AWS Big Data Blog
How SikSin improved customer engagement with AWS Data Lab and Amazon Personalize
This post is co-written with Byungjun Choi and Sangha Yang from SikSin.
SikSin is a technology platform connecting customers with restaurant partners serving their multiple needs. Customers use the SikSin platform to search and discover restaurants, read and write reviews, and view photos. From the restaurateurs’ perspective, SikSin enables restaurant partners to engage and acquire customers in order to grow their business. SikSin has a partnership with 850 corporate companies and more than 50,000 restaurants. They issue restaurant e-vouchers to more than 220,000 members, including individuals as well as corporate members. The SikSin platform receives more than 3 million users in a month. SikSin was listed in the top 100 of the Financial Times’s Asia-Pacific region’s high-growth companies in 2022.
SikSin was looking to deliver improved customer experiences and increase customer engagement. SikSin confronted two business challenges:
- Customer engagement – SikSin maintains data on more than 750,000 restaurants and has more than 4,000 restaurant articles (and growing). SikSin was looking for a personalized and customized approach to provide restaurant recommendations for their customers and get them engaged with the content, thereby providing a personalized customer experience.
- Data analysis activities – The SikSin Food Service team experienced difficulties in regards to report generation due to scattered data across multiple systems. The team previously had to submit a request to the IT team and then wait for answers that might be outdated. For the IT team, they needed to manually pull data out of files, databases, and applications, and then combine them upon every request, which is a time-consuming activity. The SikSin Food Service team wanted to view web analytics log data by multiple dimensions, such as customer profiles and places. Examples include page view, conversion rate, and channels.
To overcome these two challenges, SikSin participated in the AWS Data Lab program to assist them in building a prototype solution. The AWS Data Lab offers accelerated, joint-engineering engagements between customers and AWS technical resources to create tangible deliverables that accelerate data and analytics modernization initiatives. The Build Lab is a 2–5-day intensive build with a technical customer team.
In this post, we share how SikSin built the basis for accelerating their data project with the help of the Data Lab and Amazon Personalize.
The Data Lab team and SikSin team had three consecutive meetings to discuss business and technical requirements, and decided to work on two uses cases to resolve their two business challenges:
- Build personalized recommendations – SikSin wanted to deploy a machine learning (ML) model to produce personalized content on the landing page of the platform, particularly restaurants and restaurant articles. The success criteria was to increase the number of page views per session and membership subscription, reduce their bounce rate, and ultimately engage more visitors and members in SikSin’s contents.
- Establish self-service analytics – SikSin’s business users wanted to reduce time to insight by making data more accessible while removing the reliance on the IT team by giving business users the ability to query data. The key was to consolidate web logs from BigQuery and operational business data from Amazon Relational Data Service (Amazon RDS) into a single place and analyze data whenever they need.
The following architecture depicts what the SikSin team built in the 4-day Build Lab. There are two parts in the solution to address SikSin’s business and technical requirements. The first part (1–8) is for building personalized recommendations, and the second part (A–D) is for establishing self-service analytics.
SikSin deployed an ML model to produce personalized content recommendations by using the following AWS services:
- AWS Database Migration Service (AWS DMS) helps migrate databases to AWS quickly and securely with minimal downtime. The SikSin team used AWS DMS to perform full load to bring data from the database tables into Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) as a target. Amazon S3 is an object storage service offering industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance. An AWS Glue crawler populates the AWS Glue Data Catalog with the data schema definitions (in a landing folder).
- An AWS Lambda function checks if any previous files still exist in the landing folder and archives the files into a backup folder, if any.
- AWS Glue is a serverless data integration service that makes it easier to discover, prepare, move, and integrate data from multiple sources for analytics, ML, and application development. The SikSin team created AWS Glue Spark extract, transform, and load (ETL) jobs to prepare input datasets for ML models. These datasets are used to train ML models in bulk mode. There are a total of five datasets for training and two datasets for batch inference jobs.
- Amazon Personalize allows developers to quickly build and deploy curated recommendations and intelligent user segmentation at scale using ML. Because Amazon Personalize can be tailored to your individual needs, you can deliver the right customer experience at the right time and in the right place. Also, users will select existing ML models (also known as recipes), train models, and run batch inference to make recommendations.
- An Amazon Personalize job predicts for each line of input data (restaurants and restaurant articles) and produces ML-generated recommendations in the designated S3 output folder. The recommendation records are surfaced using interaction data, product data, and predictive models. An AWS Glue crawler populates the AWS Glue Data Catalog with the data schema definitions (in an output folder).
- The SikSin team applied business logics and filters in an AWS Glue job to prepare the final datasets for recommendations.
- AWS Step Functions enables you to build scalable, distributed applications using state machines. The SikSin team used AWS Step Functions Workflow Studio to visually create, run, and debug workflow runs. This workflow is triggered based on a schedule. The process includes data ingestion, cleansing, processing, and all steps defined in Amazon Personalize. This also involves managing run dependencies, scheduling, error-catching, and concurrency in accordance with the logical flow of the pipeline.
- Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS) sends notifications. The SikSin team used Amazon SNS to send a notification via email and Google Hangouts with a Lambda function as a target.
To establish a self-service analytics environment to enable business users to perform data analysis, SikSin used the following services:
- The Google BigQuery Connector for AWS Glue simplifies the process of connecting AWS Glue jobs to extract data from BigQuery. The SikSin team used the connector to extract web analytics logs from BigQuery and load them to an S3 bucket.
- AWS Glue DataBrew is a visual data preparation tool that makes it easy for data analysts and data scientists to clean and normalize data to prepare it for analytics and ML. You can choose from over 250 pre-built transformations to automate data preparation tasks, all without the need to write any code. The SikSin Food Service team used it to visually inspect large datasets and shape the data for their data analysis activities. An S3 bucket (in the intermediate folder) contains business operational data such as customers, places, articles, and products, and reference data loaded from AWS DMS and web analytics logs and data by AWS Glue jobs.
- An AWS Glue Python shell runs a job to cleanse and join data, and apply business rules to prepare the data for queries. The SikSin team used AWS SDK Pandas, an AWS Professional Service open-source Python initiative, which extends the power of the Pandas library to AWS, connecting DataFrames and AWS data related services. The output files are stored in an Apache Parquet format in a single folder. An AWS Glue crawler populates the data schema definitions (in an output folder) into the AWS Glue Data Catalog.
- The SikSin Food Service team used Amazon Athena and Amazon Quicksight to query and visualize the data analysis. Athena is an interactive query service that makes it easy to analyze data in Amazon S3 using standard SQL. QuickSight is an ML-powered business intelligence service built for the cloud.
The SikSin Food Service team is now able to access the available data for performing data analysis and manipulation operations efficiently, as well as for getting insights on their own. This immediately allows the team as well as other lines of business to understand how customers are interacting with SikSin’s contents and services on the platform and make decisions sooner. For example, with the data output, the Food Service team was able to provide insights and data points for their external stakeholder and customer to initiate a new business idea. Moreover, the team shared, “We anticipate the recommendations and personalized content will increase conversion rates and customer engagement.”
The AWS Data Lab enabled SikSin to review and assess thoroughly what data is actually usable and available. With SikSin’s objective to successfully build a data pipeline for data analytics purposes, the SikSin team came to realize the importance of data cleansing, categorization, and standardization. “Only fruitful analysis and recommendation are possible when data is intact and properly cleansed,” said Byungjun Choi (the Head of SikSin’s Food Service Team). After completing the Data Lab, SikSin completed and set up an internal process that can streamline the data cleansing pipeline.
SikSin was stuck in the research phase of looking for a solution to solve their personalization challenges. The AWS Data Lab enabled the SikSin IT Team to get hands-on with the technology and build a minimum viable product (MVP) to explore how Amazon Personalize would work in their environment with their data. They achieved this via the Data Lab by adopting AWS DMS, AWS Glue, Amazon Personalize, and Step Functions. “Though it is still the early stage of building a prototype, I am very confident with the right enablement provided from AWS that an effective recommendation system can be adopted on production level very soon,” commented Sangha Yang (the Head of SikSin IT Team).
As a result of the 4-day Build Lab, the SikSin team left with a working prototype that is custom fit to their needs, gaining a clear path forward for enabling end-users to gain valuable insights into its data. The Data Lab allowed the SikSin team to accelerate the architectural design and prototype build of this solution by months. Based on the lessons and learnings obtained from Data Lab, SikSin is planning to launch a Global News Content Platform equipped with a recommendation feature in FY23.
As demonstrated by SikSin’s achievements, Amazon Personalize allows developers to quickly build and deploy curated recommendations and intelligent user segmentation at scale using ML. Because Amazon Personalize can be tailored to your individual needs, you can deliver the right customer experience at the right time and in the right place. Whether you want to optimize recommendations, target customers more accurately, maximize your data’s value, or promote items using business rules.
To accelerate your digital transformation with ML, the Data Lab program is available to support you by providing prescriptive architectural guidance on a particular use case, sharing best practices, and removing technical roadblocks. You’ll leave the engagement with an architecture or working prototype that is custom fit to your needs, a path to production, and deeper knowledge of AWS services.
Please contact your AWS Account Manager or Solutions Architect to get started. If you don’t have an AWS Account Manager, please contact Sales.
About the Authors
Byungjun Choi is the Head of SikSin Food Service team at SikSin.
Sangha Yang is the Head of IT team at SikSin.
Younggu Yun works at AWS Data Lab in Korea. His role involves helping customers across the APAC region meet their business objectives and overcome technical challenges by providing prescriptive architectural guidance, sharing best practices, and building innovative solutions together.
Junwoo Lee is an Account Manager at AWS. He provides technical and business support to help customer resolve their problems and enrich customer journey by introducing local and global programs for his customers.
Jinwoo Park is a Senior Solutions Architect at AWS. He provides technical support for AWS customers to succeed with their cloud journey. He helps customers build more secure, efficient, and cost-optimized architectures and solutions, and delivers best practices and workshops.