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Snowflake launches industry-specific data cloud for retail

Retail Data Cloud is the vendor's fourth industry-specific data cloud, and comes prepackaged with data sets and capabilities to enable efficient data management and analytics.

Snowflake on Monday launched Retail Data Cloud, a new industry-specific platform designed for retail organizations.

The Retail Data Cloud, unveiled during the Shoptalk retail conference in Las Vegas, is the fourth industry-specific data cloud introduced by Snowflake, following financial services, advertising media and entertainment, and healthcare and life sciences.

Meanwhile, the cloud data platform vendor, founded in 2012 and based in Bozeman, Mont., has more industry-specific data clouds under development for manufacturing, technology, education and the public sector.

New data cloud

Snowflake's general data cloud enables customers to store and work with their data. The industry-specific data clouds come prepackaged with data sets and partner-built capabilities aimed at making data access, sharing, manipulation and query easy and efficient.

Specifically, Retail Data Cloud enables users to integrate all of their data, regardless of source and format; comply with industry regulations; optimize performance by scaling up to meet analytics needs during seasonal peaks; share and access data in near real time across all major public clouds; and use industry-specific capabilities developed by Snowflake partners.

More speed is one outcome of the Retail Data Cloud, but not the only one, according to Rosemary Hua, Snowflake's global head of retail and consumer product goods strategy.

"Some of the technologies being built on top of Snowflake aren't speed plays -- they're more about cost-optimization and getting a better understanding of your customer," she said. "There's also supply chain cost optimization and customer enrichment for better personalization."

Hua added that the impetus for the development of Retail Data Cloud and the other industry-specific data clouds was a mix of customer need and Snowflake's own strategic shift toward better serving specific industries.

"[CEO Frank Slootman] really doubled down on this notion of shifting from selling technical loads into selling industry-specific data sharing and data assets," she said. "But that huge shift to doubling down on industries was driven by how customers were using our platform. That fueled us internally to ask how we could make Snowflake make more sense for our customers. It was a combination."

Snowflake's shift toward developing industry-specific capabilities, meanwhile, stands to better serve users and is a move in the right direction, according to Donald Farmer, founder and principal of TreeHive Strategy.

Snowflake competitor Databricks is rolling out similar industry-specific tools, most recently unveiling its data lakehouses for healthcare and financial services. And numerous other data and analytics vendors, including Domo, Looker and TigerGraph, have built prepackaged industry-specific capabilities.

This is a sound move. Snowflake offers excellent price, performance and simplicity from day one. Adding well-designed vertical solutions is a promising move.
Donald FarmerFounder and principal, TreeHive Strategy

"This is a sound move," Farmer said. "Snowflake offers excellent price, performance and simplicity from day one. Adding well-designed vertical solutions is a promising move.

"My only caveat is that these vertical solutions still need to be proven in the real world. If healthcare or retail customers struggle with compliance or customization, we will soon hear about it," he continued.

Farmer added that while Snowflake's industry-specific data clouds don't enable anything customers can't create on their own, they make onboarding with Snowflake faster and easier. And in industries like healthcare and financial services, in which regulatory compliance is critical and complex, onboarding can be difficult for an organization on its own.

"It makes sense for Snowflake to simplify this with a vertical offering that can get users started efficiently," Farmer said.

But the benefits of the Retail Data Cloud and other industry-specific data clouds go beyond just helping customers get started, Farmer continued.

For example, in retail, data sharing is an important aspect of supply chain optimization and now standard practice, and the Retail Data Cloud aims to simplify data sharing.

"Snowflake's native data sharing capability makes them a very attractive option," Farmer said. "Enabling retailers to stand up a cloud data warehouse simply and effectively with native data sharing is another smart move."

Current needs and future plans

According to Snowflake, beta customers that have already started using Retail Data Cloud include Instacart, PepsiCo, Rakuten and Under Armour.

Meanwhile, partner-built capabilities in Retail Data Cloud include applications developed by Amazon, Blue Yonder, Experian, Infosys and Tableau.

Those capabilities, along with the access to third-party data sets, are particularly important in the current economic climate, according to Hua. Due to events like the COVID-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine, conditions are changing too quickly for organizations' historical data to be an accurate predictor of what may come next.

So the more data they can access and the more tools they have at their disposal, the better prepared they will be to react quickly.

"With different global events occurring, it's imperative that our customers are using third-party data either from others in the marketplace or from other players in the data cloud," Hua said. "That enables them to enrich their data to make predictions using [augmented intelligence] or real-time statistical analyses."

Beyond the Retail Data Cloud, Snowflake plans to continue enabling customers in specific industries to optimize how they use Snowflake, according to Hua.

In addition, Snowflake is examining other ways of building capabilities specific to the post-pandemic needs of its users. In particular, assuming there's an eventual end to the pandemic, a focus on location will be important given that the pace of reopenings and long-term customer behavior may be different in one area of the U.S. or abroad than another.

"The market can expect us to continue digging our heels in on the industry side," Hua said. "We are hyper-focused on hiring industry experts across the board. Long term, I think we'll see questions shift from how to help customers during the pandemic to how to expedite analyses around reopening and the new normal."

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