Fashion and lifestyle company Breuninger is making more informed decisions across the enterprise by using Google Cloud managed services to unify its complex IT landscape and make sense of data from a variety of sources.
The fashion and lifestyle company Breuninger was founded in 1881 by Eduard Breuninger and is today one of the leading multi-channel department stores in Europe. For around 140 years, Breuninger has been setting high standards in the areas of fashion, beauty and lifestyle with an exclusive selection of international designer brands and selected newcomer brands. The online store www.breuninger.com, launched in 2008, is one of the most successful in the premium segment and is also available in Austria, Switzerland and Poland. In addition to a sense of style and a flair for trends, Breuninger also stands for a pronounced customer focus: service offerings such as the Special Service, the in-house made-to-measure atelier, Click&Collect and online reservations, the in-store ordering service and the shuttle service ensure a unique shopping experience both in-store and online. In Germany and Luxembourg, Breuninger now has 13 stores with around 6,500 employees.
There's a German saying, "Commerce is change," says Matthias Krenzel, Head of Data Platform Services at Breuninger, "and it's true: Customer behaviour is constantly changing, and if your business model is stagnant, you won't survive." For Matthias, the answer to how the company can maintain its competitive advantage lies in using data as a means to drive innovation. "We want to use data analytics to better understand market changes and make more informed decisions," he explains.
But before Breuninger could begin applying data insights across the company, it needed to bring together its scattered IT landscape.
"The company is divided into many departments, each with their own technology stack focused on their own use cases," Matthias says. "We have on-premises databases as well as many other systems like SAP, all collecting different types of data for different business units. To get the most out of our enterprise data, we needed to find a common foundation for all these systems." Looking for a solution capable of unifying all that disparate data, Breuninger turned to Google Cloud and our assistance."
One of the business areas where Breuninger sees exciting opportunities with data is its online store at www.breuninger.com, which brought in a remarkable 30% of sales in 2018 alone. "The online store has become part of a successful multichannel strategy for us, with our on-site events and incentives driving customers to the website. Our presence in the online community also keeps our brand in focus," Matthias tells us. "As we experience remarkable growth in online sales, it makes sense to focus our efforts on optimising our website. An important first step on this journey is to further optimise the online customer experience by bringing our data up to date.
When looking for a cloud partner to help its Data Platform Services team get the most out of its data, Breuninger had three priorities:
The time to data insights should be shortened through analytics solutions, the various components of the complex IT landscape should work together smoothly and a storage solution had to offer flexibility that would allow additional data sources to be included as needed.
With these requirements in mind, Breuninger chose Google Cloud for its fully managed analytics services and scalable serverless database solution. They also selected us, as an experienced Google Cloud Premier Partner, to assist with the implementation of the project.
"I am very happy with this decision," says Matthias. "Google Cloud integrates seamlessly with all our IT components and helps us unify and make sense of our data. Throughout our journey, we've received excellent support from the Google Cloud team."
Breuninger now uses cloud storage to provision, share and archive data generated across its various systems. With BigQuery, the retailer starts analysing data by querying streaming data in real time to gain a more comprehensive view of different areas of the business. To extract data from various data sources and then transform and load it into BigQuery, Breuninger uses a set of fully managed microservices orchestrated by the Google Kubernetes engine.
At the same time, Breuninger feeds enterprise data from modules in its SAP system into BigQuery and integrates its various on-premises databases into the Google Cloud environment. The retailer's loyalty card is also an SAP module: it works through Qlik Replicate, which mirrors all card transactions in real-time in BigQuery. "Creating reports based on BigQuery is much faster and cheaper than creating custom reports in SAP," Matthias explains, adding, "It also gives us real-time customer insights, and that's a key advantage." The company has also begun testing Cloud Composer to orchestrate its entire data pipeline, which spans cloud and on-premises data centres.
"Almost 90% of our business data is now loaded into BigQuery. Probably our migration process will never be complete," Matthias says. "Because the more data we analyse, the more departments are interested." So we constantly have new ideas for new applications that require adding new data sources to BigQuery."
One of those new applications grew out of what Matthias calls an "accidental use case." Breuninger's customer service team wanted to help customers request items that were out of stock online. The notification function when the requested items were back in stock started collecting new data immediately after launch. Matthias' team then turns this data into business intelligence information using BigQuery. Breuninger's purchasing department is now using this new source of insight to refine their forecasting strategy.
"In the past, we could only base our purchasing forecasts on sales figures. If something was out of stock, customers would simply leave without us knowing what they were looking for. Now we can gain insights not only from sales, but also from non-sales," Matthias explains. "By learning what sizes or colours of a shirt are in demand, not just which ones are selling, the purchasing department can make better forecasts and distribute products to ensure our customers always find what they're looking for."
Results and Benefits
In 2019, Breuninger expanded the reach of its online store from Germany and Austria to Switzerland, and in October 2021 to Poland. To ensure successful expansion outside the European Union, the retailer has since had to access new data, such as exchange rates, as well as set up new processes to ensure its products reach customers on the other side of the border through a local delivery partner.
"These are new things we have to track," Matthias says. "To know when our packages are reaching our customers, we need to track information from our delivery partners:inside. Fortunately for us, Google Cloud has a great framework that allows us to easily reach and integrate new data sources."
"In the past, we had to write new code for each new request. Now, with Google Cloud's configurable components and Google Kubernetes Engine's managed services, we have standardised solutions that allow us to track the data we need to run our business much faster," Matthias says.
As a certified Google Cloud Premier Partner, we supported Breuninger throughout the project not only with advice on setting up the cloud environment, but also during implementation with various workshops on the Google Cloud service. In addition, we are available as a direct contact.
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