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Data-driven strategy grooms dog care franchise for growth

Camp Bow Wow is growing its day care and boarding business for dogs with the help of a data-driven approach that's powered by a hybrid POS and Tableau system.

Using Tableau and data compiled from a point-of-sale (POS) system, Damien D'Emic, vice president of R&D and analytics at Camp Bow Wow, knows that Labrador retrievers are the most commonly owned dog breed in the country, and that Bella is one of the most popular dog names.

Of course, those are just fun facts produced by the data-driven strategy of the $100-million-plus pet care franchise business, D'Emic said. More importantly, the use of data analytics has helped the company financially, playing a role in rising revenues and location expansion, he said.

Founded in 2000 with one location in Denver, Camp Bow Wow now has more than 150 franchise locations across the U.S. and Canada, with dozens more in the process of opening. Offering services for dogs that include day care, boarding, grooming and training, the Westminster, Colo., company last year reported a 14% increase year over year in gross revenue -- just about seven times the growth rate of the national economy.

Integrating Tableau and POS

To collect and analyze data from the 15 million transactions processed in connection with the 670,000 dogs its franchises have cared for since D'Emic was hired in 2012, Camp Bow Wow employs a data-driven strategy powered by a hybrid system: a combination of Tableau and the POS system that he and the company's IT team put together over the last six years.

With a more than decade-long career in operations and franchise services at Dunkin' Donuts, D'Emic started as a business consultant for Camp Bow Wow. He saw that while the company already had data analysis tools, they were hard to use and weren't location-specific.

A golden retriever and a Bernese mountain dog sit in a Camp Bow Wow franchise location
Camp Bow Wow uses data analytics to help serve its canine clients.

The business intelligence (BI) and data visualization software from Tableau, in contrast, is easy to use, D'Emic said; he learned how to use it himself by watching online videos, attending conferences and using training materials.

By marrying Tableau with the revamped POS system, which also acts as a CRM environment to make reservations and track daily operations, the company was able to establish its data-driven strategy to help drive growth.

"We have gotten to the point where our Tableau interfaces with the POS data," D'Emic said. "We look at the transactional-level data. We get down to the lowest common denominator on data and get details that can help."

Data driving probability

If you can find the right metrics to look at -- distill the business down to a few numbers -- you can drive profitability and performance.
Damien D'EmicVP of R&D and analytics, Camp Bow Wow

With the help of its data-driven strategy, Camp Bow Wow brought the average revenue per franchise from $400,000 to $850,000 per year. The goal, D'Emic said, is $1 million in annual revenue per franchise, a target he says can be achieved within two years. Of course, he acknowledged, the data alone won't lead them there.

Human intuition, or what he called gut instinct, helps make sense of the data. Franchise owners know their business, he said, and the company's leadership team provides them with additional support.

Nationally, too, the pet care industry has seen growth year over year and the franchise sector has historically grown significantly.

Still, "you have to keep track of your numbers," he said. "If you can find the right metrics to look at -- distill the business down to a few numbers -- you can drive profitability and performance."

Moving to Tableau Online

Soon, D'Emic plans to ramp up the use of Tableau to further develop the company's data-driven strategy.

Currently, he explained, Camp Bow Wow retains a single $400-a-year Tableau license. Franchise owners are able to use a reader to see Tableau data, but the one license doesn't allow elevated levels of analysis.

For that, Camp Bow Wow is moving to the Tableau Online hosted service, which will better support the company and franchise owners as it grows.

"We want to make it as easy as possible to see their numbers," D'Emic said.

The cloud-based hosted version of the data analytics tool is a cheaper approach for Camp Bow Wow, with a pay-per-user price plan that starts at $15 monthly under Tableau's subscription pricing model. It can be used on a browser or on a mobile device. D'Emic says it could give franchise owners easier access to their data.

Right now, less than half of the owners actually look at the data themselves, he said; most hear about their business metrics during quarterly meetings. Tableau Online will "allow locations to view their data without having to be slowed down by other data that does not apply to them," D'Emic said.

In line with its data-driven strategy, D'Emic said the company tracks sales, boarding occupancy, new customer interviews, baths and dogs cared for per day. He clarified that it's the dogs themselves that are interviewed to assess their personality and compatibility with other dogs.

Challenges of Tableau

The Tableau software has worked well so far, D'Emic said, but he did note a few minor challenges he has run into. In particular, although it has been improved on since he began using it, Tableau's "handling of dates and times can be confusing at times," he said.

Because it is used in a broad spread of disciplines, "simple business metrics have to be invented through calculations rather than be available through in-program features," D'Emic said. For him, the software is helpful and almost always addresses the business challenge at hand, but it can be "a little more creative than it needs to be."

While Camp Bow Wow uses Tableau, there are plenty of other BI tools that offer similar business intelligence capabilities, including Power BI, Microsoft's cloud-based business intelligence technology, and Qlik Sense. Analyst firm Gartner has regularly rated Tableau, Microsoft and Qlik among the top data visualization and BI vendors in the market.

Bridget Botelho, editorial director of TechTarget's Information Management Group, contributed to this story.

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