July 8, 2014, 1:41 PM

Build.com uses ‘big data’ to build revenue

Managing multiple streams of data through a cloud-based business intelligence system from Birst, the B2B and retail e-commerce company has sharply increased revenue from targeted marketing campaigns.

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Build.com Inc. knows a lot about the tools needed to build better kitchens and bathrooms, and with a new Internet-based business intelligence system it now also knows more about how to build revenue through marketing campaigns targeting contractors as well as consumers based on their interests.

“We’re more proactive, using business intelligence to move us forward,” says Russell Lobban, director of business intelligence and customer analytics.

In one recent example of that, Build mailed its paper catalog to a targeted list of recipients rather than to a randomly selected list. “We received a 75% to 80% lift in catalog revenue,” Lobban says.

Build is using a cloud or Internet-based business intelligence management tool from Birst Inc., which it deployed in early 2013.

Birst pulls in data on e-mail and search marketing campaigns, web clickstreams and conversion rates, and sales on Build’s nine e-commerce sites as well as third-party e-marketplaces, among other information, and then provides dashboard reports for Build’s marketing and merchandising teams. For example, “when we send e-mail, we can see who got it, how many e-mails were opened and how many times they clicked,” Lobban says. Combined with data from other marketing campaigns and sales records across its own sites as well as e-marketplaces, the Birst dashboard provides ongoing reports that recommend particular marketing campaigns and merchandising offers targeted at individual customers as well as customer segments, including business customers in such groups as kitchen designers, plumbers, electricians and roofing contractors, Lobban says.

Before Build deployed Birst last year, about 80 employees involved in marketing and merchandising spent several hours every day pulling less useful data reports from a SQL database. Build now works with a three-person data analytics team, but it enables 150 or more marketing and merchandising personnel to log into Birst to get reports, Lobban says. He adds that most of Build’s entire workforce, or about 350 out of its total 400, use the Birst data, including in customer service as well as marketing and merchandising.

Many Build employees, including customer service reps as well as marketing and merchandising professionals, now receive daily reports that recommend which customers or groups of customers to pitch with particular products in promotional campaigns and cross-selling efforts.

The company is also learning additional ways to use Birst, and is looking to hire more data scientists, Lobban says. Last month, for example, Lobban himself initiated a way to use Birst data in an effort to prevent repeat online customers from defecting to another online seller. By pulling data from multiple sources, including how customers have shopped online and responded to marketing campaigns, Build is working on a new program to lure with targeted offers customers whose recent activity indicates they may be headed to another merchant for their repeat purchases. Although it’s too soon to say how that project will work out, Lobban says, based on early responses, he’s expecting to win back at least 10% to 20% of such customers.

Build is No. 79 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, which ranks companies on their annual web sales. In addition to Build.com, which features all of its home improvement product lines, it also operates eight niche product sites: FaucetDirect.com, Faucet.com, HandleSets.com, LightingDirect.com, LightingShowplace.com, VentingDirect.com, PullsDirect.com and FloorMall.com.

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