zulily: Increasing revenue, enhancing customer experiences with real-time analytics

About zulily

Headquartered in Seattle, zulily is an online retailer that launches more than 100 events featuring 9,000 styles daily. zulily offers unique products from up-and-coming brands alongside favorites from top national brands across categories such as apparel, home décor, beauty, pets, toys, and more.

Industries: Retail
Location: United States

By moving to Google Cloud Platform for big data processing and analytics, zulily has the information to drive the business, deliver innovative customer experiences, and grow revenue.

Google Cloud Results

  • Increases sales revenue significantly using real-time clickstream analysis
  • Improves customer experiences with helpful notifications and suggestions
  • Realized significant savings in engineering time spent for innovation

Collecting 5B clickstream events every day

Every day, zulily launches 9,000 new product styles—more than 1.5 times the volume most big-box stores stock in their warehouses. Quantities are limited, and items are typically only available for three days. This velocity of change and discovery is core to zulily’s value proposition: “something special every day.” More than 5.3 million customers come to the site daily because they know they will see new, unique items, driving more than $1 billion in annual revenue.

For zulily, it’s like launching a new business every day, for each member, 365 days a year. Optimizing revenue and inventory on such a massive scale requires real-time intelligence, and that means analyzing constantly growing streams of clickstream data. The ability to track site visitors’ behavior, including the pages they visit and deals they click on, is vital to the company’s success. Just as important is diving deep into that data to understand visitors’ behavior to personalize, as well as customize, offers and notifications.

Previously, zulily hosted its Hadoop-based big data platform on bare-metal cloud servers. However, the cloud provider couldn’t keep up with the company’s growth, and didn’t offer the sophisticated data analytics services that zulily needed. Infrastructure management consumed too much staff time, and it was challenged to meet SLAs for the thousands of datasets it provides to business users for analysis. zulily needed a scalable cloud platform that could provide analytics tools to help it increase sales and keep its employees focused on innovation.

“By collecting more data, we’re innovating faster and making smarter decisions. Using real-time analytics on Google Cloud Platform, we were able to drive a significant increase in sales conversion in just a few weeks. Without Google Cloud Platform, we would never have been able to scale the clickstream data collection 100-fold in a fraction of the time.”

Bindu Thota, Director of Product Management, zulily

zulily decided to move its data pipeline and big data analytics to Google Cloud Platform. It uses Google Cloud Dataproc and Google BigQuery to support real-time decision-making for customers and over 500 “merchants”—employees who interact directly with product suppliers—to market their offerings and manage inventory. With the freedom to scale easily and cost effectively, zulily increased its daily data collection from 50 million events to 5 billion over two years, giving it richer data to increase sales conversions and improve marketing effectiveness.

“By collecting more data, and empowering our team with the information, we’re innovating faster and making smarter decisions. Using real-time analytics on Google Cloud Platform enabled us to drive a significant increase in sales conversion in just a few weeks. Without Google Cloud Platform, we would never have been able to scale clickstream data collection 100-fold,” says Bindu Thota, Director of Product Management at zulily.

Greater capacity for innovation

By using fully managed cloud services—Google Cloud Dataproc for a dynamic, on-demand Hadoop engine for clickstream processing, and Google BigQuery for big data analysis—zulily frees its engineers from infrastructure management tasks. Instead of managing and scaling storage, SQL databases, and Kubernetes clusters, zulily now uses Google Cloud Storage, Google Cloud SQL, and Google Kubernetes Engine to solve business problems quickly. Google Cloud Bigtable, a high-performance NoSQL database service, integrates with Google Cloud Dataproc to provide a convenient low-latency data store.

“Our vision was to get out of managing systems and get more into adding value to the business by building big data solutions,” says Bindu. “Moving to Google Cloud Platform is saving us a lot of engineering and troubleshooting time every week that we can now spend on more valuable tasks.”

“With Google Cloud Platform, we can utilize real-time clickstream data and feed it back to our website and mobile app to inform how we guide and enhance the customer experience—even with 9,000 new products and millions of customers looking at our site. Those real-time insights give us the ability to drive a high level of lift.”

Bindu Thota, Director of Product Management, zulily

Improving customer experiences

Reclaiming engineering capacity is helping zulily do more with real-time analysis. The company runs thousands of processes every day on Google Cloud Platform to analyze clickstream data in real time and better understand customer behavior, funneling that information to the marketing team and merchants. It’s also using the data to enable more satisfying customer experiences and drive more profitable interactions.

For example, if a customer is watching an item but has not yet purchased it, zulily sends “community signals” to indicate the number of inventory remaining, helping the customer decide if and when to purchase. It can notify customers of abandoned shopping carts and explain that if they don’t check out within a certain amount of time, those items may no longer be available. It can also push targeted offers and campaigns to those customers, enticing them to come back and complete the purchase. zulily’s merchants now have real-time visibility into sales performance for the products they’re responsible for, enabling them to quickly add inventory for popular items and increase overall sales.

“With Google Cloud Platform, we can utilize real-time clickstream data and feed it back to our website and mobile app to guide and enhance the customer experience—even with 9,000 new products and millions of customers looking at our site. Those real-time insights give us the ability to drive a high level of lift,” says Bindu.

“As we work with sensitive datasets, security of any platform is of the utmost importance. We are confident in the security and reliability of hosting our datasets on Google Cloud Platform.”

Bindu Thota, Director of Product Management, zulily

More secure, cost effective platform

zulily uses Google Cloud SQL to support transactional systems, store custom data sets for analysis, and for pre-pack capping—assessing profit margins on products it buys packaged together in specific assortments or sizes—assessing even if only some of the items in the package are selling. It is also using Google BigQuery for internal big data analysis to determine return on investment for customer acquisition ad campaigns, reduce shipping costs, and accelerate reporting, among other uses.

“As we work with sensitive datasets, security of any platform is of the utmost importance. We are confident in the security and reliability of hosting our datasets on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Bindu.

About zulily

Headquartered in Seattle, zulily is an online retailer that launches more than 100 events featuring 9,000 styles daily. zulily offers unique products from up-and-coming brands alongside favorites from top national brands across categories such as apparel, home décor, beauty, pets, toys, and more.

Industries: Retail
Location: United States
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