cloud engineering Archives - SkillNet Solutions

Enhanced in-store customer experience with digital transformation of Retail Systems

SINSA enhances in-store customer experience with digital transformation of Retail Systems

Brief

SkillNet partners with SINSA in the digital transformation of core retail systems (including POS, Merchandising & Store Inventory) to improve customer satisfaction and increase efficiencies in operations.

About the client

Founded in 1990, SINSA is the largest home improvement retailer in Nicaragua. It has four business units, with retail comprising 75% of the company’s sales, followed by project and engineering services, wholesale and car battery distribution.

SINSA operates 24 stores and wholesale outlets offering 65,000+ SKUs in 15 categories of home improvement products (hardware, tiles, electric components among others) and services for the remodeling, construction, decoration and electrical industries.

Challenges

SINSA is one of the fastest-growing home improvement retailers in Central America. Its mission is to offer an integrated solution to all customers in construction, renovation, and decoration projects. Within its stores, customers could negotiate prices, and associates can offer discounts within certain ranges. Additionally, customers could pick up their purchases from a store or distribution center, create quotations and process them at a later date.

Apart from constantly looking at improving operations, the SINSA team wanted to ensure their retail platforms could support the company growth. They also wanted to be more agile and better support customer needs with process digitization. Given the focus on enhancing customer experience, they also felt that it was important for store associates to have access to updated inventory information.

Since SINSA’s homegrown retail system could not keep pace with the company’s growth or requirements, the team felt the need for an integrated retail system (including POS, Merchandising & Store Inventory) that met international standards while supporting their requirements.

Solutions

After selecting Oracle products for the digital transformation, SkillNet was chosen for the implementation of Oracle Xstore POS, Oracle Retail Customer Engagement, Oracle Retail Merchandising Systems and Oracle Fusion Financials. SkillNet’s in-depth knowledge of the retail industry, expertise in Oracle Retail, along with its LATAM capability and presence made it an obvious choice to support SINSA’s ambitious digital initiative.

SkillNet ’s consulting expertise helped define and design new processes across the organization. One of the key areas of transformation was in the redesign of pre-sale and post-sale processes for customer engagements. Other processes such as Equipment Rentals, Quotations, Distribution Center Pick Up and Returns, selling of defectives items at discounts and loyalty programs (Gift Cards and Gift Registry) were also part of the digital transformation.

Oracle Retail Xstore POS was introduced successfully across SINSA’s retail stores including the largest locations with over 50 registers per store.

Results

SkillNet has been instrumental in helping SINSA achieve its digital transformation goals with increased efficiencies in operations and improved customer satisfaction.

With the new systems, store associates can access inventory systems on their computers or from their mobile phones. The retail focused CRM, Oracle Retail Customer Engagement, provides store associates with a detailed view of customer transactions in real time.

Due to greater level of details at item levels, the efficiency of replenishment in warehousing has increased. This ensures increased availability of popular items.

The new systems also allow customers to add items to their basket from different parts of the store and pay at the exit. The new POS system has enabled SINSA to improve processing time resulting in 33 percent reduction in customer wait time. All of this has contributed to richer in-store experiences resulting in increased customer satisfaction.

We are delivering on our vision to become more agile and satisfy our customer’s needs through a digital transformation process that starts by analyzing our processes, making adjustments and adopting a modern platform that can help us reduce risks and bring scalability to our business units as we continue to grow. Roger Vargas, Continuous Improvement Manager at SINSA

All product names and trademarks are property of their respective owners.

Do investments in customer engagements really work?

This is the second blog in a series of 4-blogs (Read Blog 1, Blog 3, Blog 4) from SkillNet on how Modern Commerce Leaders have used technology to digitally transform their retail businesses to adapt to the New Normal. This ability to adapt, gives these brands a competitive advantage. While the blogs are connected each of them can be read independently.

During this time of uncertainty, Modern Commerce Leaders have been investing in improved customer experiences to help them build customer loyalty and to weather a drop in traffic.

