2015 Data+ Editors' Choice Awards

Zulily

A cloud platform helps merchandisers make inventory decisions in a hurry

A behind-the-scenes look at life in the studio at Zulily’s Seattle headquarters.
Credit: Zulily

2015 Data+ Editors' Choice Awards

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Online retailer Zulily launches more than 9,000 product styles and 100 special offers every day. The merchandising team that researches and acquires goods from scores of vendors wanted to know in real time what's selling, how profitable the items are, and whether they can get more inventory quickly when things sell out.

To meet the challenge, Zulily had to redesign the way it processed, analyzed and used big data. The biggest challenge was to figure out how to build a platform that would allow hundreds of users across the business to access data and make decisions at lightning speed -- without the ability to scale legacy infrastructure.

Zulily chose a setup that uses a combination of Google Cloud Platform offerings, including Hadoop on Google's Compute Engine, Google's Cloud Storage platform and Google's BigQuery analytics tool.

"Google helped us process all this data at scale and make it available in real time," says Sudhir Hasbe, director of software engineering. "We could make real-time decisions, process large amounts of data and make insights available to people who make those decisions."

After using the Google Cloud Platform tools for six months, Zulily saw exceptional results. The team is now able to provide item-level visibility across the organization, which was impossible with the previous system, Hasbe says. Executives can also better understand marketing spending, and they can manage spending for improved ROI.

Mike Wargel, director of merchandising strategy, heads a team of 500 merchandising employees and 15 analysts and business planners. With the old platform, marketing data from one day didn't finish processing until 9 p.m. the next day. Now, Wargel says, "information can be updated in minutes, if not seconds."

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