Business Analytics Students Kick Off Capstone Projects

The inaugural Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) class set the bar high on their capstone projects at a virtual kickoff event. Four student teams gave in-depth presentations outlining their project scope, which allowed sponsoring partners the opportunity to ask questions and make sure the project is aligned with company goals.

The MSBA capstone project is an experiential learning assignment built around student teams providing business analytics solutions to real businesses under the guidance of on-site corporate managers and faculty members. The projects cover a wide range of industries in the Los Angeles area, with a focus on the Silicon Beach community.

Sponsoring partners for this year include Fandango, an online movie ticketing company; RPA, a full-service marketing agency; RMDS, an ecosystem service provider; and Future Data Lab, a cloud-based geospatial data analysis platform.

“I am extremely proud of our students and grateful for all the support they are receiving from the sponsoring partners,” said Sijun Wang, MSBA program director. “I also have to thank our two student faculty advisors – Arin Brahma and Richard Tang – who are working so hard with the students and pushing them to do their best.”

Two teams have partnered with Fandango: one is focused on movie theater seat analytics, with the goal of uncovering consumer preference, seat attributes and a scoring framework; the other is focused on analyzing and predicting theater occupancy based on past sales data, movie data and other external data sources. Both teams aim to provide strategic insights for Fandango’s marketing, pricing and operational decisions.

Team RPA focused their project on consumer behavior during the Covid-19 crisis. The team used a wide range of consumer data from Natural Language Processing (NLP), Convolution Neural Network (CNN) and other mining techniques. Their approach came from the concept of social proof: people mirror the actions of others in order to reflect the appropriate behavior. Their goal is to provide insights for RPA to better communicate and design post-crisis advertising messages for their clients.

The RMDS + Future Data Lab team studied how retail agglomeration affects business performance. Agglomeration is a group of retail stores in close proximity, which cooperate and compete with each other simultaneously. There is a lack of research on agglomeration in retail so students used geographic information systems (GIS), census data and business performance data to design retail conglomeration.

All MSBA faculty were hand on to support the student teams along with MSBA advisory board members Hillary Haley, SVP at RPA; Alex Liu, former Chief Data Scientist at IBM; Lucas Pierce, Director of Data at Snap; Arun Gollapudi, CEO of Systech; Ashish Parikh, CFO of Systech; and Reeto Mookherjee, CFO of Fandango. All provided insightful comments, suggestions and advice for each of the four projects.

“Marketers are scrambling to figure out what to do right now,” said RPA’s Haley. “There’s no research on how consumers shop during pandemics so this is very exciting.”

“I’m very impressed with the level of maturity the students have gained in the last six months,” added Systech’s Gollapudi. “They’ve come a long way and I look forward to seeing what they can accomplish in the next few months.”

Students will continue to work on their research projects over the summer and present their findings in August.