-hour windows.
Put Someone in Charge
Companies that are truly invested in creating integrated, standout customer experiences often create a centralized function that can bring together the people, processes, and technology to bring them to life. Sometimes there is a chief customer officer or head of customer experience. But unless these people are really empowered, they’re toothless.
EMC’s Scanlon is empowered. He heads up a function that has been transformed from focusing on product quality into a centralized customer experience center of excellence staffed with 60 full-time professionals. The center has translated into “more focus, more energy, more insight to our customers,” says Scanlon. “And we can deliver that insight to our internal stakeholders, which trickles down to our account teams and lets them have more meaningful conversations that benefit our customers—and benefit the company over time.”
Centralize Customer Data
Even if there is no central customer experience function, there needs to be a central data repository and analytics system: a digital foundation that everyone can use to improve their piece of that experience. EMC’s customer experience group has a data governance function that maintains a single source of customer truth. “They’re able to pull all relevant data sources into one location and get past the typical customer data challenges,” says Scanlon.
Invest in People
Companies that care about the customer experience invest in the people who deliver it. Human beings are the clearest signposts on the customer journey. Companies must hire the best, train for desired outcomes, and reward based on experience metrics: for being brand ambassadors and for going above and beyond on behalf of the customer.
Rethink Metrics and Incentives
One major bank was having trouble driving adoption of its online banking tools. The customers that used the tools loved them, but the tools weren’t getting traction. The problem? The branch managers had no interest in promoting digital banking. They wanted to drive as much traffic as possible to their physical branches because this was one of their key performance metrics.
The solution was to change the compensation approach in order to reward employees for the entire customer experience, including online banking adoption. Branch managers were measured on online and offline customer behavior in their regions. That became a single and critical KPI, and it boosted the desired behaviors and improved overall customer satisfaction.
Create a Single View of the Company
For years, companies have talked about the importance of understanding the customer. And that remains true, particularly when it comes to delivering a valuable customer experience online and off. But successful customer experience design is just as much about giving customers a clear understanding of the company through coordinated experiences that deliver on the brand’s theme and bring it to life in various ways in bricks and mortar, through devices, in online interactions, and everywhere in between. D!
Are you familiar with the concept of the twin paradox? In physics, the twin paradox is a thought experiment in which one twin stays on Earth while the other travels in a spaceship at a high speed for a period of time. According to the special theory of relativity, the second twin will return home measurably younger than the first.
In a similar way, the concept of the digital twin can accelerate your business and breathe new life into your products and services.
Already, smart companies are using digital twins to better understand operations, get closer to customers, and transform their business.
Connecting real and virtual
A digital twin is a virtual representation of a real-world product or service. That could be anything from a toaster to industrial machinery to complex processes. The virtual representation combines three types of information: business data, contextual data, and sensor data.
Business data covers information such as customer name, location, and service-level agreements. Contextual data includes details such as ambient temperature, humidity, and weather events. Sensor data involves things like machine speed, operating temperature, and vibration.
How does a digital twin work? Let’s say you manufacture industrial drills. A digital twin can help you understand how customers use your drill. The goal is to continuously improve the product to increase customer satisfaction and identify opportunities for new products and services.
For example, you might discover that your drill malfunctions in certain situations. That can enable you to improve product design. Or it can let you help customers modify the way they use the drill to avoid problems.
Or, you might discover that customers use your drill not only to make holes but also to cut materials. That might lead you to develop a new product that’s purpose-built for cutting.
Or, maybe you discover that while customers want holes made, they don’t necessarily want to purchase and operate a drill. So rather than sell drills, you might offer a hole-drilling service. In other words, instead of charging customers for machinery they operate, you charge them for holes drilled by machinery you operate for them. Some SAP customers have been quite successful in making this kind of leap from products to services.
Digital twins across industries
Digital twins aren’t just for manufacturers. Insurers can apply digital twins in offerings like usage-based car insurance. Retailers can track how customers navigate the store and interact with products on the shelves. Cities can model areas for things like smart lighting. Ports can monitor weather, shipping traffic, containers, and trains and trucks entering and leaving.
Digital twins cover the entire lifecycle of an asset or process. In fact, they can form a foundation for an end-to-end, closed-loop value chain for smart, connected products and services, from design to production, from deployment to continuous improvement.
The promise of continuous improvement is why it’s increasingly important to integrate digital technologies into all products. As you leverage your digital twin to identify opportunities for new or better features, you can implement those improvements quickly and cost-effectively through firmware updates.
Implementing digital twins involves four steps:
Integrate smart components such as sensors, software, computing power, or data storage into new or existing products.
Connect the product to a central location where you can capture sensor data and enrich that sensor data with business and contextual data.
Analyze that data on an ongoing basis to identify opportunities for product improvements, new products, or even new business models.
Leverage these digital insights to transform your company — for example, by reducing costs through proactive avoidance of business interruptions, or by creating new business opportunities.
Of course, while those steps are easy to list, they can require significant effort to achieve. But digital twins are becoming a business imperative. Companies that fail to respond will be left behind. Those that embrace digital twins have the opportunity to better understand customer needs, continuously improve their products and services, and even identify new business models that give them competitive advantage.