In a bid to improve its ability to execute advanced analyses and enhance its capacity for modelling, Makro has acquired the SAS Visual Data Discovery solution.

With transaction data from its 13 stores countrywide, more than 2-million customers and more than 90 000 items, Makro needed the capabilities of a leading analytics tool to drill down into its data, and gain better insight into its business and its customers.
In 2000/2001, Makro implemented ERP Retail and CRM systems as well as a data warehouse, believing this technological leap would position it at the leading edge of retail information management.
"The ERP and BI software did not have built-in modelling or predictive analytics functionality and we were unable to automate more advanced analyses such as customer segmentation, target group selection and campaign evaluation.  As a result, this work had become a tedious and error prone manual process for our analysts," says Amie Venter, business analyst at Makro.
In January 2009, Makro embarked on a proof of concept project with SAS Institute involving the implementation of SAS Visual Data Discovery on a trial basis to test out its capabilities.
"One of the reasons for going with SAS was that they were prepared to put their money where their mouth was. They gave us a two month trial period with the software with no strings attached, to prove its capabilities," says Venter.
SAS not only provided the software for the two month trial period, but also an experienced consultant and 80 hours of free consulting to facilitate training and problem solving, and to make sure the project progressed smoothly. SAS Implementation partner, Qinfo, was involved in the initiative from conception and supported the Makro team through the trial period and subsequent “go-live” phase.
The expectation of the software was to deliver an agreed list of analyses, reports and predictive models which Makro was struggling to produce using its existing systems. After the two-month trial period the software had more than met requirements and had delivered substantial benefits in terms of shortening the time-to-results cycle from days to hours.
Makro sells from its inventory of more than 90 000 SKU’s to its customer base generating more than 14 million invoices yearly. This data is collected from the Point Of Sales systems and warehoused for analysis, allowing Makro to monitor and analyse various aspects of customer behaviour at any point in time.
"With SAS we can, for example, use our data for customer segmentation, allowing us to break down our business by customer segment and enabling greater focus in terms of store management and marketing effort. This segmentation process – formerly a tedious week-long affair – has now been automated on SAS allowing us to walk away and leave it running. The results are available in a few hours," adds Venter.
After the trial period with the Visual Data Discovery (VDD) suite, Makro adopted it as the final solution and signed a one-year license with a view on annual renewal.
Makro is one of the first South African retailers to adopt this tailored solution.
The SAS Visual Data Discovery solution is powered by JMP visualisation software and combines the benefits of a SAS analytics solution with added visual and discovery capabilities. VDD provides a simple point and click interface to work in, still providing the same trusted analytic capabilities of SAS. With more advanced visual and reporting capabilities, SAS Visual Data Discovery provides insights faster and more clearly than before and is able to handle large disparate forms of data.
"After seeing the amount of data and level of analytics Makro wanted to work with, SAS decided that the new Visual Data Discovery was the right way to go for Makro,” says Zoe Golden, Retail Industry Business Development Manager: SAS Commercial.  “Because VDD is powered by a visualisation component, the reporting interface is far more interactive and dynamic, and in turn would make it easier for Makro’s analysts to gain insight into its data, make predictions on it, analyse customer buying patterns, and then translate these reports into better business acumen, down to the most micro level.
“Our Implementation Partner, Qinfo, once again facilitated the smooth transition from “Proof of Concept” to Production system, and credit must go to them for their commitment and hard work.”
SAS' ease of use and the ability to import large data extracts from Makro's existing data warehouse meant a simple and painless implementation, and resulted in the solution being up and running within a few days.
"Since full implementation in March 2009, we have been impressed with the system’s capabilities and are able to analyse country-wide data down to the smallest detail, based on store, invoice, item and customer. The solution has met our expectations and needs," ends Venter.