Q&A: Zulily’s Tech Guru Gaurav Tandon on How to Use IT to Tackle Customers’ Demands

Q&A: Zulily’s Tech Guru Gaurav Tandon on How to Use IT to Tackle Customers’ Demands

juliet.vanwage…

Mon, 01/07/2019 – 09:49

In a world where many retailers struggle to keep up with tech-driven customer demands, such as mobile sales and personalization, online retailer zulily has made it part of its DNA.

Gaurav Tandon, zulily’s director of data science and machine learning. Photo courtesy of zulily.

Gaurav Tandon, zulily‘s director of data science and machine learning, notes that embracing tech at its core allows the retailer, which saw net sales of 1.6 billion in 2017, to be “different than commoditized search and transactional ecommerce.”

Zulily seeks to create an entertaining and engaging “browse and discover” shopping experience online through both its website and app, and although the customer sees a seamless experience, it takes a lot of technical complexity, says Tandon.

In fact, the company launches 9,000 products through more than 100 sales events a day. Because the company launches a new assortment of products daily across a variety of product categories, every day is different and, according to Tandon, requires flexibility in all parts of the business.

“The unique business model allows us to be nimble while at scale: We are constantly testing and serving up new merchandise and experiences to deliver a great customer experience,” Tandon says.

So, what does it take for the modern online retailer to stay up with both customer demands and the technology that can best deliver an optimal shopping experience? BizTech spoke with Tandon to get his take on how to solve the challenges that come with embracing emerging tech.

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BIZTECH: How have customer expectations changed in the past few years for online retailers?

TANDON: We’re in an interesting time in retail right now. The largest customer demand for online retailers is delivering to our customers a personalized experience on mobile and at scale. At zulily, we’ve been investing heavily in and iterating on a number of programs that deliver personalized experiences to our millions of members, including our 6.6 million active customers.

One example is our mobile push strategy, which brings our customer timely, personalized touchpoints on the go. In 2017, we shifted the content in mobile push notifications to include notifications that were personalized both in terms of content and with context to the customer’s local time. With the changes we’ve been able to drive demand from mobile push notifications by 49 percent year over year in the first quarter of 2018.

BIZTECH: How has the need for more personalization changed IT needs for zulily?

TANDON: Though seamlessness and simplicity are what the customer sees, from a technical perspective, there are many dynamic layers at play, which to me is a key machine learning problem. That’s why we have made two changes: First, we centralized our data science and machine learning team, to support all parts of the business.

Second, for past two years we have focused on moving to a self-service model for business-critical data about our customers, vendors and overall business. Every team needs real-time, accurate and actionable data, and that data is the cornerstone of our business, so it’s very important to us. Every employee uses data to do their job well and accomplish our mission to deliver something special every day. We’ve done this change by building our own marketing software and models that support our unique business.

VIDEO: CDW’s Aaron Lagowski describe a typical Envisioning Workshop, which helps retailers prepare for new technology and IoT.

BIZTECH: What about mobile?

TANDON: Zulily launched our first app in 2011, seeing mobile as a key channel for the modern shopper to purchase, engage with a retailer and discover new brands and products.

As of the fourth quarter of 2018, 72 percent of all orders placed on zulily are via mobile. We achieved that rate of conversion on mobile by both building a great mobile app experience and by investing in nonconventional mobile experiences like Facebook Messenger as a key mobile channel that customers use to communicate with customer service, track their orders and even discover products. It’s a valuable way for zulily and customers to connect and establish a relationship; from 2016 to 2017 alone, zulily’s active customers who used Messenger grew 57 percent year over year and by February 2018, zulily saw monthly user activity on Messenger grow by 74 percent.

We’ve achieved this kind of success by continuously investing in programs that ensure an optimized approach to mobile, and constantly testing and trying new programs on new channels.

BIZTECH: What is zulily implementing in terms of emerging tech or underlying infrastructure in order to meet these new needs?

TANDON: One of our core tenets is having a bias to build. And that’s really true – we build many of the tools our merchandisers, operations/logistics and marketing teams use every single day. But we also partner with a number of cloud vendors to make those tools easy to use.

For data science and personalization specifically, we chose Google Cloud because it gave us a seamless way to power the core of our business: a customized, seamless shopping experience that’s entertaining, fun and engaging. It’s all about giving our customers the thrill of the find and recommending items that would interest them.

BIZTECH: Can you speak specifically to what data science and machine learning can do to meet these demands?

TANDON: We, as an industry, are still very early in implementing data science and machine learning at scale, but what we are seeing at zulily is it’s helping us acquire, engage with and ultimately retain customers by doing three things: Delivering experiences personalized to each person; predicting which customers are most likely to be our most high-value, so we can allocate resources accurately; and growing with each customer, so we are constantly testing and trying new services and products.

