Softonic: Finding the signal amid the noise with Google Cloud Platform

About Softonic

Softonic publishes one of the leading global software and app discovery platforms, offering the most complete selection of software and apps across hundreds of categories.

Industries: Technology
Location: Spain

About Jellyfish

Jellyfish is a global digital partner offering a blend of technology, consultancy, and training to support its clients' digital transformation.

Softonic uses BigQuery to power its new business intelligence platform, gaining a 360-degree view of its customers so it can deliver better recommendations and improved engagement.

Google Cloud Results

  • Unifies more than 30 data sources into a single platform on BigQuery for fuller, richer customer profiles
  • Delivers 80% increase in click-through rates with recommendations driven by machine learning and deep analysis
  • Reduces operational overheads with managed services, freeing IT staff to focus on developing better features and new products

Boosts click-through rates by 80%

Whether you're looking for a financial planning app, no-frills word processor, or even a mobile crossword game, the challenge in finding the right software or mobile application isn't lack of choice, it's too many options. Launched in 1997, Softonic is a software and app discovery platform that makes it much easier to find the right tool for the right job. Having made its name with desktop software, in recent years the company has expanded its offering to include thousands of mobile apps across several operating systems. Noticing a raft of new competitors in the mobile app market, Softonic decided to make some changes to the way it worked. "We wanted to be more than just a software catalog, so we started acting as a publisher, providing articles and how-to guides to help our users find solutions to their problems," says Jennifer Woodard, Director of Global Communications at Softonic. "It gave them a reason to stay engaged with us and it helped us stay competitive in a crowded market."

"We wanted to modernize our data landscape for the first time, get a full 360-degree view of our customers, and harness the power of machine learning for our business intelligence solution. It was a no-brainer. Google Cloud Platform is the way to go."

Fernando Ferrer, Director of Business Intelligence and Analytics, Softonic

The strategy worked. Today, the company has established itself as one of the world's leading app discovery platforms with more than 6 million downloads a day and more than 100 million users per month. With so many customers engaging with the platform, Softonic had access to a large amount of data but its existing business intelligence (BI) solution was not up to providing the depth of insight it wanted. The company began looking for alternatives. To help bring its vision to life, Softonic hired Fernando Ferrer as Director of BI and Analytics in early 2018. With 15 years of experience across multiple industries, he quickly saw that the right BI solution could be built on Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

"We wanted to modernize our data landscape for the first time, get a full 360-degree view of our customers, and harness the power of machine learning for our business intelligence solution," says Fernando. "It was a no-brainer. Google Cloud Platform is the way to go."

Fernando took stock of where Softonic's analytics capabilities were and where they needed to get to. He recognized the need to change not only the BI software, but its infrastructure as well. "Data sources were scattered across different systems. Some were in the cloud, some were on-premises. The first task was to integrate and unify everything on one platform," he explains. This was key for providing the 360-degree view customer profiles that Softonic wanted. With several data sources on different platforms, the company's existing analytics platform only recognized customers through different interactions or touchpoints. The existing infrastructure meant that there was no way of identifying people across different touchpoints, so customers were often served irrelevant or out-of-date recommendations. With everything on one platform, the BI team can now put the different pieces together and make connections, gaining a much fuller picture of what Softonic's customers are actually looking for and what kind of recommendations they want.

Within a few months of his arrival, Fernando decided on GCP to power the new BI solution, thanks to its flexible integrations, capacity to reduce management overhead, and machine learning and AI capabilities. The majority of Softonic's marketing data came from Google products such as Google Analytics and Google Ads. "We're a huge Google customer already and GCP makes connecting all the data from these products very easy. It makes a lot of sense for us," says Fernando. He also wanted to reduce the management overhead of the BI platform. The existing solution was built on legacy infrastructure and required two people to monitor it full time because of its complexity and frequent crashes. Softonic needed a system that would just work and let his team focus on core business objectives. Finally, Fernando wanted to leverage the machine learning and AI capabilities of GCP. Fernando explains: "Google is at the very top of the game with this kind of technology, and we wanted to take advantage of that."

