Looker Blog : Data Matters

Why is Using the Looker Action Hub like Ordering Takeout?

Jill Hardy, Content Strategist, Customer Education at Looker

Oct 3, 2019

Modern food delivery amazes me.

As soon as I feel hungry I can open my phone, click a few times, and food magically appears on my doorstep. It’s my lazy Sunday afternoon paradise.

The Looker Action Hub is like that, but for data: it enables you to take action on information from right where you are in your workflow. As soon as you see interesting data, you can use an action to automatically create a JIRA ticket, send it to a colleague via Slack with a few clicks, or send it to an S3 bucket.

See? Exactly like instant food delivery from the comfort of your couch... Okay, okay, maybe not exactly like that, but it’s still pretty great. And it’s better for your business because you can send your data pretty much anywhere your heart desires.

You can even revolutionize your business with automated alerts like Alto did.

Automated Alerts with Slack and Twilio

Ride-hailing service Alto (Alto Experience) hums along like a machine thanks to the Slack and Twilio Action Hub integrations they use to handle automated alerts.

Traffic issue? Drivers are automatically notified. Experiencing higher than anticipated trip volume in a particular area? No problem. Alto's Dispatch team is notified to position vehicles to handle the demand.

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Airport pickups can be hectic. When a customer requests one, Alto automatically sends a text (via the Action Hub Twilio integration) asking for an exact meeting point. Since both waiting at an airport and driving in circles at an airport are about as fun as scrubbing the floor, I’m calling this a double win.

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So how did they do it?

Alto Experience uses Looker to search for patterns in data that indicate a problem on the road. When a “problem” pattern is found, they take action automatically.

For example, if a passenger is making a coffee stop during his trip while another passenger is in the queue behind him, Alto quickly recognizes that and matches the waiting passenger to a nearby vehicle. Notifications go out so everyone is kept up to date.

Boom: alerts handled. No time spent building, testing, or iterating on a custom notification system.

Predictive Analytics with Amazon SageMaker

The Action Hub’s capabilities extend beyond messaging: you can also use it to nail your next marketing campaign with predictive analytics.

Imagine you’re working on building an email series for your SaaS product and you know exactly which customers are most likely to upsell. Focus on targeting only them, and you can trigger that first email with confidence.

How do you get to that point? You need machine learning capabilities to get those predictions. The Action Hub’s built-in integration with Amazon SageMaker makes them accessible.

Building a predictive analytics model requires three data sets:

  • a training data set (this is what “trains” your model to make predictions)
  • a validation data set (used to refine the model)
  • a test data set (used for a final evaluation of how well the model was trained)

So, back to our imaginary SaaS company and its upsell campaign. Let’s say you’re using a legacy on-premise database. You can use Looker to separate your three data sets — then send all that data to SageMaker via the Action Hub to train your machine learning model.

The model will then help you identify common characteristics of customers who upsell. Maybe the age of the customer’s account is an indicator, or the industry the customer is in, the last time their administrator logged in, or how involved they are in your campaigns... whatever the indicators of an upsell are, it’s time to find out!

Powerful stuff.

But maybe you want to use your data in a more... unique fashion. Maybe you even want to...

Purchase Carbon Offsets from a Dashboard using a Custom Action

Yep, really.

Looker’s Community Manager Izzy created a custom action that enables businesses to offset the CO2 footprint of their shipping orders, right from a dashboard.

A carbon offset helps compensate for carbon dioxide pollution produced by preventing it from happening elsewhere. Purchasing an offset often means investing in renewable energy, funding tree planting, or protecting an existing forest. While not a secret shortcut to sustainability, after you’ve reduced your impact as much as possible, offsets can get you the rest of the way to carbon neutral.

The idea behind this action is to make it extremely easy for an environmentally-minded business to act on its values. Just a few clicks to help the atmosphere! The Lorax would be proud.

Right from the Looker dashboard, a user can view the CO2 impact of an individual order or their entire business, take action against it, and then instantly see their updated offset spend and net impact without ever leaving the page.

Here’s a screenshot of the action:

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Izzy even implemented threshold options to prevent someone from accidentally spending too much on offsets. Pretty neat!

But maybe you want to do something entirely different with your data... like send it to a messaging application we don’t already have an action set up for. Or update contacts in your marketing tool. Heck, maybe you want to send an order to the printing and framing shop every time a deal over a certain dollar amount comes in to celebrate.

The point is that you can build a custom action and make those data dreams come true.

What Actions Will You Take?

And there you have it: three ways the Action Hub can help you do exactly what you want with your data without the rigmarole of a manual process (the equivalent of going to the store, buying ingredients, and cooking meals yourself instead of just clicking a few times to make food appear).

Whether you want to automate alerts, find out which of your customers want to hear from you, “green” your business, or something else entirely, the possibilities are wide open.

What do you want to do with your data? Bring your ideas to the Community Action Hub discussion.

Until next time,
Jill Hardy
Content Strategist, Customer Education

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