Why Machine Data Matters for Retail

Delivering a better customer experience, scaling aggressively to meet customer demands and quickly introducing services on new devices are key business goals that retailers can achieve with a properly tuned IT infrastructure. It's not surprising that technology infrastructure is increasingly becoming a key source of competitive advantage for retailers. The needs of customers have driven aggressive IT investments across physical, virtual and cloud environments.

The servers, applications, databases and networks that comprise this infrastructure generate terabytes of machine data every day—data that includes application logs, point of sale (POS) logs, server logs, virtual machine logs, message queues, web proxy logs, IPS/IDS logs and syslog. This machine data can provide important insights into key operational metrics.

Increasing online store uptime, enhancing customer experience, timely order processing, scaling infrastructure, and better customer data security are just some of the key areas that can be directly impacted by gaining operational intelligence from machine data.

Splunk Delivers Insight from Any Machine Data

Splunk is the engine for machine data. Splunk can read data from just about any source imaginable, such as application servers, web servers, custom applications, POS systems, mobile devices, virtualized servers and structured databases.

Splunk delivers real-time understanding of what's happening and deep analysis of what's happened across IT systems and infrastructure. It uses untapped machine data to identify problems, risks and opportunities and drive better decisions for IT and the business.

Typical uses cases for Splunk include application management, IT operations management, security and compliance, digital intelligence and business analytics. Below are just some examples that illustrate the ways in which retailers are using Splunk to gain new levels of operational intelligence.

Improving Online Store Performance and Uptime

Online stores are fast becoming the primary engine of growth for retailers. Any downtime or performance issues on the website can easily mean lost revenues, customer defections and negative impact on profits. Troubleshooting such issues involves getting insight across machine data coming from sources such as Linux servers, Apache web servers, databases and numerous applications. This entire infrastructure could be deployed in a physical, virtual or hybrid environment.

Splunk indexes data across all tiers of the IT environment and helps users rapidly perform root cause analysis to determine the source of the problem. A leading North American retailer is using Splunk to monitor and alert on system performance. It relies on Splunk dashboards for end-to-end visibility across their systems. When an anomaly appears, an analyst can use Splunk to drill down into the problem to determine its source and remedy it before it brings down the system and affects users.

Order Profiling and Tracing for Better Service

From the time an order is placed to the time it is fulfilled, the order goes through a number of different applications as well as different elements of the IT infrastructure. A deeper understanding of this complex order management process can lead to better business and operational efficiencies. Getting machine data visibility across the infrastructure is key to helping retailers understand transaction bottlenecks and address them in a timely manner.

For example, Staples is indexing data across their order management infrastructure to trace the order transaction path. With Splunk, they now have end-to-end monitoring across the systems traversed by a transaction rather than at an individual system level. These insights have helped Staples decrease time to resolution and reduce resources required to troubleshoot issues.

End to End Infrastructure Management

With systems and applications that span physical, virtual and cloud environments, it is imperative for retailers to have end-to-end visibility to ensure a scalable, flexible and reliable infrastructure. With Splunk, retailers have visibility across infrastructure and applications, OS and hypervisor layers through to the underlying server, storage and network hardware.

Brown Shoe, a leader in the footwear industry, is using Splunk to manage their physical and virtual infrastructure. They are indexing machine data from routers, switches, firewalls, wireless controllers and VMware View servers to gain key operational metrics. This insight is vital to helping Brown Shoe improve infrastructure performance and proactively troubleshoot issues.

“Something we couldn't have easily done before now takes five minutes to do with Splunk.”

- Brown Shoe Company

Tracking Customer Interactions to Improve Experience

Delivering a superior online experience across channels is key to a retailer's ability to drive and increase revenue. It is important for a retailer to understand how customers are interacting with the site, what steps they are following and where they are having problems. With Splunk, retailers can use machine data from applications, servers and networks that support the site to help deliver a better customer experience.

For example, Splunk is helping Tesco gain a new level of understanding of the ways in which its customers behave and interact with various aspects of the site. Using Splunk, Tesco now has real-time visibility into interactions across the full spectrum of the customer engagement process - from a customer's initial product search to the placing of an order. These insights are helping Tesco streamline its site to deliver a better customer experience, increase customer satisfaction and drive higher order volume.

Mitigating Security Risks and Ensuring Compliance

Security is a major concern for retailers, as any customer data security breaches directly lead to attrition and lost revenue. Security incidents can start anywhere across the IT infrastructure and an inability to gain visibility across machine data can expose companies to increased attacks. Splunk can help improve security posture and better protect customer data by indexing machine data generated by IPS, IDS, firewalls, proxy servers and applications, enabling retailers to search and correlate data across systems to determine the exact source of the threat.

Splunk also helps enable compliance with regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley and PCI that mandate data collection, audit trails, data storage and visibility across applications, devices and servers. For example, CVS Caremark is using Splunk to support their PCI compliance requirements including PCI DSS log, IT data, and security requirements. Using Splunk, CVS Caremark has created searches for ad hoc investigations, reports for PCI controls and alerts to automate policy compliance monitoring.

Looking for More on Splunk for Retail?

These use cases highlight just a handful of areas where Splunk can help retailers harness their machine data. Download Splunk for free today and unleash the power of machine data for your organization. Contact us and let us know how we can help you.