ITGS Case Study 2015 - Asociación de Supermercados Independientes - An investigation into Big Data

The 2015 the paper 3 case study for ITGS Higher Level (HL) students is titled 'Asociación de Supermercados Independientes - An investigation into Big Data', and relates to a group of supermarkets who want to collate and analyse data about their businesses and their customers in order to compete with larger supermarket chains. The case study was released at the beginning of June 2014. This page contains some of the resources I have found helpful when teaching this case study to my students.

This case study is for May and November 2015 only. The case study for May and November 2016 is Smart Homes .

Lesson idea: Introduction to the ITGS Case Study

The aim of this task is to familiarise students with the 2015 case study. It helps check students' understanding of key vocabulary and concepts, identify unknown words, and to link the case study to some of their prior learning. The questions will require students to re-read key parts of the case study booklet, which is really important to build a more thorough understanding of the case study's nuances.

You can download the lesson here.

Updated: 2015-02-09

Lesson idea: Supermarket Technology

This task is designed to help students understand the hardware, software, and network technology that is commonly used in supermarkets and might therefore be used by the independent supermarkets in the case study. By clearly understanding the existing technology students should be able to better understand the problems and the goals of Asociacion de Supermercados Independientes (ASI).

You can download the lesson here.

Updated: 2015-02-11

Point of Sale (POS) Systems

The early part of the case study document explains how currently the supermarkets use 'Various types of EPOS (Electronic Point of Sale) and stock control systems' (line 20). These resources will help students understand how standard EPOS systems work so they can better understand the problems faced by the supermarkets in Asociacion de Supermercados Independientes.
Updated: 2015-02-11
Loyalty cards

Lesson idea: Loyalty cards

This is another background technology task designed to help students understand the basic concepts of loyalty card systems. This will then be built on in following lessons by examining how big data analytics can be used.

You can download the lesson here.

Updated: 2015-02-11

Loyalty Card Schemes

The following supermarkets all offer loyalty card / reward card schemes for their customers. Reading about the schemes, their benefits, and how the supermarkets use the collected data provides an interesting insight into the 2015 case study.

British Supermarkets

US Supermarkets

Updated: 2015-02-11
Scoring Points: How Tesco Continues to Win Customer Loyalty

Scoring Points: How Tesco Continues to Win Customer Loyalty

by Clive Humby, Terry Hunt, Tim Phillips | | Kindle | Worldwide (free shipping)

Tesco's Club Card is perhaps one of the best known loyalty schemes in the UK. This book explains how the project was devised and successfully implemented. Written by two key players in the project - Clive Humby and Terry Hunt - the book does tend to focus more on a business and marketing angle. However, reading between the lines it is clear how vast quantities of data can be utilised for effective decision making.

I have included the book here because there are many examples that could be useful for the 2015 ITGS case study - Asociacion de Supermercados Independientes: An Investigation into Big Data.

Updated: 2015-02-23
Big data lesson idea
Source: Flickr

Lesson idea: Big Data background

The aim of this lesson is to understand a little bit more about Big Data in general, with students research the relevant technologies and processes in a variety of industries. This should help them more fully understand the potential of Big Data before applying their knowledge specifically to supermarkets.

You can download the lesson here.

Updated: 2015-03-01

Supermarkets and Big Data

How Companies Learn Your Secrets is a very long but very revealing article about retailers' tracking of customers. With lots of specific examples and clear technical detail, this article is an essential ready for teachers and students studing the 2015 case study.

Shoppers Who Can't Have Secrets discusses the world of behavioural tracking - a key technique used in the collection of Big Data by supermarkets and other retailers. The article also examines regulation of data collection practices and data protection law.

How supermarkets get your data - and what they do with it is excellent background reading which does exactly what the headline says - and gives some good, specific examples of big data use. It also discusses the thorny area of data sharing and data aggregation.

How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did is a very interesting, quite worrying example of the type of information retailers can glean from customer data.

Using big data for smarter online supermarket shopping discusses a different side of Big Data that is sometimes forgotten - the use of analytics to optimize business efficiency. The examples in this article include trying to group delivery times for online orders so they can be performed with fewer vehicles. This article is definitely worth a read, if only to remember that Big Data in supermarkets is not just about targeted advertising.

Big Data: Retailers, Supermarkets, Medical Markets All Dive In To Extract Information From And About Consumers talks about some quite unknown techniques used by supermarkets and retailers to gather customer data. Such techniques include facial recognition cameras and even the use of WiFi signals to detect the location of customers within the store so that movement patterns can be gathered. There are great examples in here that clearly relate to several ITGS social and ethical issues.

Startup Lets Retail Stores Track Shoppers As Websites Do. Websites have longed tracked visitors using cookies and similar techniques. This article discusses ways to track in-store customers even if they do not sign up for loyalty card or reward card schemes.

How Do Supermarkets Use Your Data? discusses both the collection of data via loyalty cards and ways to identify and track customers who do not own such cards - a very important point for the case study which links to other ITGS issues such as privacy and informed consent.

Data, data everywhere discusses Big Data in a variety of contexts, including retailers. It also covers some of the issues related to data collection and highlights the sheer scale of Big Data: Walmart reportedly adds 1 million records each hour to its database, which tops 2.5 petabytes in size.

