Midwest Grocer Turns Shopper Data Into Sales

Customer Success

Pythian helps Schnucks harness power of analytics 

Technology has long been a priority for Schnuck Markets, Inc., a leading Midwest supermarket retailer headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. For years, the company has leveraged G Suite and Chromebooks across their 100+ store footprint to save time, improve customer service, and facilitate collaboration among their more than 14,000 teammates. They’ve invested in a fiber-rich infrastructure, launched a customer loyalty app, and even leveraged robotics to track out-of-stock items and accurate prices on store shelves.  

The next logical step in their journey? Robust data insights to drive stronger decision-making. Pythian’s data scientists helped Schnucks develop a machine learning model to predict shopper likelihood to buy certain products. 

Overview

To launch their analytics initiative, Schnucks had to: 

  • Organize their data. 
    The grocer had robust customer and purchasing data, but to make it usable they needed to inventory, segment, and store this information efficiently. They also needed to adopt formal data governance protocols. 
  • Understand staffing requirements. 
    Leadership knew emphasizing analytics would require different competencies in the internal Data & Analytics group, as well as outside expertise. 
  • Start strong.
    Quick wins are key for high visibility initiatives. A proof of concept would show stakeholders the potential within company data and create an appetite for ongoing insights. 

Schnucks’ impressive commitment to technology, including the ability to feed real-time data into an analytic platform, helped jumpstart their efforts. However, they knew unleashing the value of their data would take time and effort. Starting off strong and building momentum were important. 
 
A 12-week proof of concept was the answer, with Schnucks and Pythian working side-by-side. This structure enabled the in-house team to see Google Cloud in action and learn from Pythian. It helped validate their approach and determine the roles and skills necessary to upskill the in-house analytics team. 

What we did

  • Helped the grocer to: 
    • Set the right incentive strategy. Pythian’s data scientists helped Schnucks develop a machine learning model to predict shopper likelihood to buy certain products. These insights drove other campaign parameters 
    • Launch in the cloud. The modern, scalable Google Cloud platform gave Schnucks computing power and ease-of-use. It offered far more flexibility than creating a custom, on-premise solution 
    • Test and learn. The 12-week proof of concept gave the Schnucks team the opportunity to learn the platform and absorb Pythian’s analytic approach in a collaborative environment 
  • Worked quickly to launch the proof of concept. This included: 
    • Building an algorithmic, machine learning model in Google Cloud. The model predicts the likelihood a customer will buy certain products, based on their individual shopping history 
    • Identifying Own Brand products to recommend to each customer, based on their unique results in the model 
    • Distributing coupons, special offers, and other promotions to the test group during each week of the 12-week campaign, via Schnucks Rewards, the company’s loyalty program (the control group received no recommendations or incentives) 

Technologies used

  • Google Cloud 
  • Cloud ML Engine
  • Natural Language API
  • BigQuery
  • Pub/Sub
  • Google Cloud Storage
  • Cloud Functions
  • Cloud Build
  • Cloud Composer
  • Dataflow
  • Cloud Key Management
  • Secret Manager
  • Stackdriver/Cloud Monitoring
  • Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)
  • JupyterLab Notebook
  • Scikit-learn machine learning model

Key Outcomes

As a business stakeholder, Pythian’s ability to drive business results was impressive. They were all about bringing value to our customers, and consequently to Schnucks. It was amazing.

– Nico Cattaneo, VP Merchandising Solutions, Schnucks


Increased demand. The 12-week proof of concept clearly demonstrated the potential of data-driven programs. It generated a measurable boost in Own Brand sales and reactivated 1,200 lapsed customers. 


Improved competitive position. With Google Cloud’s agility, scalability, and robust features, Schnucks now has a platform to close the tech gap with larger grocery chains. They’re also armed with data insights to show their own customers new ways to eat well and save money.


Roadmap for the future. Going forward, Schnucks has a strategic partner in Pythian, as well as a clear plan for where to leverage this outside expertise and when to hire and train in-house talent. 

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