A recent McKinsey study showed that in last major downturn (2008 economic crisis) the top publicly traded customer-focused companies had three times greater shareholder return than customer experience laggards.

Customer experience (CX) leaders are more resilient during recessionary periods, experiencing shallower troughs and quicker recovery

Financial performance (total shareholder returns) of CX leaders vs laggards

Even before the pandemic and resulting economic downturn, Modern Commerce Leaders had already begun investing in customer focused innovation, but the pandemic increased the impetus to find new ways to engage with a newly home-bound customer.  More importantly, it also has resulted in massive changes to behavior, with customers being more willing to try new technologies thus reducing the challenges that retailers may have faced prior to COVID-19. As reported in CNET, Oz Alon, co-founder and CEO of HoneyBook, a financial tech startup in San Francisco said, “I do believe this is an opportunity. This is a huge event in the world, people are going to change their behaviors and a lot of things that have struggled for adoption will get a new push.”

Much of the customer experience improvement has come with enhancements to existing mobile applications. Scott Steever, Adjunct Professor at Fashion Institute of Technology, on a recent SkillNet Webinar shared his own experience developing Mobile Applications for ABC Carpet and Home in New York City:

“Before the Pandemic, ABC Carpet and Home saw some customers wanting an option to be able to schedule an appointment and potentially initiate a video chat, online or through an app, with associates. Buying a $15,000 sofa or a $50,000 carpet is a major purchasing decision and anything we could do to facilitate the decision making process was seen as a win for the customer, sales associate and our bottom line. The Pandemic just pushed the adoption of this technology.” Professor Steever also added, “I think tools like this that are flexible and adaptable are very important in this age of COVID 19 because we don’t know when or where the next hot spot will come up. The good news is that we know this long-term investment and current adoption will give ABC a competitive advantage.”

Recent earnings reports seem to support this correlation between an enhanced customer experience and better financial/operational performance as shown by three customer engagement leaders:

  • Target: enhanced mobile apps, fulfillment and loyalty program
    • Q3 2020 saw digital sales grow over $2B and drive-up service grow over 500% in Q3
    • 20% increase in same store sales with 3% decrease in starting inventory for Q3 2020
    • 75% of digital orders were fulfilled by stores in Q3 2020
  • Walmart: enhanced mobile apps, fulfillment and new subscription program
    • Curbside projected to drive over $7B in sales and account for 33% of digital sales in 2020
    • Average basket size for curbside pickup were double that of in-store baskets
    • Q3 2020 saw the number of transactions drop by 14%, but average ticket increased by 24% and eCommerce was up 79%
  • Kroger: enhanced mobile apps and fulfillment
    • Q3 2020 saw 108% digital sales growth and 10.9% comparable store growth
    • Expanded to 2,213 pickup locations and 2,468 delivery locations, covering over 98% of Kroger households
    • Estimates that 50% of online revenue is coming from competitor’s customers

In conclusion, investments in customer engagements definitely pay off for retailers and, in today’s world, pay off quickly. The good news is that it is never too late to start. Given the speed with which technology changes can be implemented to support both digital and in-store experiences today, retailers will quickly see the benefits of innovation in improved financial and operational performance.

Watch the Webinar on customer engagement – Real Engagement is the new normal

Retail Spending is up 24%, if you are not seeing a bump you may have a long-term customer problem

This is the first of a series of 4-blogs (Read Blog 2, Blog 3, Blog 4) from SkillNet on how Modern Commerce Leaders have used technology to digitally transform their retail businesses to adapt to the New Normal. This ability to adapt, gives these brands a competitive advantage. While the blogs are connected each of them can be read independently.

Up through the Fall of 2020, the economy looked like it was approaching a “New Normal” of economic activity. However, pessimism based on poor holiday sales and political unrest has countered the optimism coming from new stimulus spending and vaccines. Uncertainty continues to be the defining term for 2021. In this blog, we will discuss where we are on the path to the New Normal, and how retailers can support customers changes in behavior.