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BIZTECH: How have new IT demands had an impact on staffing or training?

TANDON: Emerging technology will always have an impact on the way an organization hires and trains. We’re seeing interest in really investing in and learning more about data science and machine learning, and how every team can implement elements of data science into every program. As we’ve seen with our existing programs, even implementing basic machine learning principles can immediately start a big, positive change.

But as an industry, we’re only at the tip of the iceberg of what the technology can do. So, we are continuing to hire technologists and engineers who are passionate about data science’s possibilities, who are curious and creative problem solvers, and who are interested in having an immediate impact in serving millions of customers around the world. As for our existing tech talent, we continue to improve and iterate on our current initiatives, always driving for a better way to serve our customers and partners.

BIZTECH: Is there one key piece of technology that you feel online retailers can use to stay ahead of the curve?

TANDON: There isn’t a silver bullet for retailers looking to stay ahead of the curve, but I do think one key way to invest in technology is to build teams that prize flexibility and creative problem solving. Machine learning problems take thinkers who can think outside of the box, understand larger business goals and ultimately, have the technical chops to sift through highly complex models. Without a culture that lets people experiment, no single technology can help an organization thrive.

In 2019, Tech Must Win Back Public Trust – Or Sink

From revelations that Twitter, Facebook and YouTube helped Russian intelligence manipulate western elections, to Google’s record $5 billion antitrust fine for misusing Android, 2018 has been a year of scandal for tech’s big leaguers, that has eroded trust in its power for good.

Poor performances from CEOs in front of cameras and congressmen and women hasn’t helped. Mark Zuckerberg’s dead-eyed deflections are the go-to in this department–in the words of Kara Swisher, he and his company “have been working humanity’s last nerve for far too long now–but there are plenty other lowlights that the industry’s key players should strive to avoid in 2019 (Jack Dorsey, here’s looking at you).

“Over these 12 months our relationship with tech has both been darker and more muddy because it becomes increasingly clear that all the bright and shiny positive potentials of tech are at the risk of being darkened by forced misuse of data, manipulation, supervision, no respect of the citizen, no respect of individual rights,” EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager told Britain’s BBC this week.

The EU’s GDPR law has been decried in Silicon Valley, a place where government intervention into business is about as welcome as a kick to the groin. For tech to win back public trust, its luminaries must shed the idea they exist on a higher plain that states, stop breaking things before they get caught, and realize that people on the street–their users–often now equate tech companies with the robber barons of the Second Industrial Revolution, at the end of the 19th century.

Facebook usership among teens is in decline. More and more western users are facing up to a life without social media. The question is no longer if people can live without it, but how and when they will give up. That should worry everybody in the industry. History is littered with firms and sectors that sat still on declining numbers (just ask Yahoo, or Dell, or hundreds of other flashes in the digital pan).

If tech’s biggest companies can work with legislators and avoid the scandals that have hit them hard in 2018, 2019 could be a year in which the public speaks eagerly about adopting new technology, rather than first asking questions about its public benefit. If not, expect the clamor for Facebook, Google and co to be broken up to grow.

The post In 2019, Tech Must Win Back Public Trust – Or Sink appeared first on Red Herring.

How IT can regain ownership of cloud computing

At the board of directors’ meeting, the CEO is presenting the forecast for the next year. This time, he or she is discussing the use of cloud-based technology to launch a new product, including the ability to use this technology as a “force multiplier” and a platform to launch new products and/or services that will change the industry, increase shareholder value, and just make the company current.

The CIO is just sitting there, looking sad. It seems that many businesses have seen what we’ve known for years: that cloud computing is a game-changing technology that will become strategic to many types of businesses. Because it’s strategic, the control of the cloud strategy is removed from the CIOs (and IT in general) and placed in the hands of the CEOs, COOs, CMOs, and CFOs. How did CIOs let that happen, given their longstanding desire to be strategic?

To read this article in full, please click here

As Cyberthreats Evolve, Next-Generation Solutions Prove Critical to Security

As Cyberthreats Evolve, Next-Generation Solutions Prove Critical to Security

juliet.vanwage…

Fri, 12/21/2018 – 12:07

Keeping your company’s data safe no means just securing your network. The endpoint is now the main target for hackers.

“It’s very different to create defense for networks today because everything is so ephemeral – Software as a Service, cloud computing and mobility in general,” says Tom Kellermann, chief cybersecurity officer for Carbon Black and former member of the Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th President of the United States. “Traditional network security is being bypassed by cybercriminals who are specifically exploiting the endpoint.”

Enter next-generation endpoint security solutions. They have the sophistication to quickly detect, defend and mitigate high-level attacks, using technology such as data mining and machine learning.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: How businesses can solve cybersecurity’s people problem.

