Store management is going through transformation because of the data science. Read how the automobile sector is evolving.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning and introduce our audience to booth Square Root and yourself.
Mark Schwarz: We’re a software company based out of Austin that delivers software in the store relationship management space. The store relationship management space has to do with making field staff in retail environments the champions of their respective businesses, and dealing with specific accounts that they have such as managing a set of relationships both at the store and corporate level at the same time. As I said, we have a SaaS offering. We augment that data science team in two ways—by supporting the platform and by helping with specific consulting services when necessary. There are nine of us.
Sramana Mitra: What kinds of customers are we talking in terms of size? Are we talking about big retailers? What specifically do you go after?
Mark Schwarz: Some examples of customers are Nissan and Infinity. In those spaces, you have about 500 different field staff and they’re serving thousands of retail locations. We also deal with Nissan’s finance arm and a collection of smaller retail chains that are focused in the auto industry at the moment.
Sramana Mitra: Is auto your specialty or is it more general retail?
Mark Schwarz: The store management space addresses any retail business that has a franchise organization. Our company background is rooted in auto and we have the most expertise and contact in that space.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s take one of your examples and tell us a bit about that nature of the problem you’re solving. Specifically in store relationship management, what kinds of data issues do you need to tackle?
Mark Schwarz: The issues that we are tackling with our business partners are less about data specifically and more about how to drive change in their business. The vast majority of service transactions in an auto manufacturer are simple brake fix and maintenance operations. They are in very small dollar amounts. They are increasingly competing with some strong incumbents.
A large auto manufacturer is enacting change in their business to serve lower and lower price points while retaining their margins. They need a few things. One is to come up with new ways to see their business. We deal with billions of data at both the service and parts level and then using that data to change the way their field staff and the store owners think about the business. It’s moving it from a high-dollar transaction business to a lower one.
The most important part in doing that is socialization. It’s one thing to tell a business that you should change. It’s another thing to address concerns on a store-by-store basis. The crux of the store relationship management platform is seeing the inability of organization to change quickly. Many organizations have lots and lots of data. Auto has an abundance. However, the ability for people to give their feedback and cause a business to evolve is largely unsolved. That’s the one that we seek to solve.
This segment is part 1 in the series : Thought Leaders in Big Data: Mark Schwarz, VP of Data Sciences at Square Root