Analytics at Wharton
Wharton Student Teams Deliver Insights to Lowe’s and Align Technology
By Ellen Rooney Martin
The 10th Wharton Analytics Accelerator Summit was held December 2, 2022, highlighting cutting-edge machine learning and analytic talent for which Penn and Wharton students are known. Student teams presented to Lowe’s and Align Technology executives, demonstrating their solutions and insightful analyses. In both instances, for Lowe’s and Align, the companies provided the data that the students then analyzed.
The summit was the culmination of the fall 2022 Wharton Analytics Accelerator, a program held every semester that allows Penn and Wharton students to engage in a hands-on experience working with real data and current business challenges. Wharton AI & Analytics for Business (AIAB) and the Wharton Analytics Fellows (WAF) assembled graduate student led teams to work with both companies to solve business cases using data. Students use the latest data analytics and artificial intelligence methods to provide corporate partners valuable insights and models for their business practices.
“What impressed me most was that the student team used just enough of the technical tools to achieve the objective,” said Kurt Jung, Lowe’s principal data scientist. “The student team’s approach and findings were helpful to see a unique way of approaching the challenge presented.” Lowe’s, a Fortune 50 business, asked students to solve a business case centered around driving efficiency of the Buy Online Pick Up in Store (BOPUS) shopping option.
“Wharton’s Analytics Accelerator program is not just academic learning. The program prepares students for a much more successful career downstream. Students have the opportunity to apply the methods they have studied in class to solve real world problems and companies solve business challenges with top talent,” said Karthik Mahadevan, Lowe’s senior director for product management, supply chain technology.
Also presenting at the summit, was the separate student-led analytics team that worked with Align Technology, a global medical device company with industry-leading innovative products including Invisalign™ system, iTero™ intraoral scanners and digital services, and exocad™ CAD/CAM software.
The Align student- team analyzed the marketing campaigns within specific business segments: dentists, labs, and orthodontists. They took a deep dive into Align sales data by analyzing each segmentation and success rate at each conversion step.
“We were looking for capacity to do (the project) in the near term, along with the power of unrestrained and unbiased thinking and found the AIAB’s Corporate Partnership program actually offered both to us,” said Nathan Minnich, vice president, marketing, Align Technology.
The results demonstrated segment-specific differences with the type of marketing channels that were more effective in generating leads for sales. Knowing how each segment responds to each marketing tactic enables the company to be more agile and customer-centric with its marketing program.
Tapping into the Wharton AIAB Analytics Accelerator program – with its access to early career adults – is a reflection of the Align culture, to support the development of a smart, diverse and agile team, executives there said. “For me, you’re building the next generation of innovators through this ‘hands-on learning’ process,” Minnich said.
The AI & Analytics for Business Corporate Partnership Program creates collaborative and efficient opportunities for both students and companies to work together on a strategic project during a 10-week window. For companies, the appeal is that for a relatively small investment, the center provides access during the semester period to talent to solve an important business problem, said Mary Purk, executive director for the AIAB. “The teams provided valuable insights and modeling recommendations that both Align and Lowe’s will be taking back to their companies and then hopefully implementing, before we start the next project.”
For companies, the Analytics Accelerator program offers value, without the weight of corporate expectations and culture. For students, they can apply what they have learned in the classroom and work closely with their corporate partners.
Students’ success hinges on a strong sense of curiosity, a willingness to solve problems and the ability to summarize the data and communicate their findings to the company stakeholders in a live corporate setting that is difficult to re-create in the classroom.
What impressed the executives at Align was the students’ depth of knowledge, and their ability to immerse themselves in the language of the dental products’ company. “The rapid immersion into the data and use of the multiple analytics approaches to test hypotheses and work the problem statement end-to-end was impressive. This demonstrated the capabilities Align is looking for in early career talent and provides a bridge to access early career roles at Align, which is exciting for the students and the future of our organization,” Minnich said.
The student leader on the Align team, Mrinalini Samanta, a Wharton 2024 MBA candidate, said she was grateful for the company’s mentorship on the project. “Align’s advice, constant support, and many endless hours throughout this entire experience has been invaluable for the team,” she said.
For more information on the AIAB Corporate Partnership program or how to participate in the biannual Analytics Accelerator program, please contact Sr. Associate Director of Corporate Partnership, Rachel Dutcher at email@example.com.