Ocado is the world’s largest pure-play online grocery retailer, with more than 500,000 active customers, reaching more than 70% of U.K. households, with 55% of orders completed using a mobile device. Now this customer-focused trailblazer is transforming its internal processes with apps.
“Our business is all about making the process of grocery shopping as simple and convenient as possible for our customers,” said Paul Clarke, Chief Technology Officer. “We want to give customers back the time they would have spent in a supermarket.”
For Clarke, the customer-facing projects at the top of the innovation to-do list had brought them closer to their goal. But to truly realize the company’s vision, Clarke and team needed to transform Ocado’s internal processes.
Instead of relying on developers to build internal apps, Clarke wanted to empower the company’s business analysts to get involved. He also wanted to build apps quickly and cheaply, so they could be used for one-off events or campaigns.
For Ocado, the answer to driving better employee experiences started with Salesforce. An analyst was asked to learn Force.com from scratch and build the first three apps: it took just six weeks. Now, expenses claims, project lifecycle management, health and safety training, and facilities management are among the internal processes being revamped with apps built on the Salesforce Platform.
“With Salesforce, we are in control of our own apps and our own destiny.”
And with Ocado customers and employees already benefiting from app innovations, Clarke is turning his attention to the retailer’s supplier community. In addition to selling groceries, Ocado offers hundreds of its own label products — from fruit and fish to dips and dairy. These products are sourced from more than 200 suppliers. “For every product, we need to capture a wealth of metadata. Every time there’s a change to an ingredient, it needs to be approved by our buyers and food technology teams,” said Clarke.
To bring everyone on the same page, Clarke and his team are developing an app on Salesforce Community Cloud and the Salesforce Platform, which will be used by both suppliers and the retailer’s in-house team. Ocado uses a mix of the Salesforce Platform development features — including Lightning, Visualforce, and drag-and-drop capabilities — to help make ideas like the supplier community become a reality.
“With Salesforce, we get the best of both worlds: We can use simple or sophisticated development techniques,” said Clarke. “The reporting, permissioning, security, and APIs that come out of the box mean we don’t have to start from scratch every time.”
As the £1 billion retailer builds more internal apps, user feedback and analytics will become increasingly important. “For us, the story doesn’t stop with deployment,” said Clarke. “We want to create a living app ecosystem that is constantly improving. We want users to be able provide feedback, suggest ideas, and feel engaged in the ongoing development process.”
Ocado is currently busy building the Ocado Smart Platform (OSP) — the fusion of its end-to-end e-commerce, fulfillment, and logistics solution rewritten to run in the cloud — and a new modular and scalable hardware platform for building its highly automated warehouses. The company plans to use OSP not only to replatform its own U.K. businesses but also to provide large brick-and-mortar retailers around the world a shortcut to moving online. The ecosystem of internal apps that Ocado is building on the Salesforce Platform mirrors this external platform strategy and offers Ocado the opportunity of making these internal apps available to its OSP customers.
“With Salesforce,” says Clarke, “we can turn our ideas for internal apps into reality for our people a lot faster.”