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Explained: The OUTCOME of big data analysis, using a Turkish Bazaar

Big Data at Work in the Great Bazaar of Istanbul –  No Coding Required!

bazaar turkey buying

  • "Welcome!  Where are you visiting from?"
  • "I hope you are enjoying Istanbul. How long are you staying in our city?"
  • "Where are you staying at?"

Such questions, so different than the generic "Can I help you?" that we are used to hear in many other stores, seem at first a clever way to stop people in their tracks, and capitalize on the sociable nature of travelers. And that is partly true. However, I saw a deeper reason behind the merchants' approach.

The questions, far from being casual statements, were based on the merchants' decades of experience of what type of people buy which type of rug. The city that someone is from or the hotel where someone stayed are strong indicators of their taste and income.  By combining this wiht other visual cues like age, clothing, choice of watch and jewelry, brand of camera, and body language, the merchant can get very accurate insight about a total stranger! And he can do this in a matter of minutes, truly in real-time.

In my case the merchants were able to use this information to understand my context and to predict my likes and preference and then steer me to rugs that best fit me and my wife. And this is precisely what leading retailers do with Big Data: they gather diverse stores of information to truly understand the context of each customer interaction and then decide on the most appealing merchandize, the best price point or the right marketing offer.

Within three or four questions, the rug merchants were able to dramatically improve their odds of showing me a rug I'd want to buy, because those three or four questions had been tested and vetted over years of experience with thousands of buyers similar to me.

In addition, the merchants combined the answers I gave them with other information -- how old I was, what I looked liked, and so forth. In a way, this is similar to how retailers combine different data stores -- like purchase history and weather patterns to make predictive analysis of what products would be of interest to particular groups of customers – or better yet to create a personalized shopping experienced for me.

Going to the sprawling Bazaar can intimidating. The merchants, trained by years of experience, have learned to make it a less stressful experience. Their friendly questions put me at ease, and they showed me to a seat covered in handsome Turkish rugs. They offered me tea -- the perfect choice.

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