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Uswitch: Utilizing data to deliver value and remain competitive in the price comparison market

About Uswitch

Uswitch helps consumers get the most from their home, helping them make decisions on energy, personal finance, insurance, and communications services. It also works with suppliers to help them ensure their tariffs are priced reasonably and will perform well with their customers.

Industries: Utilities
Location: United Kingdom

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Uswitch uses data science to adapt to a competitive marketplace and is passing on the lessons it's learning to its wider RVU group of brands, empowering people to make better purchasing decisions.

Google Cloud results

  • Enables data science products to be replicable across diverse brands
  • Empowers the company to quickly respond to future changes across numerous market sectors
  • Analytics lead time reduced by 50%

Delivers better customer experiences and business value

"Uswitch exists in an extremely competitive marketplace and trying to squeeze more out of the old ways of working just wasn’t working. We realized that we needed to be nimbler and felt that Google Cloud technology would help us to achieve that goal."

Siddharth Dawara, Head of Data Engineering, Uswitch

The price comparison market is extremely competitive. Consumers use it to draw on an array of services to help them navigate their purchasing decisions. Yet old tools and approaches are resulting in sub-optimal experiences, as well as ever-diminishing margins for the businesses behind them.

One company is using data to help ensure that it delivers better experiences to its customers while future-proofing its business model. Uswitch uses insights found within the data it acquires to deliver additional value to its customers and, ultimately, the business. But its existing approach to infrastructure was hampering this ambition. Uswitch turned to Google Cloud to address this challenge.

"The big play for us is being smart about how we treat customers," says Siddharth Dawara, Head of Data Engineering at Uswitch’s parent company RVU. "Uswitch exists in an extremely competitive marketplace, and trying to squeeze more out of the old ways of working just wasn’t working. We realized that we needed to be nimbler and felt that Google Cloud technology would help us to achieve that goal."

Switching to Google Cloud

Uswitch’s journey to Google Cloud began in 2015, when the company took the decision to migrate from its existing cloud infrastructure. The business had previously been using on-premises Hadoop clusters but began to experience limitations with this setup, particularly when it came to performance and maintenance. Uswitch had hoped moving to a third-party cloud provider would solve some of these challenges, but that proved not to be the case. The Data team decided to test out BigQuery after they were impressed with its capabilities.

They decided to test these out for themselves by building a statistical model on top of data relating to how their customers behaved on the company’s website. "We saw a dramatic shift in our performance off the back of our initial tests with BigQuery," adds Dawara.

Adapting the company culture

As a result, Uswitch decided to migrate its data across to BigQuery on June 19, 2015, a date Dawara says remains etched into his mind due to the volume of data involved. Uswitch is a key part of RVU, a group of brands that sit across multiple marketplaces, including insurance, financial products, and home services. These brands include confused.com, money, rastreator, and lelynx.fr. The company has grown through a series of mergers and acquisitions in the past five years, and insights gained by brands within the group are often applied more widely. After Uswitch’s early success with BigQuery, the wider company began to change its approach to technology. Pivoting from an engineering-heavy approach that saw the majority of its tools developed in-house, to purchasing ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions from Google Cloud wherever possible.

"For me, the biggest factor in choosing a technology is not based primarily on cost, but the value it brings us," Dawara explains. "My value to the company is not my proficiency in Golang, C or Python, it’s that I have a technological perspective on how we operate as a business. Working with Google Cloud has brought a lot of value to the business. I’d be hard-pressed to put a financial cost to the savings we’ve made from an operational point of view, but they’ve been huge. We’ve not had to hire any database specialists since 2015, and worrying about the website going down because too many people are running reports, which was a genuine concern for us back in 2009, is a thing of the past. But what we really value is the flexibility the platform offers us in meeting the needs of our customers, and our colleagues."

"Vertex AI is the only solution that’s built with a software engineering mindset first, albeit with a great machine learning offering. It was really the only platform that gave us the ability to deliver things in a way that we wanted to."

Siddharth Dawara, Head of Data Engineering, Uswitch

Boosting data utility with BigQuery

When it comes to working with data, BigQuery has empowered different teams with the data they need to do their jobs, whether that’s improving customer experience, boosting conversion rates, or cutting down on bounces. It’s an approach that’s made possible by a shift away from older ETL (extract, transform, load) processes, towards ELT (Extract, Load, Transform), enabled by Uswitch’s work with Google Cloud and an array of open-source solutions it has built into its platform. And working with data in its raw form has led to a big boost in its utility, Dawara says. "We've not really looked back since moving to BigQuery," he adds. "We’ve doubled the richness of our data every two years, but we’ve seen a tenfold increase in the number of queries we’re running, allowing us to be better data-focused and giving us access to the information that we need in order to make better business decisions."

One way that Uswitch is using that data is to better understand its customers. The company began focusing on data around 18 months ago with a brief to boost the business’s data science offering and to develop a strategy to use it to bring additional value to the wider RVU group. Through Lifetime Value Modelling, entirely enabled by BigQuery, the team has been able to identify different customer segments and respond better to their needs. "A great example is the mobile phone market," says Dawara. "Last week, we had 65,000 deals on our website and there’s no way you can expect customers to sift through all of that information. BigQuery enables us to display a simplified version of those contract bundles, based on what we know about a potential customer."

Digging deeper with Vertex AI

That ability to personalize customer experiences and dig deeper into their behavior has been taken a step further with the use of Vertex AI, Dawara believes. And one of the big benefits is cost. With Vertex AI plugged into BigQuery as its main source of data, the team saves on the cost of data egress, something that was a particular issue in the past. It has also enabled the team to streamline its data operations across the whole organization. One of the challenges that RVU faced with its acquisition of various companies was the range of existing architectures its data science services would need to plug into. With Google Cloud and Vertex AI, they found a way of creating data science products that are easily repeatable, whatever the infrastructure the team is working with.

"We looked at several different data science platforms. But most of them were built with old-fashioned data science techniques in mind," says Dawara. "Vertex AI is the only solution that’s built with a software engineering mindset first, albeit with a great machine learning offering. It was really the only platform that gave us the ability to deliver things in a way that we wanted to. And I think that’s largely down to the depth of engineering experience that Google Cloud has."

"We would love to transform every part of the product selection journey that our customers go through. Whether that’s understanding more about them or building algorithms that work out the best deals. And Google Cloud is enabling us to do just that."

Siddharth Dawara, Head of Data Engineering, Uswitch

Looking to the future

Uswitch’s collaboration with Google Cloud is already delivering dividends for the company and its customers, as well as the wider RVU group. In the future, Dawara, and their colleagues hope to use more Google Cloud tools to help the company respond to ever changing market dynamics.

"We would love to transform every part of the product selection journey that our customers go through," Dawara says. "Whether that’s understanding more about them or building algorithms that work out the best deals. And Google Cloud is enabling us to do just that."

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Uswitch

Uswitch helps consumers get the most from their home, helping them make decisions on energy, personal finance, insurance, and communications services. It also works with suppliers to help them ensure their tariffs are priced reasonably and will perform well with their customers.

Industries: Utilities
Location: United Kingdom