By Sanford Bragg March 27, 2020
Retail information company Ascential hired former Bloomberg alt data head Jeremy Baksht in January to lead its expansion further into the financial services segment. Over the last few months, Baksht has been organizing the firm’s alternative data offerings and is now extending the outreach to alternative data users.
Ascential plc is a publicly traded UK company with revenues over £400 million ($480 million) which offers ecommerce data analytics sourced globally from retail manufacturers and platforms like Amazon, as well as bespoke daily consumer surveys. “I was drawn to Ascential because of its rich consumer digital ecommerce data and strong following among major retail brands,” said Jeremy Baksht, Global Head of Alternative Data. “Yet, aside from a couple dozen hedge funds, Ascential’s data was not well known in the global financial sector.”
The firm’s WGSN Instock business tracks ecommerce pricing, product range and availability for 240 brands associated with 40 publicly traded consumer firms which helps investors understand gross margin and new product trends. Covered categories include athletics, casual, specialty, discount, footwear, lingerie, luxury, winter, and youth. Data is available weekly, with history as far back as 2013, but typically at least since 2017.
Ascential’s WGSN Barometer unit conducts daily consumer surveys measuring purchase intent, buying journey, customer experience, brand health, among other metrics. Ascential recently acquired Chinese ecommerce data company Yimian, which covers 23 consumer websites and was previously marketed through Asian consumer data distributor Sandalwood Advisors.
Although ecommerce data is perhaps the hottest data on offer, Ascential’s EDGE unit monitors market share, pricing and promotions for over 400 retailers from a broad set of sectors including grocery, home improvement, appliances, and technology. More generally, the firm maintains ecommerce data on 2,000 retailers in 50 countries, with 1 billion daily SKUs tracking changes in average selling prices, promotional markdowns, and availability. It covers online marketplace sales and market share data for products sold through Amazon in the US, UK and Germany, as well as the large Asian platforms such as Tmall, JD, Taobao (through Yimian).
Baksht, who headed Bloomberg’s alternative data offerings from 2017 to January 2020, leads a team responsible for collecting and distributing ecommerce and other relevant data. Ascential also recently hired Bloomberg’s former head of Enterprise quantitative research, Greg Jachno, as head of data science and product for alternative data. Jachno is tasked with managing Ascential’s alternative data products and building prediction models.
When Baksht joined Ascential, the firm had 25 financial sector clients – primarily major hedge funds plus a few sell-side firms. The focus going forward will be on buy-side prospects.
It is not an ideal environment for a new alternative data entrant. The market for alternative data was already going through a correction, even before the pandemic. Now, marketing a new product has become even more harder as potential decision-makers work from home and the only interactions are virtual.
At the same time, consumer-oriented data is one of the most competitive segments of the alternative data space. There are at least sixteen vendors offering consumer-oriented data, including Earnest Research, 7 Park Data, M Science, 1010Data and research boutique Consumer Edge.
Nevertheless, Ascential enters the space with strong credentials. It has extensive data at a very granular level, a solid core business and a broad user base within the retail segment. Firms like Earnest Research and 7 Park Data have been trying to diversify into the retail segment – Ascential is already there.
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