Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield: Connecting with customers using Google Cloud

About Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield is a leading global developer and operator of flagship shopping destinations, with over 90 malls across 13 countries.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods
Location: France

About fifty-five

fifty-five is a new breed of data company that helps brands leverage data and technology to craft superior brand experiences.

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield built a marketing analytics platform with BigQuery that collates all of its data in a single place and helps deliver a new level of customer service.

Google Cloud results

  • Improves customer engagement, increasing the open rate of promotional emails by 75% and doubling the number of click-throughs
  • Enables customer segmentation with an easy-to-use, unified data platform built on BigQuery
  • Instills a data-driven mindset into its marketing process, with a deep analytics platform capable of ingesting new data

More than doubled its customer loyalty scheme in a year

The Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield Group owns and operates more than 90 shopping malls across Europe and the United States, with 1.2 billion customer visits every year. As important as its physical stores are, the group strives to connect with customers online too, using several channels including its websites, mobile apps, and email.

“We reach our customers in many ways, both in-center and online, and have multiple data sources. To use that information to improve our customers’ shopping experience, we needed a unified, compliant platform to collect and analyze all the data in an efficient, secure manner. That’s why we chose Google Cloud.”

Julien Marlot, Director of Digital, Acquisition, and Customer Engagement Europe, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield

Since 2016, the group’s marketing strategy has been more data driven, delivering an improved, more personalized customer experience. A marketing analytics platform is central to this strategy, gathering together all the data from numerous sources to provide a comprehensive picture of its customers, their needs, and their behavior.

“We reach our customers in many ways, both in-center and online, and have multiple data sources,” says Julien Marlot, Director of Digital, Acquisition, and Customer Engagement Europe, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield. “To use that information to improve our customers’ shopping experience, we needed a unified, compliant platform to collect and analyze all the data in an efficient, secure manner. That’s why we chose Google Cloud.”

“The collaboration with 55 was key for the success of the project. We worked closely together to make sure that we had the right solution for the right business case, delivered on time, and with minimal disruption."

Ghadi Hobeika, Head of Data & Loyalty Europe, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield

BigQuery for powerful analytics and ease of use

As well as the customer-relationship management platform, the group runs promotional emails, loyalty schemes, and more than 60 websites and mobile apps. In early 2016, collecting data onto a single platform was simply not possible. The mix of on-premises architecture and some services on the cloud wasn’t capable of ingesting very diverse volumes of data every day, processing it, and then providing it to the marketing team for analysis. It was also inconsistent for the company as a whole, across multiple brands and locations.

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield engaged data specialist and Google Cloud Partner fifty-five to help build its new analytics solution. fifty-five began working on a comprehensive marketing data strategy, working out exactly what the group’s goals were and how they could be achieved. As a result, fifty-five defined around a dozen separate use cases for the new data platform. Following a period of rigorous planning and consultation, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield and fifty-five set to work building the new platform in early 2017. fifty-five installed four of its consulting and technical staff in the Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield offices to oversee construction of the new platform and held weekly meetings to make sure that the project went smoothly. “The collaboration with 55 was key for the success of the project,” says Ghadi Hobeika, Head of Data and Loyalty, Europe, at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield. “We worked closely together to make sure that we had the right solution for the right business case, delivered on time, and with minimal disruption."

After evaluating the solutions offered by a number of leading cloud providers, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield and fifty-five chose Google Cloud for its analytics solution. Customer online behavior is collected with Google Analytics and Google Firebase Analytics. Because Google Cloud integrates with both of these very easily, and offers overall ease of use compared to other cloud solutions, it was the clear choice. The rest of the group’s customer data has been integrated easily as well.

fifty-five and Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield designed the construction of the new analytics platform around the use cases defined in the marketing strategy. For each use case, the group would identify a minimal dataset and work on a pipeline to bring that data onto the platform. This ensured that progress was swift and the project had clear, definable goals right from the start.

The technical core of the platform was BigQuery, which ingested data from all the different sources, either through native integration or through customized API connectors, built by fifty-five. After this initial ingestion, the platform used Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) to automatically launch configurations to process the data either with new queries or Python machine learning scripts. Dataproc was used for the more advanced processing jobs, launching Hadoop clusters that could be shut down as soon as the jobs were finished. Once processed, the data was easily exported to Cloud SQL instances or Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s existing marketing software services, where analysts could start working on it.

“One of the real highlights for us is BigQuery,” says Jean-François Wassong, CTO at fifty-five. “Of all the tools we looked at, it’s the easiest way of combing through all the datasets and offers a user-friendly way for people to interact with the data.”

Data-driven marketing for deeper connections

With Google Cloud, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield has built an analytics platform that has revolutionized the group’s marketing practices. With more and better quality data at hand, the group is able to accurately separate its customer base into five segments and make personalized communications and offers. This has led to an increased open rate of 75% for promotional emails and twice the number of customers clicking through links to visit websites.

"Google Cloud has helped us to reduce our time to market and to gain a much better understanding of what our customers want,” says Ghadi Hobeika, Head of Data and Loyalty, Europe, at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield. “We’re therefore improving the experience of our existing customers by delivering customized information to them."

“The new platform has changed the way we think about analytics and has opened up a new world of data-driven solutions. We are looking forward to building on our work with Google and improving our customers' experience even more.”

Julien Marlot, Director of Digital, Acquisition and Customer Engagement Europe, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield

Meanwhile, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield has gained new competencies in cloud-based technology without having to dramatically expand its team or spend on extra resources, thanks to BigQuery and its ease of use. Freed from the burden of DevOps and maintenance, the IT team has even started to expand the platform to take in other types of information, such as Wi-Fi connections and aggregate footfall data. “The plan was to build a platform that can go beyond the specific use cases we had defined in the brief,” says Jean-François. “We can be quite flexible about how we use it and collect new kinds of data.”

Since building the platform, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield and fifty-five continue to make adjustments and improvements. The latest feature to be added is an internal dashboard that reports on the performance of the data pipelines. With a dashboard in place, monitoring becomes much easier and the group can respond to any problems much more effectively. The group is also exploring Google Cloud machine learning libraries to add to the proprietary algorithms it already uses.

“The new platform has changed the way we think about analytics and has opened up a new world of data-driven solutions,” says Julien Marlot. “We're looking forward to building on our work with Google Cloud and improving our customers' experience even more.”

About Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield is a leading global developer and operator of flagship shopping destinations, with over 90 malls across 13 countries.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods
Location: France

About fifty-five

fifty-five is a new breed of data company that helps brands leverage data and technology to craft superior brand experiences.