cloud engineering Archives - SkillNet Solutions

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

Sally Beauty’s retail makeover allows shoppers to “click and collect” at more than 3000+ stores worldwide

Brief

Sally Beauty partnership with SkillNet makes the mammoth task of integrating 3000+ stores to legacy systems a breeze. As part of the solution, SkillNet used its StoreHub platform to integrate more than 20 inbound and outbound interfaces seamlessly from Xstore solutions, Oracle Retail Customer Engagement (CE) and legacy enterprise systems. The system handles millions of daily transactions associated with customer records.

About the client

Sally Beauty Holdings, Inc. is an international specialty retailer distributor of professional beauty supplies. Through the Sally Beauty Supply and Systems Beauty Group businesses, the Company sells and distributes through 3,000+ stores, including 158 franchised units, and has operations throughout the United States and 13 countries. It offers professional beauty products to both retail consumers and salon professionals. It operates two formats of stores; one for saloon professionals and other for retail shoppers. These formats have different product catalogs, pricing, and customer base.

Challenge | Complex integration issues delaying Oracle xStore Upgrade

In 2018, Sally and Beauty Systems Group wanted to enhance customers’ shopping experience through the convenience of “click and collect at store” and “click and delivery.” Sally Beauty team decided to upgrade their POS systems to xStore. They wanted to ensure data integrity across brands in order to get a single version of truth with reporting at enterprise level. This was a challenge given the global scale, large number brands and stores the company operates.

Sally Beauty had a diverse IT solutions ecosystem for managing business operations and it ranged from legacy solutions to on-prem and SaaS apps among others. This meant that new store solution implementation would involve complex integration. Due to several unsuccessful attempts to address the complicated integration issues, the upgrade project had been stalled for three years.

Solution | StoreHub, SkillNet’s platform framework for integration

Sally Beauty partnered with SkillNet to take advantage of their deep expertise in retail systems and Oracle xStore to address the integration challenges.

An audit identified missing documentation for the legacy systems as one of the issues contributing to the complexity of the integration. SkillNet’s expertise in retail data management not only helped resolve documentation gaps and application scalability issues, but also reverse engineer complex issues.

SkillNet used its proprietary StoreHub accelerator, to surmount the complex integration challenges and speed the data integration process. The solution team integrated more than 20 inbound and outbound interfaces seamlessly from Xstore store solutions, Oracle Retail Customer Engagement (CE), and legacy enterprise systems. The transaction and data records run into hundreds of  millions. StoreHub worked seamlessly with the legacy systems.

Currently, several million customer records are updated daily from the SaaS application and Oracle EBS to CE and Xcenter. Throughout the day, StoreHub processes store inventory and pricing data periodically and offers alerts in case of exception. These alerts help take preventive and corrective action.

Finally, SkillNet created a single version of truth data and enterprise level reporting at the head office with data from 3000+ stores.

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

Sally Beauty went from taking no new stores online for 3 years to 3000+ stores live in less than 2 years. The new commerce systems and the ability to process vast amount of transactions means that the Sally Beauty team can generate customer, inventory and other business insights seamlessly for making mission critical decisions without any delay.

Given the changes in buyer behavior in the past few months, the ability to process increasing amount of transactions has enabled Sally Beauty to offers customers the convenience of “click and collect at store” and “click and get same day delivery”, 6 months earlier than schedule. This has resulted in a 40% increase in online orders with same day delivery feature.

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

Holland & Barrett accelerates Retail decisions with real-time data

Holland & Barrett accelerates Retail decisions with real-time data

Brief

Holland & Barrett International (HBI) accelerates the pace of retail business decision-making by implementing a data mart to enable stores to respond in real-time to customer needs.

About the client 

HBI 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.

A partner since 2012, SkillNet’s highly experienced retail consultants have designed and implemented POS solutions (2500+ Registers) to ensure seamless customer experience across various brands (6,000 Products) and multiple channels.

Challenge | Continuous product innovation requires real-time data

HBI 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.

HBI ‘s 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/stocks 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 mart

SkillNet’s team of business domain and tech consultants identified the key business areas and decision insights required by HBI’s business finance teams.

Then, SkillNet created a data mart 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 the HBI 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 HBI’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 analyzing and customizing reports. They now spend time with Area Managers and Store Managers to drive store performance

SkillNet’s team of the business domain and technical consultants continue to partner with the client on on-going digital initiatives to enable innovation to meet customer’s needs and well-being.