First-Generation vs. Next-Generation Security Solutions

As new threats have emerged, so has the need for a new security solution. Anti-virus, at more than 20 years old, works by keeping a library of threat signatures to combat. However, it has become too easy for hackers to morph signatures so that they are undetectable. They have moved on to other schemes too, such as fileless software, which “embeds itself into an existing file and doesn’t look like a file download, so anti-virus software thinks it’s something benign,” according to Jon Oltsik, senior principal analyst for Enterprise Strategy Group.

In a presentation for RSA’s 2016 conference, Oltsik explored the history of threat detection, showcasing how modern endpoint solutions employ innovative strategies like new types of algorithms, process isolation and sandboxing, behavioral heuristics, and tight integration with threat intelligence. For example, machine learning can track the behavior of users as well as file anomalies, and can detect the properties of fileless malicious software and prevent it from being executed.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Why your business should be wary of password spray attacks.

Squatters, Hoppers and Retaliators: New Cyberthreats

These innovations are greatly needed, as the latest reports on cybercrime show that today’s cybercriminals are trying new tactics for bigger profits.

“Adversaries are a lot more savvy,” says Kellermann. “They realized that stealing money isn’t the most lucrative thing they can do. Understanding a corporate plan or knowing when one company is going to buy another one and you can short a stock – that’s much more interesting.”

A recent example is the Marriott Hotels breach. Management revealed that hackers had been illegally hiding in the system since 2014, and weren’t just looking to steal credit card numbers. They were lying in wait for specific, high-level guest information such as passport numbers and travel plans.

“Island hopping” is another tactic that’s becoming more common. Criminals break into a secondary target first to reach their primary target. The result is that more companies are being used as unwitting collaborators to access customers and partners.

“You have to be able to discern lateral movement, and assume you’re dealing with a crew, not just one person,” says Kellermann. “Your guard dogs should not bark or growl. The louder you are, the more likely you are to deal with a destructive attack.”

In a survey, Carbon Black found that 51 percent of incident responders saw cybercriminals retaliate when they were detected, wreaking havoc like deleting security log data and stealing infrastructure plans.

Cybersecurity-report_EasyTarget.jpg

Choosing and Using Next-Generation Endpoint Solutions

Most of the major AV vendors, like Symantec, IBM and Microsoft, have added next-generation detection and response solutions to their security products. When you add new players and plenty of startups, businesses have lots of choices available.

“The biggest thing to look for when choosing a solution is a very high detection rate,” says Oltsik. “You want a product to be as close to set-it-and-forget-it as possible, and you don’t have to do anything. This could include hiring a third party to manage detection and response.”

Kellermann recommends looking at MITRE ATT&CK, an independent organization that tests security solutions. However, not all companies provide their software to the organization to review.

Oltsik reminds companies to cast a wide net, and to invest in the search as the security environment becomes more complex.

“Put ample resources into researching new products,” Oltsik says. “If you’re a smaller company, there are products designed for that environment that are easier to use, more cloud-based and less intrusive,” he says. “On the other hand, you shouldn’t dismiss the big brands. They’ve done a lot of innovation.”

As Cyberthreats Evolve, Next-Generation Solutions Prove Critical to Security

As Cyberthreats Evolve, Next-Generation Solutions Prove Critical to Security

juliet.vanwage…

Fri, 12/21/2018 – 12:07

Keeping your company’s data safe no means just securing your network. The endpoint is now the main target for hackers.

“It’s very different to create defense for networks today because everything is so ephemeral – Software as a Service, cloud computing and mobility in general,” says Tom Kellermann, chief cybersecurity officer for Carbon Black and former member of the Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th President of the United States. “Traditional network security is being bypassed by cybercriminals who are specifically exploiting the endpoint.”

Enter next-generation endpoint security solutions. They have the sophistication to quickly detect, defend and mitigate high-level attacks, using technology such as data mining and machine learning.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: How businesses can solve cybersecurity’s people problem.

First-Generation vs. Next-Generation Security Solutions

As new threats have emerged, so has the need for a new security solution. Anti-virus, at more than 20 years old, works by keeping a library of threat signatures to combat. However, it has become too easy for hackers to morph signatures so that they are undetectable. They have moved on to other schemes too, such as fileless software, which “embeds itself into an existing file and doesn’t look like a file download, so anti-virus software thinks it’s something benign,” according to Jon Oltsik, senior principal analyst for Enterprise Strategy Group.

In a presentation for RSA’s 2016 conference, Oltsik explored the history of threat detection, showcasing how modern endpoint solutions employ innovative strategies like new types of algorithms, process isolation and sandboxing, behavioral heuristics, and tight integration with threat intelligence. For example, machine learning can track the behavior of users as well as file anomalies, and can detect the properties of fileless malicious software and prevent it from being executed.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Why your business should be wary of password spray attacks.

