May 24, 2012, 12:14 PM

A Sears subsidiary offers retailers data analytics services

MetaScale has announced a partnership with another data-crunching company, Utopia.

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Utopia, Inc., which cleans, analyzes and archives data for retailers and other companies, announced it is working with MetaScale, a subsidiary of Sears Holdings Corp. that bills itself as a big data company. MetaScale aims to make sense of large amounts of data rapidly using the open-source Hadoop software framework, a community-grown system originally conceived of at Google Inc. Sears is No. 8 in the 2012 Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

The alliance will allow retailers to better understand how consumers are interacting with their web stores and respond immediately with upsell offers and other promotions before a shopper leaves a site, says Utopia’s chief technology officer Peter Aynsley-Hartwell.

He says Utopia clients increasingly seek to include in customer profiles unstructured data, such as the comments a customer may type into a review or a chat with a customer service agent. The increase in data being analyzed began to pose storage and processing problems for the company. MetaScale will help by providing Hadoop software and services, which are remotely hosted, an approach increasingly called cloud computing, Aynsley-Hartwell says. Utopia brings the skills for extracting and analyizing data, he says.

Sears Holdings Corp. began using Hadoop about two years ago, says chief technology officer Phil Shelley, who is also CEO of MetaScale. As Sears collected and analyzed more data, the company developed expertise in the field, Shelley says.  That led Sears to launch MetaScale about five months ago and to offer its services to other retailers, as well as companies in other industries.

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