First question we all have is “Has the bleeding stopped?” According to TrackRecovery.org, consumer spending in week ending January 17, 2021, was up 6.5% over same time period in 2020. Driven by $600 stimulus checks, retail spending was up 25%. Consumers have dramatically shifted spending from Entertainment, Travel, and Restaurants to Essential Retail and eCommerce.

Consumer Spending up 6%; retail spending up 24.5%

Source: TrackRecovery.org

Given this situation, if your business is not seeing a rebound in Sales, you may have a problem, in that your customer may have made a long-term behavioral change. These changes can be as simple as your customer still buying your product but just not coming into the store (reducing add-on sales), to your customer finding more convenient options from your competitors. Kroger reported in their 2020 Q2 earnings call that they estimate 50% of their new digital customers are coming from their competitors.

With this consumer behavioral change, not only does a business have to worry about  competitors, but also whether they have lost the traditional add-on opportunities in the urgency of making the shopping experience safer. When adding functionality online, retailers may have neglected to identify opportunities to replace the incremental sales normally associated with in store traffic. Traditional merchandising and pricing techniques, which offers add-on sales opportunities, just may not work if the customer is not walking your aisles, end caps, shelves, tables, four ways, or seeing your accompanying promotional signage.

I was recently on a call with a Midwest Essentials Retail client, and one of the initiatives they have undertaken to address this uncertainty, is to partner with SkillNet to improve customers mobile shopping experience and to offer additional customer engagement functionality that not only mimics in-store experience, but in many circumstances enhances on it. This functionality includes additional fulfillment options, appointment scheduling, loyalty program, inventory availability, personalized marketing and an enhanced consumer shopping experience.  

What will help retailers regain lost sales is identify what has changed in their customer’s journey. One of the ways to identify this is through financial modeling by analyzing traffic and average order values, by channel, pre-2020 and post-2021. Using technology to bridge the gap and to enhance customer experience will go a long way in deepening customer engagements and help getting the dollars back while enabling growth.

Watch the Webinar on customer engagement – Real Engagement is the new normal

Martin Dempsey shares his experience of working with SkillNet

POS reengineering for leading apparel retailer

A leading apparel retailer grows new personalized services line 5X in three years through speed, service & selection supported by POS reengineering

Brief 

A leading apparel retailer, successfully grew their new Custom Clothing line 5.5X in three years, with SkillNet’s reengineering of their legacy POS systems for higher speed, selection and service.  Now client’s Expert Style and Wardrobe consultants use an instore app on a handheld device to design and order custom tailored clothes.  

About the client 

The client is a leading specialty retailer, who deliver personalized products and services through an expansive omnichannel network that includes over 1,400 locations in the U.S. and Canada as well as branded e-commerce websites.

Challenge | Major technology transformation required to compete on speed, selection and service  

The client offers ready-to-wear clothing across their multiple specialty stores brands. In 2016, client saw an opportunity in offering Custom Clothing at the stores.

Expert wardrobe consultants and master tailors used an in-store app not only to order custom apparel but also advise on customizations available in styles, colors, fabric choices and for an optimal fit.   

However, the interaction offered a very narrow range of options for custom details like working buttonholes, pick stitching, lining, thread color and more.  In order to enhance customer experience and compete better in Custom Clothing, client needed to focus on three things: speed, selection and service.  

This was now a technology challenge for the legacy POS system. Clients heavily customized POS, still using flat files, required a three-month cycle to add every single custom option. As a further challenge, each of the nine sub-brands had their own customized legacy technology.  

Over the years, as no commercially available system could match the unique requirements, the legacy POS had been built with heavy customizations to match the business needs of client’s nine brands. This introduced technical debt and a limited ability to introduce new features without high risk of operational impact in multiple areas. 

The client realized the need to re-engineer their existing monolithic solution to enable further changes to their systems. In order to do this redesign from within they needed a partner with deep experience and capability on POS solutions that could work both with the latest technologies and the deployed legacy. They engaged SkillNet. 

