A “new wave of software” is helping retailers improve the shopping experience, report Rachael King and Steven Rosenbush in The Wall Street Journal (3/14/13). The software enables databases that “make use of a variety of computing techniques, such as linking together clusters of low-cost computers or putting storage and processing onto a single chip, which reduces the time it takes to fetch data.” The result is an unstructured and therefore more complete view of shopping behavior.
This differs from conventional databases that use “columns and rows to show the relationship among records” and cannot “handle the large volume of data being created by the rise of social media, mobile devices and other technologies.” AutoZone is among the retailers using unstructured data “to customize its global supply chain at the store level.” Each AutoZone store can only stock around 40,000 items out of the million the retailer has in its inventory, “making the odds pretty high that a potential customer will walk out … empty handed.”
To reduce such odds, AutoZone is using NuoDB to adjust the merchandise mix “based on … the types of cars driven by people living” near each of its 5,000 stores, for example. Shutterstock is using similar technology, HDFS, to improve the online shopping experience by analyzing “data such as where visitors to the site place their cursors and how long they hover over an image before they make a purchase … The market for such databases” totaled “$1.22 billion last year, and is expected to more than double by 2014,” according to Wikibon.