LAS VEGAS — In the 40 years SAS has been around — yes it's a milestone anniversary for the company — its definition of speed and what constitutes "fast" has quite understandably changed with the times. 

In a malware attack, for example, a system has to be monitoring maybe 2,000 connections per second and be able to report each one as they occur to detect malfeasance within the enterprise, SAS CEO Jim Goodnight said at SAS Global Forum’s keynote address last night. 

And don’t get him started on the 256 kilobytes of RAM hardware that everyone thought was so rocket-fire fast, back in the day.

A Coach Customer Goes to Macy's

Speed plays a huge role in SAS’s new release of Customer Intelligence 360 as well. In fact, you could say the product’s main competitive differentiator is its ability to spit out a complete, detailed customer journey within seconds. 

This map is based on numerous insights collected from various channels — say, a visit to a website in the morning, a quick check of an email marketing offer from a mobile device a few hours later and then a signal captured by a beacon stationed in a Macy’s department stores about 40 minutes later.

SAS CI 360 crunches it all and then ping! — our customer receives an offer for a Coach wallet as she continues to the exit of the store. She’s not alarmed by the offer -- she opted in, after all. 

Perhaps she’s a little taken aback though: how did Macy’s know she had been shopping around for new purse accessories? Okay, fine, it knew she had bought a handbag at Coach a few weeks ago, but really?!….it zings her at the department store just after she had been poking around for sales at the mall online? 

Yes, it did. Well, okay then. And back to Coach she goes. After all, she was looking for new accessories for her purse.

Embracing Digital

Macy's is, in fact, a SAS customer, and was one of the customers referenced by Goodnight. In general, the retailer is Goodnight's favorite kind of customer, the kind that is embracing digital

If they don’t, he said, "they will struggle and fall by the wayside." And indeed, Macy’s deploys a slew of technology to improve the customer experience, generate sales and otherwise use Big Data to its greatest advantage and effect.

Back to SAS CI now. The latest release makes extensive use of SAS' advancements in speed, such as its SAS Viya architecture that debuted last night.

Many Features of Customer Insights 360

Quickly, its features include guided analytics, embedded analytical processes, automatic segmentation and self-learning algorithms. It’s also meant for the omni-channel company, able to service whatever channel the customer is using. 

Its core function though is the performance insights it can deliver. SAS' special sauce lets companies see which activities are working, which content performs best, which customer segments to focus on, and what is the best sequence for an individual customer’s experience. The customer journey, in another words.

Learning Opportunities

It displays all this not just in spreadsheet or numbers format but in robust visuals as well.

The application is rolling out initially with two modules: SAS 360 Discover, which provides reporting and insights based on web and mobile behavioral data, and SAS 360 Engage, which allows users to create digital customer journeys.

So, So Fast

Now did I mention that it is fast?

That is what impresses Brent Leary, co-founder and partner of CRM Essentials LLC, a CRM consulting/advisory attending the show. 

"It can take a serious amount of information and create that journey in seconds because of the engine that is running it," he told CMSWire. Too many vendors are still dealing with the problem of siloed data from the mobile channel, the web channel and the point-of-sale channel, he said.

(And he's not alone in that opinion either).

So the fact that SAS Customer Intelligence 360 can combine all these channels, gather the insights and crank out a mapped customer journey -- within seconds, did I mention that? — is quite impressive, Leary said.

It is something that retailers will quickly get used to, he predicted. "It's going to be more than just a 'nice to have' for a lot of companies in the future. They are going to demand this."