Pets Place digs deep into data with Fivetran

The garden and pet products retail chain IJsvogel Retail democratizes and strengthens data management across its brands, allowing for better business and operations decisions

Key results

  • Established a simple unified way of managing business data
  • Accelerated time to market from weeks to minutes
  • Improved data quality and provided effective quality assurance

Data stack

Fivetran Connectors: Salesforce, MongoDB 

Data Platform: BigQuery

Business Intelligence Platform: Looker

IJsvogel Retail is a Dutch pet and garden products chain that serves the Netherlands and Belgium. The company has nearly 130 years of experience that started with one brand, Boerenbond, focused on supplying garden, home and outdoor life products. 40 years ago, the company expanded to provide pet supplies, under the brand Pets Place, the largest of its kind in the Netherlands.

IJsvogel Retail has more than 1,600 employees serving 180 stores and more than 800 wholesale customers. Its extensive reach relies on an omnichannel strategy and the company is planning to use its improved data picture to extend customer reach and focus on building loyalty programs. 

Making sense of disparate data in retail

With so many stores as well as individual and wholesale customers, IJsvogel was faced with a lot of disparate data that was not handled successfully or leveraged to inform business decisions. In fact, old data and logfiles used to be removed instead of compiled and analyzed. 

“We had a need for a big data lake,” says Herman Holterman, CTO at IJsvogel Retail. “We didn't have a data warehouse, but we had a huge enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation that was 15 years old with lots of custom code. The old implementation with the POS system meant that every night the local database from each of our 180 stores would be synced back to our head office and then QlikView would create a PDF report.”

This solution was not good or fast enough for the business and the company’s small IT department found it challenging to “sell” new applications to the rest of the company and increase adoption. However, Holterman was determined to promote the idea that IJsvogel needed large amounts of reliable, stable data to be able to make better business decisions.

“I wanted metadata and ease of use. And I wanted to democratize the data so that everybody could look at it and see where the numbers came from and what the linearity was,” says Holterman. “So instead of building a huge on-premises implementation, I was looking at different solutions and started using BigQuery. We were pushing all this data into the cloud, but it was tricky to get data from Saas to BigQuery. This is where Fivetran came in.”

Creating an accurate picture of operations and customers

Fivetran enables IJsvogel to pull all its data into a single data warehouse, creating one source of truth for all operations as well as for customer behaviors. Standardized, real-time data provides the company with reliable information and allows it to plan its operations accordingly.

“The data is there,” says Holterman. “It's spot on. It's reliable. The ingress parts, the pipeline, it’s where we needed to be. And now, IT has become a business enabler with the integration platform implementation. We can connect systems easily and adapt to the wishes of the business. If the CEO sees an opportunity to operate with another sales channel, all I say now is: ‘when do you want to start?’ We can be fast and it no longer comes at a huge cost.”

Using Fivetran means that IT can have an easier job, save time and accelerate time to market. When a new solution is implemented, it only requires a few clicks, saving weeks of the engineering team’s time and allowing them to focus on the larger picture instead of maintaining pipelines. Managed, automated data flows can now make this possible.

“My team can now focus on what really matters, which is creating value for the business,” says Holterman. “And that’s a big deal for us. What’s more, with the new architecture, the setup, using best practices and open-source standards, we can attract more talent.” 

Data awareness for business growth 

Speeding up processes and making real-time data available in an instant is a far cry from having to wait 24 hours for a report on what happened the day before. Through better information access and flow, Fivetran is helping IJsvogel Retail leverage data for its business and operations decisions. The new architecture is focused on actionability, positively impacting risk management, business planning, operational efficiency, and infrastructure management. The democratization of data means that all business units can use the same information for their own exploration and utilize it more proactively and creatively. 

“I can’t stress enough the data quality that we have now and the linear progression of it,” says Holterman. “We can see why a specific number is in a report and where it came from. We can see that there was a deletion and where it was last seen. The quality assurance has improved so much since we started using Fivetran, and that’s a real lifesaver.” 

Far from throwing away old log files, storage and data like it used to, IJSvogel Retail is now keeping it all because there is no knowing what questions it can help answer in the future. The business has become so data-aware that even considering new software to purchase includes checking if data can be extracted from it.

Now, planning for the future is simpler and the company can be more ambitious. IJsvogel has been transforming from a wholesaler to a retailer and, with the use of store cookies, it can identify purchases and link those to specific customers. This means that marketing is now able to work on customer segmentation, create personas, link them to Salesforce and focus on building customer loyalty. But when it comes to future developments, Holterman doesn’t want to stop any time soon. 

“We are revamping the platform and we want to make the data even more actionable. We want to really leverage it and start playing around with machine learning and AI. And what I see on the Fivetran end is that there are a lot more connectors. I'm really happy about that. It will make our life even easier.”

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