Bol.com is one of Europe's largest online retailers, offering a huge range of products to millions of Dutch and Belgian customers through its virtual marketplace.
Here, Anne van den Brink, Business Intelligence Manager for bol.com, discusses the importance of fast, agile data analytics in online retailing and how Tableau has helped Bol.com transform into a data-driven organization, where employees can fill many of their own data needs themselves.
Anne, what do you think is the secret to success in today's online retail industry?
Flexibility plays a big role. The ability to respond quickly to changing consumer habits has always been critical in retail, but this is especially true in online, where shoppers will quickly go elsewhere if we don't have exactly what they want, when they want it.
How does Tableau help bol.com stay agile?
Agility is easy when you're small, but it becomes increasingly difficult as you grow unless you have the right tools. That's why Tableau has become so essential to our business. The fast, accurate data insights it provides into key areas - such as buying habits and seasonal trends - allow us to quickly adjust our marketplace and product offerings so that every customer can easily find what they need.
Tableau has also given us greater control over our operations, such as inventory management, assortment quality and inventory levels. This has allowed us to improve overall customer service while reducing our impact on the environment.
Why did bol.com choose Tableau over other analytics platforms?
One of Tableau's key selling points for us is its extensive functionality, as illustrated by the examples above. Tableau's highly visual approach to analytics means that people can view multiple insights on a single dashboard, making it easy to see key outliers and trends.
Scalability was also an important factor. Over the past five years, our business has grown exponentially, meaning that the number of data sources has grown to more than 250 and the number of active Tableau users has increased from 200 to more than 750. For many analytics platforms, these factors would cause major problems, but with Tableau we can continue to add new data sources and users without any impact on overall performance.
Finally, ease of use was essential. Once employees see and use Tableau for themselves, they quickly realize how easy it is to meet their own analytics and reporting needs rather than relying on the central BI team. Not only has this made analytics more accessible to everyone, but it has also helped bol.com become a data-driven organization, where insights from data are used to support decision-making at every level.
What role has The Information Lab, a technology partner of Tableau, played in your success with Tableau?
The support from The Information Lab was invaluable, especially during the initial rollout phase. Their knowledge and expertise helped the BI team quickly get up to speed with Tableau, giving us the momentum we needed for a successful implementation. Today, our team has reached a higher level of maturity and expertise, but we still appreciate the ongoing support and knowledge from The Information Lab.
Update (June 2020): How did being a data-driven company help you effectively navigate the COVID-19 pandemic?
When you are a data-driven company, you always know where your main focus and responsibilities lie. This makes it easy to operate effectively even as the world around you changes completely. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I worked with 2,000 colleagues in the same office, but almost overnight everyone had to work from home. That could have caused a major upheaval, but because all of our teams are focused on clear, data-driven goals and objectives, they can continue to function autonomously despite everything going on around them.
Since the lockdown began in the Netherlands on March 12, the number of employees using Tableau daily has increased 15 percent across the company. It illustrates how intrinsic data has become in our daily activities, especially at this unprecedented time. Of course, traditional in-person training is not possible at this time, but in just four weeks we developed a comprehensive online course, turning all the classic Tableau training modules into e-learning sessions. This allows employees to progress with their data skills at their own pace, whether they are experienced with the platform or completely new to it. This allows us to expand the base of our data skills within bol.com as a whole, which puts us in a strong position for the future.
- Category: Customer case
- Customer: bol.com
- Interviewee: Anne van den Brink
- Role: Business Intelligence Manager
- Service: Tableau