Updated: 2015-03-01
Case study - Tesco and Big Data

Case Study - Boots Advantage Card

This detailed article offers a detailed discussion of Boots' Advantage Card - a loyalty card offered by this well-known pharmacy chain. It discusses many points central to the ITGS case study, including the cost/benefit ratio of the system and the fine-tuning of targeted advertising.

Updated: 2015-03-01
Case study - Boots and Big Data

Case Study - Tesco

Supermarket giant Tesco are widely regarded as one of the pioneers of loyalty cards and customer data analytics. In the first year after their introduced their famous Clubcard, they saw sales increase by 50%. The articles and resources below help explain some of that success.

Supermarket giant Tesco pioneers big data is an excellent article that clearly explains step by step how British supermarket chain Tesco uses big data. It explains key processes including data segmentation, the use of historical data, and predictive analytics, and is an essential read for this case study.

A British Supermarket Chain Is Installing 'Creepy' Face-Scanning Cameras To Track Consumers. The supermarket in question is Tesco, who are installing cameras not for security reasons, but to recognise returning customers and present them with targeted adverts. In this case facial biometric data is being used in the same way as a traditional loyalty card number - meaning even customers without a Tesco Clubcard can be tracked.

Updated: 2015-03-01
Big Data videos

Videos: Introduction to Big Data

This blog post contains links to seven videos that explain the key concepts of Big Data, including how data warehouses differ from traditional relational databases, and the unique challenges posed by the vast quantity, variety, and speed of Big Data collection.

Updated: 2015-03-23
Big Data examples

Videos: Examples of Big Data in use

7 Examples of Big Data - ITGS Case Study 2015 contains videos which provide specific examples of how the power of Big Data can be harnessed by retailers to increase brand loyalty, attract customers, and improve efficiency. The videos cover a wide range of examples and data types from customer purchasing histories to GPS location data, with lots of ideas that could be applied to the Asociacion de Supermercados Independientes in the case study.

Updated: 2015-03-23
Big Data Infographics

Big Data Infographics for the ITGS case study

5 Big Data infographics for the ITGS Case Study contains links to useful infographics that cover some of the basic concepts relating to Big Data. From data sources and data volume to data personalisation, these infographics should be a brief refresher activity for students who have properly studied the 2015 case study.

Updated: 2015-04-07
Tesco Clubcard video

How we revolutionised customer loyalty

This is a revealing video interview with Edwina Dunn and Clive Humby, the couple responsible for the huge successful of Tesco's Clubcard loyalty card scheme. The interview addresses the history of the project as well as the opportunities and challenges offered by Big Data. This link was very kindly shared by a fellow ITGS teacher.

Updated: 2015-04-15

Big Data and Privacy

Specific examples of the risks of Big Data seem to be fairly thin on the ground. One of the best-known cases is described in the article How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did. This is a very interesting, quite worrying example of the type of insights retailers can glean from customer data.

Eight Problems With Big Data, written by the ACLU, gives a clear and concise summary of what it sees as the key problems - many of these relate directly to data protection legislation described further down this page.

In the ITGS case study, ASI want to collect anonymized data about their customers. However a recent report by suggests that the proliferation of data collection systems may mean that it is soon "virtually impossible" to anonymize data, as identifiable inferences can be drawn from huge data sets.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) regularly publishes new articles about the privacy risks of Big Data.

Updated: 2015-04-17

Big Data and Discrimination

Another privacy related concern is that of price discrimination (also called 'differential pricing'). This is the process of using Big Data to determine the highest price a customer is likely to pay for a product. For example, a customer sharing articles related to the product on social media may be an indication that they are more interested in the item, and the retailer could raise the price accordingly. This could be particularly effective on websites where customers cannot see the price others are paying. The Washington Center for Equitable Growth has some more examples of this type of discrimination. Will Big Data Bring More Price Discrimination? is another short article on the topic.

Although the 2015 case study tends to discuss "bricks and mortar" supermarkets, it is reasonable to believe that online components could be included, and that some supermarkets in ASI may have or want to develop online shopping sites.

Updated: 2015-04-17
Data Protection Act

Data Protection Act & Other legislation

The Data Protection Act (DPA) is a good example of data protection legislation. Although a UK-based law (the ASI case study is set in Mexico), studying the key elements of the DPA is useful to help students understand how personal data should be collected, stored, and used. As mentioned in the case study, privacy is a key concern for ASI, and as such they may want to write a privacy policy to cover how they will use Big Data.

The DPA is explained on many sites, including BBC Bitesize, Teach-ICT, and the UK government's own site,

Updated: 2015-04-17
Phone tracking

Phone tracking by retailers

The article Creepy but legal phone-tracking company gets wrist slap for empty privacy promise describes how retailers can track customers through their stores by collecting their phone MAC addresses using WiFi routers. A good article for the 2015 case study, as such data can be collected and analysed as part of a Big Data system. The article also nicely incorporates technical terminology from the ITGS syllabus.

Updated: 2015-04-29
Bananas in supermarket

Just in Time (JIT) delivery

Line 74 of the case study booklet says that each distribution centre used by ASI will use Just-in-Time (JIT) delivery methods. The articles below give an overview of how Just-in-Time delivery is different to Just-in-Case delivery, and how it can benefit businesses.

Students should be able to make links between JIT and Big Data collected by ASI.

Updated: 2015-04-29