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

5 Retail technology takeaways from NRF 2020

Another great show this year at NRF in New York. Between great meetings with our customers and partners, here are top five retail technology takeaways from NRF 2020 from the exhibitor floor.

Store Digital twins

Satya Nadella mentioned them in his opening keynote of NRF and were a topic of conversation with many partners. A digital store twin in the cloud that can monitor and predict behavior is a proposition full of potential applications across customer, product and inventory.

The increase on the number of sensors and general data gathering end points at the store augments the fidelity of the digital replicas. At SkillNet, the virtualization and devops automation of the registers and devices of the retail POS state is a solution we have been providing to customers for testing and monitoring purposes at scale.

Vendors continue to define value around Customer Journeys

Consistent with previous events and current trends across industries, a lot of the conversations on how to best define the requirements for modern retail centered on customer journeys. From a technology perspective there were more general purpose Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) in show than the more narrow solutions for retail customer relationship management (CRMs) or in the spaces of loyalty or gift cards.

From our experience working on customer journeys definition, one definite risk is in aligning too much with methodologies associated with business process reengineering. The aim of frictionless execution of business processes, particularly on omnichannel flows, is only part of the objective. Retailers look for differentiation in the customer experience, not just efficiency. While the CDP platforms revolve around customer, the customer experience is a relationship between two: the customer and the brand. It will be interesting to see if these CDP solutions evolve their focus on that relationship. This should manifest first between customer and product, bringing better capabilities on interactions between the two by the extended use of Artificial Intelligence.

AI is everywhere but not all AI is created equal

Since mentioning AI. AI was everywhere at the event. Across the buy,move,sell,return retail process landscape and in most booths. AI was mentioned as part of most services and products. However very little detail on implementation or capability. The general impression is that most vendors are using now machine learning for predictive analytics. It was difficult not to be a bit cynical about some of the claims. Not necessarily expecting that vendors will include all details of their algorithms or techniques. But at least provide some signal of what is there under the covers as a minimum standard. Some of the claims were so broad that you could think general intelligence had been achieved. May be there is already a good capability classification somewhere suitable for events like this. Going beyond powered by AI but not explicitly talking about things like naive Baynes, logarithmic regression or random forests. If exists it was nowhere to be found in NRF

AR and 3D modeling are finding more practical use cases

Practical use cases for Virtual Reality have not always been easy to find in retail. It is more exciting to be placed inside a virtual alien world than inside a virtual shopping center. However there were plenty of great uses cases for augmented reality and 3d models at the show this year.

Beyond experiences at the retail store with smart mirrors and other dedicated devices, AR should be looking to grow as part of the mobile experience with the increase of coverage for 5G in 2020. Many tools available and vendors after this market.

For 3D models, the solutions were more matured and can be used at scale on large catalogs with certain degree of automation. Multiple options were available for 3D model capabilities on media generation in content management. Beyond content management, solutions for product customization were also available, executing the configuration with 3D printing or with a traditional manufacturing process.

Robotics for store inventory management

While robots are commonplace in warehouses for inventory management, a number of solutions at the show this year were showing robot based solutions for inventory management at the store. It would be interesting to see how these solutions evolve and mature. The methods and parameters of inventory data that could be captured into the system will significantly change and expand.

A version of this article is also published at www.Medium.com

Written by Antonio Alvaro, Antonio is Senior Vice President Solutions and General Manager International

Meet SkillNet at NRF 2020 booth #1334

NRF (National Retail Federation) is the biggest global industry event for retail with 40k+ attendees and 800+ exhibitors. As always, NRF2020 will be held at Jacob Jarvits NYC location from Jan 12-14, 2020. According to NRF, it is the must-attend week where retail movers and shakers from around the world come to learn, share, collaborate, network and inspire. SkillNet will be in presence again this year. Come join us, at NRF booth #1334 and learn how we are transforming retail. 

We will also host our annual customer appreciation event “Spark” on Jan 13th. Spark is an invitation only event where SkillNet’s past, current and future customers come together to network and exchange experiences in a fun, informal setting.