Solution | Technology transformation using microservices, implemented incrementally 

SkillNet proposed a microservices approach for the legacy POS replacement. Their POS and stores expertise allowed them to identify the microservices to be extracted and used across multiple channels, providing omnichannel capability from the ground up. The creation of these services also meant the removal and simplification of existing POS customizations.

The first step was to re-architecture their data model. SkillNet created catalog, store, inventory schemas and built the micro-services on top of these schemas.  

The Store Service updates the data pertaining to a store and also manages the events and product labels available for the store within the company. Catalog service focuses on information pertaining to products, fabrics, models etc. It also holds the key information of a factory, company and labels available. When customers browse online, this application provides the information which is displayed.  The Inventory service provides information on any given fabric, based on the factory where its available.

In order to make the changes in the monolith system, the team not only needed a different architecture and tools but also introduced a different way of working, The DevOps enablement and agile approach represents complete transformation from previous practices for software development and project execution.   

While the transformation is ongoing, the initial phase has allowed introduction of new features in stores. To introduce these changes, SkillNet proposed a “Strangler Pattern” for incremental transformation of the overall solution. This allows for new features to be available early and avoids the need for a big program with a cliff hanger at the end of the implementation. 

Benefits | Increased Selection and Service Leads to 5.5X growth in three years 

The addition of new options (like a buttonhole or a thread, for example) would take three months before the transformation. After the reengineering, the client is able to add new options within days, which means that customers now have a higher selection and service available to them quickly. 

At one of the brands, the reserve custom line offers over 150 fabric choices from the most prestigious Italian mills and can be ordered in various silhouettes and styles. Customers can select from a variety of authentic custom details like working buttonholes, pick stitching, lining, thread color and more. Another of the brands custom line offers over 120 fabric choices. Customers can personalize their suits, sport coats, dress trousers, vests, tuxedos, and dinner jackets with various fits ranging from slim, tailored, and traditional.

The Custom Clothing business has grown to $276 M across brands in 2019, from $50 M three years before, a 5.5X growth. 

Given that the state of the art, leading-edge Retail systems are modular and support upgrades across business processes, the client’s team can easily maintain and deploy them independently. They can also adapt to leading-edge technologies easily.

SkillNet’s approach has resulted in the creation of a platform that can support continuous evolution. With a solution that can be tailored and modified quickly, the client can now offer a seamless customer experience.

During Covid-19, client’s team has used the microservices architecture to seamlessly enable online ordering for curbside pick-up.

All product names and trademarks are property of their respective owners.

AWS Cloud re-engineering for Modern Commerce in the age of COVID

In Partnership With Amazon Web Services

Companies are accelerating the move to the cloud of more of their critical business applications. However, lift and shift strategies don’t maximize value and pure microservices approaches are not practical for most organizations without very significant investment.

In this webinar, we will cover practical reengineering examples in AWS to help retail and hospitality organizations increase the value of their migrations to the cloud. Including:

  • AWS Guidance Patterns for Migrating your existing POS solution
  • Extending omnichannel capabilities in AWS
  • Creating new customer journeys leveraging  your existing applications and AWS

Reimagining payments for Modern Commerce

The increase in the number of channels and payment types made the right design of integrated payment solutions a critical feature in the successful delivery of omnichannel.

The COVID crisis and the need for social distancing are making this feature not only critical but also essential, as customers avoid touch and proximity in their shopping experiences.

Watch our webinar “Reimagining payments for Modern Commerce” where we take a look at the projects and initiatives that retailers are prioritizing for the New Normal and cover one of the areas of more focus for retailers which is payment processing for Modern Commerce.

WE DISCUSSED:

  • Common challenges for the successful delivery of omnichannel payment integration pre-COVID
  • New business drivers for reimagining payments in the era of COVID
  • Current payment initiatives from our customers to address the lockdown and new normal
  • SkillNet’s StoreHub UTP approach for unified transaction processing

Antonio Alvaro | LinkedIn (Profile Link)

SVP Digital & Cloud Solutions & General Manager International at SkillNet Solutions Inc.

