Providing more information and detail, will help customers find the products they want, improve the trust of our retail and merchant brands, making them more likely to buy and come back as a repeat customer.David Todd, Group Data Director at Travis Perkins
The U.K.’s largest building materials supplier, Travis Perkins plc, operates 21 businesses across the country. These include Wickes, a DIY home improvement chain, and Benchmarx, a kitchen and joinery supply store. In total, Travis Perkins plc is comprised of over 2000+ branches and 200 tool-hire outlets, supplying more than 500,000 product lines to professional tradespeople and self-builders. The company has seen rapid growth, with a history of doubling in size every 10 years. While Travis Perkins is flourishing, the data across the company was not.
David Todd, the Group Data Director at Travis Perkins, set out to find a solution to improve the data, which was distinctly siloed and not maintained or validated in any consistent way. As the company was moving into a multi-channel world, focusing more on online sales, data quality was key. Relying on assorted employees and suppliers to enter product information resulted in incomplete and inconsistent details – and while it was supposed to be manually reviewed and approved, that didn’t always happen.
The company had been able to leave it up to Travis Perkins’ employees to track down the correct information and pass it on, but in the online arena, where product information would be exposed, they needed to ensure the quality of the data from the start. The company also wanted to get more products on the websites faster, to drive more sales, and to accurately demonstrate the breadth of its offerings.
The Search for Data Quality
In 2013, when Todd and his team set out to find a vendor to provide the data quality and integration tools it needed, it considered Oracle, DataFlux, Informatica and others, including Talend, which was chosen based on its flexibility and easy to use interface, and says Todd, “It was well-priced and did what we wanted in the way we wanted it to. The open source nature fitted in well with the development strategy of the group.”
Over the course of three months, Talend Data Services was integrated with the company’s product information management (PIM) tool based on Hybris PCM, to provide standardization, validation and normalization of data. In essence, Talend provides a data quality firewall – so any data that goes in first runs rules to check for duplicates, confirms that checkdigits are valid for barcodes, standardises data (for example transforming to a single UOM for measurements – Talend does this automatically, it used rely on user get this correct), and maintaining a consistent master list of values (Yes/No fields have a consistent value of YES
A second use case for Talend at Travis Perkins is to profile the data needed to migrate and report gaps and do some backfill work. Says Todd, “As we move forward we want Talend to help us with guidelines on descriptions for products’ brand name, model number, and color - attributes that we use to enrich our product descriptions.”
The Talend solution double checks the product descriptions to ensure that it has the copy, features, and benefits – for example, it will flag it if it is less than 10 characters, as that is not going to be descriptive enough. Says Todd, “We have roughly half a million products so we need to be sure that the product the customers find on the system is the one they want.”
Since implementing Talend Data Services and getting all of the product descriptions consistent, Travis Perkins has seen an increase of conversion of sales on the Wickes website, upwards of 30%. Another eye opening metric: within the 1st month of the Talend implementation, 10,000 updates were made to product entries. Todd says these numbers are improving as people become more familiar with the rules. Before Talend, duplicates were common. This was costing them in terms of inventory accuracy and sales. Now Travis Perkins can identify duplicates and immediately normalize them, so everyone has an accurate view of what’s being sold.
Another bonus: customers are finding the products and pages online easier than ever – thanks to quality product descriptions. Ensuring detailed product descriptions that include brand and category names - which drive meta descriptions – has significantly boosted the company’s organic SEO rankings. Todd said the Wickes chain is now showing up in the top 5 results in Google search for many common industry terms – doors, for example.
Todd recognizes this will also improve customers’ perceptions of Travis Perkins. “Providing more information and detail, will help customers find the products they want, improve the trust of our retail and merchant brands, making them more likely to buy and come back as a repeat customer.”
Talend Data Services is also being used to profile customer data – it was never validated before. It was revealed that of the 800,000 customers using the company’s Trade Cash Card, about 20% are likely to be dupes. Furthermore, 40% had missing or invalid email addresses and 25% had an invalid phone number. Improvements in customer data entry will include the Talend solution to providing real-time post code lookups increasing consistency and accuracy of address fields.
“Talend is a key component as we move our Data Services forward into other data types,” says Todd. This includes reduplicating more data – branch, supplier, employee and customer information. The team had paid an outside agency to review marketing customer prospect information. With Talend, they can do it on demand directing marketing efforts to the right people.
According to Todd, the ultimate goal for Travis Perkins is to push the data entry far upstream as possible, with self-service entry for suppliers. He hopes this capability will be pushed out within the next 24 months. Todd also plans to bring Talend in for real-time data quality where beneficial – working alongside the batch validation process they are currently doing.
As of this writing, about 120K products have been migrated through Talend Data Services. Over the next 6 months, Todd hopes to migrate the rest of the products. Eventually, he wants to expand into supporting complete supplier catalogs. This would grow the product range substantially over the next few years, which is “key to being a builders’ merchant, we need long tails, and that’s why customers come to us – they can get any product they need for a building project.”, says Todd.
Todd also has plans to use Talend ETL to sort through the complicated pricing of inventory. “The nature of a merchant means that we have a large amount of customer specific pricing. With 800K customers and 10k products on the website – there is a lot of complexity in displaying each customers own price. We plan to use Talend to run rules on our pricing data producing with a price for every customer and product based on rules and feeding it into database file for use by the website.”
“Once we get our data quality where we want it to be, we will move on to data analytics. Over time, we are finding more and more category specific elements we want Talend to enrich. This is very exciting stuff,” says Todd. Indeed, Travis Perkins is becoming a leader in Data Services with Talend’s solution.