Squatters, Hoppers and Retaliators: New Cyberthreats

These innovations are greatly needed, as the latest reports on cybercrime show that today’s cybercriminals are trying new tactics for bigger profits.

“Adversaries are a lot more savvy,” says Kellermann. “They realized that stealing money isn’t the most lucrative thing they can do. Understanding a corporate plan or knowing when one company is going to buy another one and you can short a stock – that’s much more interesting.”

A recent example is the Marriott Hotels breach. Management revealed that hackers had been illegally hiding in the system since 2014, and weren’t just looking to steal credit card numbers. They were lying in wait for specific, high-level guest information such as passport numbers and travel plans.

“Island hopping” is another tactic that’s becoming more common. Criminals break into a secondary target first to reach their primary target. The result is that more companies are being used as unwitting collaborators to access customers and partners.

“You have to be able to discern lateral movement, and assume you’re dealing with a crew, not just one person,” says Kellermann. “Your guard dogs should not bark or growl. The louder you are, the more likely you are to deal with a destructive attack.”

In a survey, Carbon Black found that 51 percent of incident responders saw cybercriminals retaliate when they were detected, wreaking havoc like deleting security log data and stealing infrastructure plans.

Cybersecurity-report_EasyTarget.jpg

Choosing and Using Next-Generation Endpoint Solutions

Most of the major AV vendors, like Symantec, IBM and Microsoft, have added next-generation detection and response solutions to their security products. When you add new players and plenty of startups, businesses have lots of choices available.

“The biggest thing to look for when choosing a solution is a very high detection rate,” says Oltsik. “You want a product to be as close to set-it-and-forget-it as possible, and you don’t have to do anything. This could include hiring a third party to manage detection and response.”

Kellermann recommends looking at MITRE ATT&CK, an independent organization that tests security solutions. However, not all companies provide their software to the organization to review.

Oltsik reminds companies to cast a wide net, and to invest in the search as the security environment becomes more complex.

“Put ample resources into researching new products,” Oltsik says. “If you’re a smaller company, there are products designed for that environment that are easier to use, more cloud-based and less intrusive,” he says. “On the other hand, you shouldn’t dismiss the big brands. They’ve done a lot of innovation.”

In 2019, Tech Must Win Back Public Trust – Or Sink

From revelations that Twitter, Facebook and YouTube helped Russian intelligence manipulate western elections, to Google’s record $5 billion antitrust fine for misusing Android, 2018 has been a year of scandal for tech’s big leaguers, that has eroded trust in its power for good.

Poor performances from CEOs in front of cameras and congressmen and women hasn’t helped. Mark Zuckerberg’s dead-eyed deflections are the go-to in this department–in the words of Kara Swisher, he and his company “have been working humanity’s last nerve for far too long now–but there are plenty other lowlights that the industry’s key players should strive to avoid in 2019 (Jack Dorsey, here’s looking at you).

“Over these 12 months our relationship with tech has both been darker and more muddy because it becomes increasingly clear that all the bright and shiny positive potentials of tech are at the risk of being darkened by forced misuse of data, manipulation, supervision, no respect of the citizen, no respect of individual rights,” EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager told Britain’s BBC this week.

The EU’s GDPR law has been decried in Silicon Valley, a place where government intervention into business is about as welcome as a kick to the groin. For tech to win back public trust, its luminaries must shed the idea they exist on a higher plain that states, stop breaking things before they get caught, and realize that people on the street–their users–often now equate tech companies with the robber barons of the Second Industrial Revolution, at the end of the 19th century.

Facebook usership among teens is in decline. More and more western users are facing up to a life without social media. The question is no longer if people can live without it, but how and when they will give up. That should worry everybody in the industry. History is littered with firms and sectors that sat still on declining numbers (just ask Yahoo, or Dell, or hundreds of other flashes in the digital pan).

If tech’s biggest companies can work with legislators and avoid the scandals that have hit them hard in 2018, 2019 could be a year in which the public speaks eagerly about adopting new technology, rather than first asking questions about its public benefit. If not, expect the clamor for Facebook, Google and co to be broken up to grow.

The post In 2019, Tech Must Win Back Public Trust – Or Sink appeared first on Red Herring.

YotaScale puts predictive analytics into cloud ops

Tackling increased complexity in the cloud space, startup YotaScale offers a predictive-analytics-driven platform for optimizing and managing cloud application operations.

The YotaScale Platform offers insights into cloud operations, so IT can take changing application needs into account. Services include anomaly detection, continuous optimization, predictive capacity planning, and contextual analytics such as for usage. The platform detects trends and diagnoses root causes of situations while suggesting fixes and making predictions about future usage patterns.

Underpinning YotaScale Platform is a machine learning pipeline tuned for three years on more than 500 petabytes of data across hundreds of enterprises. The platform is intended to address a series of issues:

To read this article in full, please click here