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A.S. Watson invests $540mn in big data to boost retail sales

A.S. Watson group (ASW) announced a partnership with Toronto-based startup Rubikloud as part of its investment in big data capabilities. The group will invest US$70 million (approximately HK$540 million) in the coming three years in big data, to further enhance customer experience and operational efficiency using machine learning and data visualisation applications.

Over the next three years, ASW will partner with Rubikloud to deploy RubiCore, the company’s data enterprise platform built for easier artificial intelligence applications plug-in, as well as two of its machine learning applications, namely ‘promotion manager’ and ‘lifecycle manager’, in ASW’s network of 13,300 retail stores across 25 Asian and European markets.

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RubiCore aims to enhance operational efficiencies within ASW, by integrating different databases from across business units and sources, into a single, elastic cloud enabled database. This exercise is expected to shorten the roll-out lead time of current and future machine learning tools by 50-80%.

Specifically, newer visualisation platforms and machine learning applications across ASW will all have access to the same data from a single location in the cloud for enhanced real-time decision making. ASW believes such a tool is crucial to excel in retail management and operations.

By utilising all corporate databases into single data architecture, it is expected that the impactful machine-learning-driven solutions provided by Rubikloud will allow tailor-made promotion strategy recommendations.

Rubikloud is a Toronto-based company, with seed round funding led by Horizon Ventures, the investment arm of local tycoon Li Ka Shing.

Malina Ngai, chief operating officer of A.S. Watson Group, sets high expectation over the big data partner appointment, “We are investing in big data amid global economic uncertainties because we believe that technology is a critical enabler for successful retailing in today’s world. With the right technology, we will be able to focus our resources, from the backend support to shop floor, on building better customer experience. Rubikloud has cutting-edge machine learning applications and their new thinking in data science is a true value-add to our well established retail experience.”

“We are thrilled to partner with a global retail leader like A.S. Watson Group. At Rubikloud we focus on applying machine learning and flexible big data architectures in practical applications, which means driving tangible business impact,” said Kerry Liu, CEO of Rubikloud.

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