"It's hard to single out one highlight of Google BigQuery. The whole package is the highlight! It's fast, it can handle huge volumes of data, it has native integration with other Google products. On top of that, it's completely managed, so we don't have to worry about maintenance."

Fernando Ferrer, Director of Business Intelligence and Analytics, Softonic

High-power, low-maintenance analytics with BigQuery

After deciding on GCP, Softonic engaged Google Cloud Partner Jellyfish to help build the new analytics platform. "We looked at a number of companies, but Jellyfish impressed us with its technical expertise and experience in this kind of thing," says Fernando. Jellyfish worked closely with Softonic, embedding an engineer on site, supported by a larger global team. Jellyfish managed the migration process with the agile SCRUM methodology, which prioritizes frequent communication and close collaboration.

The migration initially focused on building a single platform to unify dozens of data sources. Cloud Data Transfer simplifies the ingesting and handling of data sources like Google Analytics or Google Ads. For other sources that came via APIs, Softonic uses App Engine and Compute Engine instances, which can be easily scaled up or down as needed. Cloud Dataprep cleans and processes the data, before it's piped into BigQuery, the backbone of the new BI solution. From here, analysts can integrate the data together and build out enhanced customer profiles and segmentation models.

"It's hard to single out one highlight of Google BigQuery. The whole package is the highlight!" says Fernando. "It's fast, it can handle huge volumes of data, it has native integration with other Google products. On top of that, it's completely managed, so we don't have to worry about maintenance."

After analysis in BigQuery, the data team uses Google Data Studio together with QlikView and Tableau to create and easily disseminate reports within the company. Cloud Storage safely and easily stores large data extracts and other assets, while Stackdriver monitors the system, helping Softonic stay on top of things.

"With the new recommendations based on insights we get from Google BigQuery, we're getting more than 6 million more page views every month based on the new recommendations we make to our customers. That's an increase of around 80 percent."

Fernando Ferrer, Director of Business Intelligence and Analytics, Softonic

Deeper insight for deeper customer engagement

For the first time, Softonic can combine complete customer profiles with more nuanced and up-to-date customer segmentation. GCP was critical for achieving that. "It's not just the volume of data, it's complexity as well," says Fernando. "We ingest about 200 gigabytes of data a day from around 30 different sources. Then we output to more than 50 different endpoints, so it's a huge task and we couldn't do it easily without GCP."

Since November 2018, Softonic has used its newly enhanced customer profiles to overhaul its recommendation procedures with Cloud Machine Learning Engine. In just six months, it's already seeing improved engagement and impressive results. "With the new recommendations based on insights we get from Google BigQuery, we're getting more than 6 million more page views every month based on the new recommendations we make to our customers. That's an increase of around 80 percent," says Fernando.

Working with BigQuery has automated much of the management of the new BI platform. Fernando can assign all his team members to work on developing new products and features, adding value to the business instead of spending time debugging and maintaining infrastructure.

With its new analytics platform in production, Softonic's engineers and data scientists are focused on improving their machine learning capabilities. In particular, they're currently using Cloud Machine Learning Engine and TensorFlow to more accurately tailor ads to customers based on their preferences. Also, Cloud Pub/Sub and Cloud Bigtable provide intriguing opportunities for real-time analytics.

Migrating to GCP has not only been a technical upgrade, but an organizational one. With its new infrastructure, Softonic now has the flexibility to embed members of its BI team in different parts of the company, reducing silos and dependencies. The insights gained from the new BI platform can be used almost instantly, and even help the company jump on new opportunities to further engage users, such as targeted content, offers, and other tailored end-user benefits.

"Whenever there's a new project, somebody from the BI team is involved," says Jennifer. "They help see the opportunity, get the required data, share the insights, and execute effectively. It's made us more data-driven in our strategy, and we see that as key to our future success."

About Softonic

Softonic publishes one of the leading global software and app discovery platforms, offering the most complete selection of software and apps across hundreds of categories.

Industries: Technology
Location: Spain

About Jellyfish

Jellyfish is a global digital partner offering a blend of technology, consultancy, and training to support its clients' digital transformation.