SPANX Partners with KSU to Give Students the Experience of Working with Real Business Data

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jan 18, 2019) — A team of MBA students won first place last semester in a 15-week challenge to propose business solutions to clothing manufacturer and retailer SPANX.

Using three years’ worth of SPANX’s real transaction data, the students identified ways that the company could improve its messaging and reach the right customers at the right time.

The winning team, named Shape Shifters, was made up of four students in the Michael J. Coles College of Business Master of Business Administration Program: Jaclyn Kroll, Julie Harris, Jeffrey Van Slooten, and Maria Chung. Shape Shifters beat out four other teams of Kennesaw State graduate students to earn first place and a $1,500 prize from SPANX.

Coles MBA Team SPANX Data Analysis Project

Organized by Dr. Jennifer Priestley, director of Kennesaw State’s Analytics and Data Sciences Institute, the challenge was the focus of her graduate-level Applied Analytics Project course. SPANX provided Priestley with details on three years’ worth of transactions from 2 million de-identified customers. Priestley tasked students with analyzing the data and exploring ways to improve SPANX’s customer messaging.

“The students were expected to learn and structure an analytical project,” Priestley says, “and work with clients, work with large datasets, and translate analytical results into client-ready deliverables like presentation visuals, annotated code, and project reports.”

Priestley opened the project to teams of graduate students in business, computer science, information technology, and statistics. Each team worked independently with Priestley and her staff throughout the semester to clean and analyze the data, and to pull out insights. The project culminated in a final presentation to SPANX executives at the company’s Atlanta headquarters on Dec. 5.

SPANX officials named Shape Shifters the winners based on the team’s analytical techniques, their ability to interpret the results into meaningful, actionable recommendations, the team’s overall professionalism.

SPANX Headquarters Analytics Project
Kennesaw State Graduate Students at SPANX Corporate Headquarters

“It was a great experience having the opportunity to visit the SPANX offices and present to their staff,” says Maria Chung, an MBA student on the Shape Shifters team. “All the teams worked really hard, but being recognized for a presentation that resonated with the company was great.”

Her team’s presentation included a detailed breakdown of SPANX’s customer segments and their purchase combinations. Using this information, the company can better predict which customers are more likely to buy which items.

Chung says she appreciates how the project allowed her to work with actual transactions, which gave the challenge more weight than had it involved simulated data.

“Working with real data is definitely a huge motivation,” she says. “Knowing that we were presenting to a viable, successful company and that we were representing our school made us all do the best we possibly could.”

The SPANX applied analytics project was born out of the Analytics and Data Science Institute’s work with businesses in the region to explore data-driven solutions to real business challenges. Priestley says the company contacted her last year asking to form a partnership to use data to enhance customer experiences.

For MBA students interested in working on similar projects, Priestley is always collaborating with new businesses to give students the chance to gain experience analyzing and drawing actionable conclusions from real data. In Spring 2019, she is overseeing similar projects with Coca-Cola, Perceivant, and Cox Communications.

-Patrick Harbin