SPINS: Tracking organic growth

About SPINS

SPINS is the leading provider of retail consumer insights, analytics reporting, and consulting services in the Natural, Organic, and Specialty Products Industries. Its mission is to increase the accessibility of better-for-you products in North America and to enable consumers to live more vibrant lives.

Industries: Retail, Technology
Location: United States

SPINS moved from an on-premises data center to Google Cloud Platform to reduce project lead times and process point-of-sale data faster.

Google Cloud Results

  • Gains agility to increase innovation and provide groundbreaking solutions
  • Using Google BigQuery and Cloud Dataflow, SPINS improves delivery times to customers up to 4x

Deploys new projects in days versus months

The Natural Products Industry has doubled over the past decade to a total market size of more than $134 billion. Manufacturers, retailers, and investment firms are more interested than ever to understand the dynamics shaping the natural marketplace and how organic products are performing across the retail landscape. To get answers, many of these companies turn to SPINS, a Chicago-based provider of retail consumer insights, analytics reporting, and consulting services.

With over 250 employees, SPINS competes with much larger retail-focused analytics firms. The secret to its success lies in 20 years of specialization in natural, organic, and specialty products. Through its exclusive relationships with retailers in these sectors, SPINS can accurately track not only how these products are performing relative to the market, but how consumer preferences and needs are changing over time.

SPINS is a data-driven business, and time to market for retail insights is critical. When monthly point-of-sale data comes in from retail partners, SPINS must analyze it and produce reports for customers as quickly as possible. This process requires large amounts of infrastructure. In the past, each time SPINS took on a new project, it had to procure and deploy new systems, which took a couple of months. Once deployed, the infrastructure only ran at peak capacity one week out of the month, when analytics ran and subsequent customer demand spiked. The rest of the month, systems ran at 25% capacity or less.

“Google Cloud Platform solved our infrastructure cost and scalability problems, but ultimately, we chose it because Google understood our need to process data faster and better. The company introduced us to Google BigQuery, which has been a game changer for our business, and partnered with us fully to make sure we succeeded.”

Carlo Marcelino, Sr. Director IT Operations, SPINS

To accelerate time to market and improve operating efficiency to reduce costs, SPINS sought a cloud-based solution that would allow it to scale elastically. However, it wanted more than just compute on demand. SPINS wanted a partner and a platform that could help it take its business to new places and do more to align retailers, brands, and consumers. After evaluating several other cloud options—including a failed proof of concept for big data analytics that took six months—SPINS decided to use Google Cloud Platform.

“Google Cloud Platform solved our infrastructure cost and scalability problems, but ultimately, we chose it because Google understood our need to process data faster and better,” says Carlo Marcelino, Sr. Director IT Operations for SPINS. “The company introduced us to Google BigQuery, which has been a game changer for our business, and partnered with us fully to make sure we succeeded.”

“With Cloud Dataflow and Google BigQuery, our delivery times for customer reports have decreased from as long as 36 hours to less than 9 hours. We have a competitive edge because we’re able to take on more data faster and be more agile than our competitors.”

Deepika Duggirala, SVP of Engineering, SPINS

Improving delivery times up to fourfold

SPINS immediately moved its data warehouse to Google BigQuery, a managed service for big data analytics. It also uses Cloud Dataflow to process data in batch and Cloud Dataproc to instantiate Hadoop jobs for ETL processing before making data available to the application. It took just a few weeks for SPINS to integrate services managed by Google Cloud Platform into its workflow and produce production-ready output—a sixfold faster time to value compared with other solutions SPINS piloted. The solutions work together seamlessly, allowing SPINS to accelerate the process of pre-caching and staging frequently used data to improve the customer experience.

“With Cloud Dataflow and Google BigQuery, our delivery times for customer reports have decreased from as long as 36 hours to less than 9 hours,” says Deepika Duggirala, Vice President of Engineering at SPINS. “We have a competitive edge, because we’re able to take on more data faster and be more agile than our competitors.”

“Google Cloud Platform allows us to test more, fail fast, and not have projects tied to hardware investments. We can turn on a dime and provide our customers with better retail insights because of the technology advantage our partnership with Google gives us.”

Carlo Marcelino, Sr. Director IT Operations, SPINS

A faster path to innovation

SPINS now deploys infrastructure on Compute Engine virtual machines, reducing the lead time for new projects to hours or days instead of weeks or months.

With the ability to consume cloud infrastructure on demand, SPINS can move projects from concept to development to production much faster. For example, the company built and deployed a new user acceptance testing (UAT) layer in just one week, helping to improve the usability of the information it provides to customers.

“Previously, that would have taken a quarter,” says Carlo. “Google Cloud Platform allows us to test more, fail fast, and not have projects tied to hardware investments. We can turn on a dime and provide our customers with better retail insights because of the technology advantage our partnership with Google gives us.”

Google’s reliability and resiliency were key drivers for SPINS to move to the cloud, increasing availability while decreasing management requirements. Previously, the company spent many hours on capacity planning, troubleshooting components, and upgrading systems. Google Cloud Platform is also more cost-effective, allowing SPINS to pay by the second for compute resources and scale its servers up and down as customer usage patterns change and new projects come along.

“Previously, every new project we took on had an element of business risk due to the huge capital outlay,” says Carlo. “If we didn’t make exactly the right predictions about the infrastructure required, margins or delivery times could suffer. With Google Cloud Platform, all that has gone away. We simply use what we need.”

Disrupting retail analytics

SPINS plans to use Google Cloud Platform to hone its competitive edge by providing even faster data delivery in the future. For example, it’s exploring stream processing of receipt-level transactional data to give customers near real-time insights, as opposed to the traditional monthly reporting for the consumer packaged goods (CPG) market.

“Google Cloud Platform helps us concentrate on innovation because our data pipeline is fast, flexible, and reliable,” says Deepika. “The ability to process point-of-sale data this quickly is truly disruptive in the industry. We’ll be able to give customers groundbreaking new products and a daily view of what’s in consumers’ shopping baskets.”

About SPINS

SPINS is the leading provider of retail consumer insights, analytics reporting, and consulting services in the Natural, Organic, and Specialty Products Industries. Its mission is to increase the accessibility of better-for-you products in North America and to enable consumers to live more vibrant lives.

Industries: Retail, Technology
Location: United States
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