Gaurav Rastogi | LinkedIn (Profile Link)

CEO Doloop Digital

Making “click and collect” possible at more than 3000+ stores worldwide

Retail makeover allows shoppers to “click and collect” at more than 4200+ stores worldwide

Brief

SkillNet makes the mammoth task of integrating 4200+ stores to legacy systems seamless. As part of the solution SkillNet used its StoreHub platform, deployed on the cloud to integrate a vast array of inbound and outbound interfaces from Xstore solutions, Oracle Retail Customer Engagement (CE) and legacy enterprise systems. The system handles millions of daily transactions with more than tens of millions customer records.

About the client

The client is the largest distributor of professional beauty products in the U.S. based on store count. The Company operates primarily through two business segments and operates two formats of stores; one for salon professionals and other for retail shoppers. It sells and distributes through 4200+ stores, including 158 franchised units, and has operations throughout the United States and 13 countries.

Challenge | Complex integration with Oracle Xstore Upgrade

The client wanted to enhance their retail customers’ omnichannel experience and embarked on a digital transformation program which included the upgrade of their POS systems to Xstore.

Since the client had diverse technology for managing business operations, the upgrade and new store solution implementation would involve highly complex integration. The client also wanted to get a single version of truth with reporting at enterprise level. This meant that they had to ensure data integrity globally, across various brands and stores.

Solution | StoreHub, SkillNet’s platform framework for integration

The client partnered with SkillNet to take advantage of their deep expertise in retail systems and Oracle Xstore to address the integration challenges.

SkillNet’s expertise in retail data management not only helped resolve documentation gaps and application scalability issues, but also enabled the team to reverse engineer complex issues. SkillNet used its proprietary StoreHub accelerator, to surmount the complex integration challenges and speed the data integration process. The transaction and data records run in tens of millions customer records. Deployed on the cloud, StoreHub worked seamlessly with the legacy systems & the new POS systems. It also processes store inventory and pricing data daily and offers alerts in case of exception. These alerts help take preventive and corrective action. Finally, SkillNet also created a single version of truth data and enterprise level reporting at the Head Office with data from 4200+ stores.

Results | Enhancing customers’ shopping experience through the convenience of “click and collect at store” and “click and same day delivery”

Currently, 4200+ stores are live on Oracle POS systems. The new commerce systems and the ability to process vast amounts of transactions data means that the client’s team can generate customer inventory and other business insights seamlessly for making mission critical decisions without any delay. Maintenance costs have also been reduced.

The ability to process high volumes of transactions has enabled the client to support safer shopping experiences during COVID-19 by offering customers the convenience of “click and collect at store” and “click and get same day delivery”, 6 months ahead of schedule. This has resulted in a 40% increase in online orders. All product names and trademarks are property of their respective owners.

About SkillNet

SkillNet Solutions, Makers of Modern Commerce provide consulting and technology services to companies that are digitally transforming their retail business to modern commerce. Our services enable clients to rapidly anticipate and respond to changing consumer behaviour. Through engineering and enterprise-grade implementation of cloud and SaaS applications, SkillNet creates rich customer journeys for local and global brands to stay ahead of the curve. Our solution accelerators enable clients to quickly become more agile and efficient in harnessing technology.

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, SkillNet partners with industry leaders like Oracle, SAP Commerce Cloud (Hybris), Salesforce, Magento and AWS to enhance online and in-store experiences. Since 1996, we have worked with retailers across 53 countries to deliver exceptional customer experience and growth. Our award-winning solutions have enabled global retail brands in Apparel, Automotive, F&B, CPG, Grocery, Health & Beauty, Liquor, Pharmacies, Restaurants and Telecom to deliver the promise of modern commerce.

All product names and trademarks are property of their respective owners.

