Retailers are constantly seeking new ways to differentiate themselves to customers who expect access to high-quality services across their favorite channels. For many, this means replacing legacy systems with more advanced cloud-based services for infrastructure, data analytics, application development, and customer relationship management.
Auchan France, a retailer with more than 600 locations and 6,000 employees, has worked for 60 years to give customers outstanding shopping experiences whether they shop in store or online.
"Auchan has a lot of physical stores, but we’re also finding that customers increasingly want the freedom to shop in stores or online—so we need to optimize every interaction no matter where we engage our customers," says Jeremy Simon, Service Manager of DataCentric at Auchan Retail. "We are moving toward a 'phygital' approach to retail and finding ways to unite in-store and digital experiences."
Auchan has a massive data management system to handle data from 500 applications used across the business. The company’s platform team went to great lengths to maximize the value of the data exchange system, and chose to work with Google Cloud and partner Elastic to support forward-facing goals.
Optimizing data flows across applications
Auchan previously relied on on-prem infrastructure to manage data but faced problems with speed, monitoring, and scalability given how quickly its operations were growing. For example, the company currently processes roughly five million data flows daily moving through its database and myriad applications covering business intelligence (BI), supply chain, financials, B2B, human resources, and more.
"This was challenging for us because there was too much information for our employees to properly monitor. It would often take many minutes to get insights into any particular piece of data," says Jeremy.
Auchan identified Elastic to improve data capture and, after a successful test on its on-prem database, it chose to move forward with Elastic Observability moving to Elastic Cloud on Google Cloud. This move gives Auchan a more efficient, effective means of monitoring the flow of data across the company, enabling various business units to observe data in a clean dashboard and choose which information to capture, analyze, and more.
Google Cloud solutions such as BigQuery provide the processing power behind the new data infrastructure developed by Auchan’s platform team, while Elastic provides the tools to best leverage data by stacking and visualizing it in real-time. Offloading these processes to Elastic and Google Cloud also enable the Auchan platform team to focus on more strategic matters.
"One of the advantages is we can completely rely on Elastic and Google Cloud to handle data processing, analytics, and system reliability," says Jeremy. "We can just let our data exchange run and focus on how we use and analyze data rather than maintain infrastructure."
Benefits of integrated data tools
Given the intensive nature of managing such a large and sophisticated data exchange system, Auchan’s platform team required solutions that could accelerate and automate certain processes.
Auchan currently uses Elastic and Google Cloud for primary data storage and visualization and has developed a new application to monitor the flow of information through its backend systems. At the same time, Dataflow and Pub/Sub help with ingestion from origin points into Elastic. Auchan benefits from the tight integration between Elastic and Google Cloud solutions.
"There’s strong, proven collaboration between Elastic and Google Cloud, which validated our decision to adopt solutions from both companies," says Jeremy. "For example, the template Google Cloud created to optimize Dataflow for Elasticsearch greatly streamlined our work. We went from spending a lot of time on managing our infrastructure to using Elastic as a service on Google Cloud. It makes a huge difference."
Auchan also uses Google Kubernetes Engine and Cloud Functions to further optimize data management and analytics and improve performance across its 500 applications. This, in addition to the collaboration with Elastic, has enabled the company’s data flow analysts to work almost entirely in its data exchange platform to push data without the need for virtual machines or other infrastructure elements.
In the first three months since migrating to the Elastic and Google Cloud environment, Auchan has already lowered its costs to data management and analysis costs while accelerating data processing speeds.
"Since we started Elastic Observability with Google Cloud, we don’t have to worry because we know the solutions work so well and can scale to support any project we need," says Jeremy. "We can now focus entirely on our core business and be more strategic in how we enable Auchan to best serve its customers."
Next-gen 'phygital' experiences
Auchan has improved experiences across its internal teams by democratizing data and the tools needed to enable data-driven decisions. Now, it is working to leverage Google Cloud solutions such as BigQuery and machine learning technologies alongside Elastic to expand its data exchange platform to internal teams such as IT, Finance, and Marketing departments.
The advanced infrastructure, network, and data solutions improve customer experience as shoppers move between the company’s physical and digital stores. By integrating experiences at more than 600 physical stores with digital services available through any customer touchpoint, Auchan is advancing ‘phygital’ experiences that help it stand out further from other retailers.
"We are still in the early stages of our cloud transformation. We have a lot more opportunities to get even more benefits out of IT, especially when it comes to how we manage and analyze data," says Jeremy. "We will continue to strengthen our customer relationships by delivering optimized omnichannel experiences and using Elastic and Google Cloud technologies."
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