ShopBack Case Study: Building a data-first organization for non-technical users
How ShopBack automated data reporting and delivery, and gave business users a zero-learning curve experience—to become a data-first organization with Holistics.
For reports that are consumed on a regular basis, business users no longer need to come to us for reports; they can get the reports from Holistics and gain insights from it straight away. Business users can use filters to get the data they require, even though they have no knowledge of SQL.
Data Analytics Lead, ShopBack
ShopBack, the online Cashback shopping website, is a treat for all shoppers in Southeast Asia. First launched in Singapore, the startup offers rewards for over 1,000 online stores such as Taobao and Expedia, in more than seven countries.
Shoppers who click through ShopBack and make a purchase at their partner stores will receive up to 30% cashback. This gives both merchants and shoppers a mutually beneficial reward system.
With over 120 people in their team, ShopBack has been growing rapidly, and had amassed more than 250,000 users in Singapore alone as of 2017. As a fast growing company in online shopping, ShopBack has a variety of requests when it comes to data analysis and visualization, whether it is to analyze databases on country performance or measuring the effectiveness of marketing campaigns in near real-time.
Report delays and unsustainable query script management
With the rapid growth and traction of ShopBack, ShopBack’s data team ran into a problem—the number of data requests were going up as the company grew, and was taking time away from the team’s core data work.
Jacob Eyo, Data Analytics Lead at ShopBack, used to have to manually write queries and extract datasets from their databases, before emailing the spreadsheets results to his business teams. Daily and weekly reports were prepared manually, and there were days taken up entirely by attending to over 8 data requests. While a simple request may take him 30 minutes to complete, complex requests could take him up to 4 hours to prepare and complete.
Additionally, storing and managing query scripts began to be cumbersome. Most SQL queries used to extract the report result-sets tended to be similar with minor parameter changes, however, storing these scripts into saved repositories did not provide the context on what the scripts were developed for, and other necessary metadata about the purpose of the queries.
The data team tried storing these script definitions and descriptions in a corporate wiki, which included the script description together with the SQL syntax in a single place. However when ShopBack expanded into different countries, the team found themselves navigating and scrolling through long continuous pages of similar SQL queries, with overly specific syntaxes for each country.
The ShopBack data team needed a better way to manage, process and deliver the reports to their business users. Their business teams wanted more up-to-date access to the data needed to make timely decisions.
We didn’t have any tools for visualization and reporting. Reports and visualizations were in Excel format, and the file size can be huge sometimes. We had to generate reports and visualizations from SQL queries manually; business users had to come to us for reports, and we had to generate reports again when there was only a small change in criteria, like a date range.
– Jacob Eyo, Data Analytics Lead, ShopBack
Automated cloud-based data reports and scheduled data delivery
The ShopBack team evaluated several cloud reporting and business intelligence tools such as Looker and Periscope, but these tools required a high upfront cost to get started with implementation of the software. In addition, the time-zone differences made it difficult for them to communicate and get timely responses from their vendor’s support teams.
With Holistics, Jacob and the data team saw how Holistics would help automate their data reporting process and query scripts management. It helps that they can reuse their existing SQL scripts that they had already developed, and publish them as dynamic reports in Holistics that can be accessed by their business teams online, instead of having to learn a new platform language and interface.
After setting up the initial reports, their country and marketing heads could immediately start using Holistics to track and retrieve the data they need to make business decisions. For example, whenever the country heads and marketing team of ShopBack ran a new campaign, they wanted to track and immediately know the impact of their marketing campaigns on new user sign-ups, and the increase in cashback transactions. Having the most up-to-date visibility about their tasks on hand allowed them to respond as events happened.
Now, when the marketing team launches a campaign, they can instantly track new user registrations and cashback redeemed by product or merchant. This makes it easy for them to collaborate and plan their business strategies, and confidently substantiate the effectiveness of their campaigns using data, helping them to discover new trends for growth.
Getting started with Holistics was easy. Once you get the syntax to add filters in your reports, you are ready to start. Holistics filters lets you accept user inputs as parameters for your SQL queries and generate reports based on the user inputs.
– Jacob Eyo, Data Analytics Lead, ShopBack
How ShopBack uses Holistics
There are specific reports on key metrics that are important for the ShopBack team to constantly monitor. Previously, Jacob and his team had to query, export and email the data manually to their business users. They set up calendar events to remind themselves when to send the data, and to which group of users. This meant having to plan who needs to prepare the report on days when their teammates took time-off, or even having to take time out while on holidays to ensure the reports were sent on time.
With Holistics, Jacob can now simply set up an email schedule for the required data to be sent to a group of business users in a few clicks. The date range values are dynamically updated to reflect the past time period (e.g. last week/month), for automatic delivery of the latest business figures. “My favourite Holistics feature is the ability to email reports on a schedule,” Jacob shares. “Once set, it is fully automatic and the business users can receive their reports right from their email.”
Real-time and customizable reports can now be accessed both online and via email, allowing the business to make timely judgements and decisions to optimize day-to-day operations. Teams are no longer deskbound when it comes to accessing information.
The amount of query scripts needed to be stored are minimized as less ad hoc customized scripts are required. Reusable components and reports in Holistics require just a one-time setup effort, which can then be easily scaled across teams. The data team now can save time on manual data operation tasks and focus on more important mission-critical projects.
Future Of Data At ShopBack
Improved organization-wide alignment around data
Jacob and his data team are now freed up from doing manual data reporting work for business users. They have more time to dive into the numbers for more advanced data analyses to help grow the business, and to consider how best to improve ShopBack’s existing data infrastructure and management processes. For the business teams, they effectively eliminated the waiting and turnaround time needed for their reports to be updated with the latest data.
“For reports that are consumed on a regular basis, business users no longer need to come to us for reports; they can get the reports from Holistics and gain insights from it straight away,” shares Jacob. “Business users can use filters to get the data they require, even though they have no knowledge of SQL.”
When asked to describe Holistics, Jacob shared that the platform truly has a “zero-learning curve” for business users. Holistics was not only easy for the data teams to adapt to, but the business teams in ShopBack were also able to quickly get used to using the reports and filters to access the data they need in near real-time, with no training required, creating alignment across the organization around the data that matters.
Tips & tricks from the ShopBack team
- Some analytics tools that automatically produce analytics may have inaccurate logic, that does not truly reflect your business requirements. The flexibility of Holistics let you customize and calculate your metrics and reports exactly as you want to define them, giving you visibility of the steps taken from raw data to final output.
- Adding filters to your reports and dashboards makes working with data intuitive and as simple as using a smartphone application for your business users, giving a zero-learning curve and instant onboarding experience.
- Having a shared dashboard is a useful way to align your teams, to ensure everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.
- Data analysts should be building Data Transformations. Over time, the majority of your business reporting needs will tend to stabilise, so developing an aggregated master table that is persisted in your data warehouse will address most of your business users’ questions (ShopBack’s master table has over 50 columns).
- Email schedules are just a one-time setup effort. Reports are then delivered to the right person, at the right time, demanding no extra effort or attention.