Newfound Agility: Two Retailers that Adapted to Rapid Change

In an earlier post in this series, we examined how big shifts like customer expectations, unstable economic conditions, and widespread health crises have forced retailers to adapt their people, processes, and technology at an unprecedented speed. Those that do not or cannot will miss out on opportunities to expand, or at least maintain, their position in the marketplace. At worst, they can find themselves losing some or all their market share.

The challenges retailers face in responding to such shifts are not trivial. The inertia of decades-old processes and even older technology systems, as well as difficulties maintaining a staff that even understand them, can make pivoting on a dime even more difficult for retailers to quickly adapt than organizations in other industries. As we’re about to demonstrate, the challenges are not insurmountable if attacked in the right way.

Today we examine two retailers with very different needs and goals. Both needed to quickly adapt, to make the leap from commodity sales to selling experiences and to build a true competitive advantage. To do so, they had to inject a massive dose of agility into the three core pillars of their operations: people, processes, and technology. By partnering with JBS Custom Software Solutions, these two retailers came out on top of their competition.

Wine e-Commerce: Agility to Keep Pace with Change and Build a Competitive Advantage

For over two decades, Wine Access has curated, reviewed, and made accessible hard-to-find wines to wine enthusiasts of all levels, maintaining an extensive database of winemakers around the world. Over time, maintaining the database and applications that used it was expensive. The circa-1990s applications ran on antiquated hardware in a colocated data center, and the software was inflexible and difficult to change. This made it hard to adapt to changing regulations, leverage the data to drive innovation, and increase revenue in a competitive e-commerce marketplace.

JBS undertook modernizing the aging infrastructure, leveraging Amazon Web Services (AWS) to migrate the wine retailer to a newly developed cloud-based platform. Using Agile software development best practices, JBS migrated Wine Access’ existing software stack to modern, opensource software – starting with the most critical and customer-facing components and using short development cycles (sprints). Once the applications and infrastructure were migrated to AWS EC2, RDS, S3, Lambda, and other technologies, Wine Access was able to reduce its operating expenditures, only paying for the resources they needed, when they needed them. The end result was improved reliability, scalability, functionality, and support – all with an operational savings. Read the full case study here.

Embracing agility brought Wine Access even greater benefits.

The new modular, component-based software architecture allowed JBS Solutions to turn an existing promotional program into a profitable competitive differentiator. The wine merchant’s “top-offs” program provided high-quality wine recommendations to shoppers once they reached the free-shipping threshold. However, these recommendations didn’t always resonate with buyers, making it just another “you might also like” feature. By performing an Affinity Analysis that leveraged over 10 years of order history and sales data, JBS Solutions enhanced the top-offs feature to recommend wine that better paired with the shopper’s current and past purchases. The result? The conversion rate for top-offs nearly doubled. After only five months, the additional “Add to Cart” clicks due to the higher-value recommendations netted a whopping 169 percent increase in top-offs revenue. Read the details of the implementation here.

Pet Supply Retailer: From Mobile Apps to Curbside Pickup, Rapid Adaptation Boosts eCommerce Revenue

With over 50 years of service to pets and pet parents, this client operates more than 1,500 stores and affiliate locations across the U.S., Mexico, and Puerto Rico. While it already had a strong e-commerce business, shoppers demanded a seamless, multi-channel buying experience. Sadly, a year-long project to develop a mobile app to meet those expectations—and differentiate the retailer from its competitors—was way behind, in both schedule and functionality. The retailer hired JBS Solutions to remedy the situation.

JBS Solutions quickly analyzed the floundering project and replaced an existing team of 50 with five hand-selected, senior developers, shortening the expected delivery timeline by 75 percent. The resulting mobile app exceeded customer expectations and boosted the retailer’s profit by increasing frequency of cross-sell and upsell revenue. More importantly, JBS Solutions leveraged serverless technology powered by AWS, providing the merchant with a scalable, performant, and resilient system powered by AWS Lambda and Amazon API Gateway. It also set the retailer up for success with its future mobile development efforts. Read the full mobile e-commerce case study here.

The retailer faced yet another challenge in adaptability which only embracing agility allowed it to conquer.

Customer expectations for new delivery options were already rising, but the 2020 pandemic made providing contactless delivery more of a requirement than a nice-to-have option. Delivering such a solution involves multiple front- and back-end retail systems whose (often) monolithic nature defies traditional integration and orchestration. Using JBS Solutions hybrid microservices approach[LW1] [JL2] , microservice wrapper applications were built that exposed functionalities of legacy systems—including management of shopping cart, order, products, user profiles, payments, and more. These microservices were then supplemented with workflows to support the overall curbside pickup process. The solution provided a seamless ordering and fulfillment experience for both customers and employees and was completed and online in less than six weeks. (Watch our webinar for details on how microservices facilitated this solution so quickly.)

Next steps: Finding agility and adaptability like these retailers

Adapting to large shifts in the marketplace and customer expectations can be tough—especially with decades-old manual processes, people that don’t understand the technology, and (of course) outdated infrastructure, systems, and software. These examples show how adapting is not out of reach with proper guidance.

While every digital transformation project has different goals and requirements, any such fundamental change has to address all three of these pillars.

  • People – If you can’t make it simple to use, no one will use it. Let users know why you need the information you request.
  • Processes – Manual processes and decision making should be automated whenever possible. Introduce new communications channels and options for flexibility and alternate paths.
  • Technology – The right architecture, infrastructure and development philosophy are key to building with scalability, flexibility, and overall agility in mind.

Our next post in this series focuses on your roadmap, your requirements, and selecting the right resources to ensure your project successfully addresses all three pillars. Meanwhile, if you’re ready to discuss your initiatives, JBS Solutions has years of experience implementing efficient, full-featured solutions for multi-billion-dollar retail environments. Contact us for a free half-day assessment to find out how we can help deliver true agility to your next retail solution, providing the best possible experience for both your customers and employees.

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