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New Balance managing the pandemic with Tibco Spotfire

New Balance, a manufacturer and seller of athletic shoes and apparel whose in-store sales plummeted due to the pandemic, used Tibco's BI tools to develop its e-commerce strategy.

Using Tibco Spotfire, New Balance was able to react quickly when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and revamp its sales and marketing strategy.

New Balance, founded in 1906 and based in Boston, is an athletic footwear and apparel manufacturer that primarily sells wholesale to retail outlets and also operates its own retail stores.

The company first started using data to drive its decision-making process during the 1990s, according to Steven Lubitz, applications manager at New Balance, and in 2015 started using Tibco Spotfire as its primary business intelligence platform.

Spotfire is the main business intelligence platform from analytics vendor Tibco, which was founded in 1997 and is based in Palo Alto, Calif.

Tibco unveiled Spotfire 11 in September 2020. In September 2021, the vendor introduced new features for Spotfire, including additions to its Mods framework of prebuilt applications and visualizations, and enhanced augmented intelligence and data science capabilities.

New Balance and Tibco

While offering athletic apparel and accessories, New Balance is most closely associated with sneakers, and running shoes in particular.

The company is affiliated with the New York City Marathon, offering a TCS NYC Marathon (Tata Consultancy Services) collection of shoes and apparel, and it partners with the New York Road Runners to sponsor races.

As a shoe manufacturer, most of New Balance's sales resulted from in-store purchases. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, however, retail outlets were shuttered and that sales pipeline dried up.

Steven Lubitz, applications manager at New Balance.
Steven Lubitz, applications manager at New Balance, speaks during Tibco Now 2021, a virtual conference hosted by analytics vendor Tibco.

New Balance needed to figure out how to make up for the lost revenue from in-store sales and do so quickly.

Tibco Spotfire provided the tools.

"With all of the supply and logistics issue that came up as a result of COVID, we have been making heavy use of Spotfire," Lubitz said during Tibco Now 2021, the analytics vendor's virtual conference. "We've had to make some emergency reports to get [analysts] the data they need to quickly react to the changing reality of the marketplace."

Even before the pandemic, New Balance leaned heavily on Spotfire.

According to Lubitz, the company had 140 analysts using about 450 reports and analyses built with Tibco's platform. Those analysts, meanwhile, used the reports to gain insights about retail and e-commerce operations, consumer behavior, wholesale sales operations, product development, merchandising, demand planning and the company's value chain.

With all of the supply and logistics issue that came up as a result of COVID, we have been making heavy use of Spotfire.
Steven LubitzApplications manager, New Balance

Fortunately for New Balance, when in-store sales evaporated, e-commerce sales increased.

With gyms closed due to the pandemic, just as sales of in-home exercise equipment such as dumbbells and on-demand exercise platforms like Peloton skyrocketed, many people turned to running for exercise.

"We've primarily been a wholesale business with a retail arm," Lubitz said. "When COVID shut everything down, not only did it shut down our retail stores, but it shut down our wholesale customers' stores. The wholesale business stopped. What kept us afloat during the first few months of the pandemic was the e-commerce business."

A new strategy

But New Balance couldn't simply rely on a rise in e-commerce sales to completely make up for the complete loss of its primary sales pipeline.

It needed to build on its increase in e-commerce sales, take information about those online purchases and use it to understand as much as possible about those buying shoes and apparel online and develop strategies to market to those consumers.

In essence, even though many stores have reopened and some consumers have begun shopping in person again, New Balance transitioned to an e-commerce retailer, and used Tibco Spotfire to do it.

By collecting transactional data and sending it to a third party to get demographic information such as age, gender and income, New Balance has been able to gain deeper insight into its customers. It's now able to compare purchase patterns and histories against demographics.

It can compare new customers against returning customers, those buying running shoes versus those buying baseball cleats, and examine how demographics affect the buying patterns of those new versus returning customers, or the ones purchasing running shoes versus the ones buying baseball cleats.

New Balance is also gathering brand-affinity data to learn whether certain customers buy mostly New Balance products or whether they might also buy Nike, Reebok, Adidas or some other brand's shoes and apparel. And again, New Balance is adding demographic data to that analysis.

It's even looking at how the color of an item affects buying patterns and whether demographics play a role in who's buying red or green shoes versus blue ones.

Increase in use

At the same time New Balance began focusing more on e-commerce, Tibco introduced Spotfire Mods in Spotfire 11.

New Balance then used the mods to build a new main dashboard to drive analysis during the pandemic.

"We want to develop the products that are most appealing to our consumer base," Lubitz said. "When we [altered strategy], we decided to refresh the main dashboard we were running all our analysis off of, and we decided make use of the mods to make it a showcase dashboard for what Spotfire can do for the organization."

The result is that the dashboard is more user-friendly, Lubitz continued.

The business analysts using the dashboard are easily able to dig into the data and see pertinent information at a glance in one location rather than having to examine a series of pie charts. Driven by ease of use, the new dashboard developed with Spotfire is leading to increased user adoption.

And that, according to Lubitz, will lead to increased profitability.

"We anticipate that as we start using this more and the business is making decisions off of it, that will lead to financial benefits," he said. "That's the promise of being able to do this type of visualization work and we're excited that users are getting everything out of the data that they expect."

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