Secrets to Successful SAP Commerce Cloud Migration Webinar

Are you planning to move your business to the cloud? How are you weighing the tough business decisions that lay ahead? Is your B2B/B2C eCommerce platform on-premise? What is your strategy to move into a cloud environment?

Watch SkillNet’s webinar in partnership with SAP Commerce Cloud to find the answers to these questions along with issues, benefits, steps, ideas for a process to migrate into SAP Commerce Cloud. You would also get Business and Technical insight into the process during the webinar.

In this webinar – Secrets to Successful SAP Commerce Cloud Migration – you will get to know the best practices of migrating SAP on-premise solution to SAP Commerce Cloud, key prerequisites for the migration project, and a small demonstration of the SAP commerce cloud environment.

We discussed:

  • Why migrate to the cloud? Challenges of migration
  • SAP Commerce Cloud  benefits
  • SkillNet’s approach for a successful migration, Steps, Recommendations, Checklist
  • SAP Commerce Cloud Demo and possibilities that open up with the platform
  • SkillNet Offer for free migration assessment

Speakers

Pragnesh Ray

Director – eCommerce Practice at Skillnet Solutions Inc.

Patrick Sampson

Director Solution Strategy at SAP hybris

Watch full webinar : Here

Accelerating Retail decisions with real-time data

Brief

Europe’s largest health and well-being retailer accelerates the pace of retail business decision making by implementing a data lake to enable stores to respond in real-time to customer needs.

About the client

The client is Europe’s largest health and well-being retailer of branded and own-label products across a wide range of vitamins, supplements, specialist food, sports nutrition, and ethical beauty. Founded in 1870, they focus on making people healthier and happier, operating more than 1300 stores worldwide as well as an expanding e-commerce business.

Challenge | Continuous product innovation requires real-time data

The client constantly innovates to meet customers’ needs, whether it is ethical sourcing or digital transformation to provide a world-class shopping experience. Continuous product innovation requires the client to better harness their data in real-time to make decisions such as refilling store inventory to avoid stock-outs, product manufacturing batch-sizes, offering new discounts, promotions, and customer rewards.

The business decision making was based on spreadsheets using data collected in silos from diverse systems and sources such as stores, audited sales, online sales, and SKU/stock data. This meant the process was slow (up to 48 hours to collect data), prone to mistakes (no single version of the truth), and not able to support business information requirements. This lack of real-time visibility was impeding the pace of innovation and customer responsiveness.

Solution | Improving business efficiency and customer experience through a data lake

After identifying the key business areas and decision insights required by client’s business finance teams, SkillNet created a data lake as the single source of truth by integrating data from multiple source technologies such as stores, audited sales, online sales and inventory. Using Oracle’s Business Intelligence platform, SkillNet automated data collation and report generation.

Hundreds of manual spreadsheets were replaced by automated reports that were run hourly, daily and weekly. Business users now have the ability to create near real-time visually impactful reports with self-service tools.

The solution enabled retailer’s team to gain visibility and proactive actionable insights across store systems and various lines of business.

Benefits | Making Better Decisions with real-time data

  • Availability of near-real-time (as compared to 2 or more days earlier) integrated data with automated reports
    • This has considerably reduced business decision cycles
    • Proactive decision making due to the business teams’ ability to generate user-friendly reports with near real-time data
    • Near real-time hierarchical store dashboards (Region, area, Store) and KPI reports on sales, ACT, conversion, engagement and loyalty participation
  • Dashboards with deeper data insights have helped the client’s business & store teams uncover newer insights
    • More informed decisions regarding inventory, discounts, shrinkage, product scan data and channel resulting in better responses to customer requirements.
    • Teams are being able to view sales data in near real-time and be more effective in their stock allocation and replenishment
    • Reduction in thefts and shrinkage
  • Regional Managers were spending ~15hrs per week on analysing and customizing reports. They now spend time with Area Managers and Store Managers to drive store performance

All product names and trademarks are property of their respective owners.