Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

CalmSea’s technology analyzes both traditional customer histories and social-network behavior to help retailers and brand managers identify the right offer on the right product for the right customer, via the right marketing channel. CalmSea clients use a dashboard that groups customers by their likes, behaviors, and friend networks. Then the clients can create promotions—discounts, group buys, or perhaps a sweepstakes in which customers get an extra entry every time they share the promo. The dashboard also makes it easier to target promotions to specific groups of customers defined by gender, age, and other characteristics. The retailers then publish the promotions—essentially, new apps—on their websites, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

When potential buyers accept the new promotion, granting it access to some of their Facebook data, CalmSea then tracks the response. How many people clicked on it? How many liked it, or shared it on Facebook? How many bought something, and what did they buy? How much did they spend? CalmSea merges Facebook behavior with additional retailer data, such as information on product returns, to create an interactive chart showing how well the promotion worked at each step of the process.’s vice president of marketing, Jennifer Song, says she can pinpoint the benefits. “One specific promotion that we had huge success with was a discount sent to our existing e-mail base, to encourage them to also become fans on Facebook,” she says. “We saw an immediate 500 percent lift in revenue from Facebook. Seventy percent of the participants actually went on to convert into sales.” More important, these customers can now be targeted in future campaigns by taking into account how they reacted to the offer.

CalmSea’s tools are built atop two cost-saving, easy-to-scale database technologies: Hadoop, an open-source system capable of analyzing petabytes of data across thousands of servers, and Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), a service that lets clients rent number-crunching capacity by the hour. The flexible Hadoop framework allows CalmSea’s technical team to test new modeling methods on the fly, without reconfiguring the database first. And by doing most of their processing at night, during EC2’s off hours, they keep operating costs down. Five years ago, Subramanian says, “we would have had huge capital expenses for servers just to do testing. Those machines cost a million dollars, and we used to install them with a crane. Paying by the hour on EC2, a machine costs us a few hundred bucks a year.”

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Credit: Gabriela Hasbun

Tagged: Business, Business Impact, analytics, Understanding the Customer

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me