Financial and Retail Conference on Analytics – FAR Con

In my role at SetSight I live in data, specifically retail data. SetSight is a SaaS based retail data intelligence platform that transforms retailer and supplier data into insights. Behind the scenes that means we ingest large amounts of data and spit it back to our clients via reports that are triggered from events of one kind or another. It would be fair to label it as a rather traditional approach to retail software solutions or BI.

Certainly we offer other differentiators to our clients; one recent feature is end-to-end automated ingestion of weekly and daily data direct from a large Minneapolis based retailer into our systems. That’s an example with our developers have saved suppliers and rep firms weeks of employee time as the other option has been manual. While it is a solid revenue generator with extremely high customer opt-ins it also saves time and money around data quality and it allows our customers to focus on what they do best which is increase retail sales for their brands. However, as fun and “API cool” as that is it still holds true that real growth planned on our product roadmap is to extend the ability to drive results from data and do so on a larger scale.

That’s where analytics come into play and can change retail and SetSight. Yesterday I attended FAR Con (Financial and Retail Conference on Analytics) at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management and besides being an excellent event it also showcased the growth of this field. Several years ago I attended a conference put on by MinneAnalytics at the Medtronic campus and in those few years you can see the maturity and changes in these areas. My initial assessment is the FAR Con was more focused on the “why” and “what” that analytics brings to the business then in the past. And the sections dealing with the “how” were also less focused on vertical vendor solutions and included more content on developer level capabilities through open source technologies which brings such joy to the software engineering portion of my brain. I think it also speaks to the change in how people approach working with analytics and areas like #bigdata.

My personal highlights have to start with Doug Berg, the CEO of TrackIf, and his session called “Personalization Via Retail Analytics: Stop Guessing, Start Asking”. Doug’s session was essentially on why retail ecommerce needs a solution like TrackIf. Prior to this I hadn’t known about TrackIf but after leaving I was on board with their mission and product; the best compliment I have for them right now is that it just makes sense. I’m very intrigued with the opportunities and solutions that TrackIf can tackle.

Another presenter that killed it was Armin Kakas and “Open Source Analytics for Smarter Retail Pricing Strategies”; Armin is a Pricing and Analytics stud at Best Buy and besides being easily identifiable as intelligent and humorous also provided a great session on the challenges around pricing in a retail environment. The session didn’t align to my current role as leader of tech product but as any MBA graduate will tell you price is one of the 4 P’s and I learned a bit from Armin’s 45 minutes.

Of interests were a few sessions on Cassandra which while being high-level was another good source of information. Cassandra is so often referenced and its not in our tech stack at SetSight as we use another solution for our NoSQL needs. I don’t see us needing Cassandra unless we have scaling issues and like anyone in growth businesses I hope we see some scaling issues.

I also caught a session on R and connected with Ravi Bapna from the Carlson School as we have some shared contacts.

All in all a great day and a great conference. A big thanks to MinneAnalytics for putting on such a great conference for the local community.

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