4–7 Nov 2019
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Dude, where's my yogurt? Algorithms and competition in UK retail

Oscar Barlow (Infinity Works)
11:3512:15 Thursday, 7 November 2019
Location: Hall A6

Who is this presentation for?

  • Data engineers, engineering managers, and data scientists




The UK groceries market is tough. Margins are narrow, and that means it’s a volume sales game. To compete effectively, you’ve got to offer a product range that’s as good as or better than your competitors—because if a customer can’t buy this or that favored product as part of his or her weekly shop, you don’t just lose out on that sale, you lose out on the whole basket.

Infinity Works built a system for a major UK retailer that allows it to compare its product range against its competitors’, incorporating an algorithm that scores products in terms of their similarity to each other. By reviewing the results of the algorithm, the company’s clients users can determine which product categories they are strong or weak in as compared to their competitors. This allows the business to make data-driven commercial decisions about pricing, about new product lines to introduce, and about which products to drop.

Oscar Barlow walks you through the challenges Infinity Works overcame in the project. An important consideration includes being smart about what data you submit to your algorithm; just because you have it all doesn’t mean you need to run it all through. You need to wrangle algorithm output so it’s suitable for users to review and decide what to show when you have hundreds of millions of results. And of course, on a conceptual level, you need to know how the algorithm actually works.

Prerequisite knowledge

  • A basic understanding of cloud architecture, SQL, distributed computing, and basic arithmetic

What you'll learn

  • Discover the main challenges in this case study and how Infinity Works overcame them
Photo of Oscar Barlow

Oscar Barlow

Infinity Works

Oscar Barlow is a senior consultant at Infinity Works. He has been a philosopher, marketer, and filmmaker. He’s seen all of IMDb’s top 250 movies, and once built a boat more or less because people told him he couldn’t.

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