Visit_SkillNet_NRF_Booth_1334

For invitation reach out to us at http://www.skillnetinc.com/contact/

Nicaragua’s biggest home improvement retailer, SINSA, improves it customer satisfaction and inventory flows with future ready technology

Customer satisfaction is the hallmark of a business success. SINSA is achieving this from the first day of go-live of Oracle Retail Solutions. SkillNet is proud to be the leader for this digital transformation of SINSA’s business operations.

Founded in 1990, SINSA is the largest home improvement retailer in Nicaragua. The product range of SINSA includes hardware, tiles, and electric components etc. It has four business units; and retail business accounts for nearly three forth of its overall revenues.

SINSA currently operates 24 stores and a unique Truck retail store concept with close to 65,000 different SKUs for customers to choose from. Its mission is to offer an integral solution to all customers in construction, renovation and decoration projects.

Recently, SkillNet completed implementation of a number of Oracle Retail solutions to fulfill the mission of SINSA. The solutions included end-to-end retail application systems right from Merchandising to Point of sale (POS) such as Merchandising Operations Management, Store Inventory Management, Xstore Point-of-Service, Customer Engagement (CRM) and Order Broker. This has been a unique implementation with complex retail business processes, compliance requirements and business model. The new store applications are seamlessly integrated with SINSA’s enterprise systems.

“What should a true digital transformation look like? Either it should reduce the operational challenges or it should improve customer satisfaction. SkillNet has been instrumental in achieving both the goals in a single implementation for SINSA.”

(more…)

Enhancing customer journeys on cloud

Enhancing customer journeys on cloud to facilitate $1billion ecommerce operations

Brief

SkillNet partnered with J. Crew’s to enhance online customer journey and support peak season traffic to enable eCommerce growth.

About J. Crew  

J. Crew Group, Inc. is an internationally recognized omnichannel retailer of women’s, men’s and children’s apparel, shoes and accessories. The Company operates 184 J. Crew retail stores, 138 Madewell stores, jcrew.com, jcrewfactory.com, madewell.com and 170 Factory stores.

Challenge | Supporting new customer journeys and increased online traffic with legacy systems

J. Crew had a very large and successful eCommerce operation (close to a billion USD). Since peak season transactions and traffic contribute heavily to the growth of online operations, the J. Crew team wanted to offer enhanced customer journeys with new shopping features and increased personalization, while ensuring that the systems could scale to support increased volumes.

J. Crew’s legacy Blue Martini systems had been in place for a while and it had all the challenges of a monolith system. Ongoing product updates to the web site were time consuming, resource intensive and inflexible. It was also difficult to support new customer buying journeys. Apart from these issues, the demands of peak time traffic meant that the J. Crew team had to relook at their ecommerce systems. The team decided to migrate to Salesforce Commerce Cloud using microservices architecture.  

To ensure a smooth and seamless transition, they decided to partner with SkillNet, with whom they had a long-standing relationship since 2007 in omni channel support.

Solution | Enabling seamless ecommerce migration

The SkillNet team provided a solution that managed risk, introduced practical service led solution that allowed first migration of order management and then ecommerce.

Based on SkillNet’s experience with Blue Martini, the team was able to translate the business logic to support a seamless migration to Sales Force Commerce cloud. The first step was to decouple Blue Martini from other services and create a separate ocapi-based UI. Since ocapi drives headless experiences it ensured an enhanced online and mobile experiences for customers. Similarly, other elements of the commerce platform like the database, have also been migrated to Sales Force Commerce.

The proposed Strangler Pattern 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. So, while the digital transformation is still ongoing, new features like cart notification (change in prices), alerts, gamification (which enables cross selling & customized promotions) have been added to enhance customer’s shopping experience.

Results | Online growth with enhanced customer journeys on the cloud

Since the web pages on JCrew.com are now server based they load faster and this has improved customer satisfaction. New features on the site like cart notification (changes in prices), alerts and gamification (which enables cross selling & customized promotions) have resulted in a 10% increase in year on year e-commerce sales. The site soon clocked $1 billion.

The platform processes 30,000 orders daily during peak season and supports multi-million dollars in orders in an hour across brands.

The new UI resulted in a massive surge in mobile sales with 15% conversion of mobile orders across brands. There were days when the smart phones contributed to 84% of the traffic

The headless commerce system also ensures that changes to the front end can be made quickly and developers save time on user interface change, resulting in increased efficiencies

The new system also ensured increased efficiencies in inventory and order management systems.

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