News turns to the cloud to help unify its brands

April 11, 2016 01:58 PM Inc. shows eight tabs on its home page for its brands and offers a universal shopping cart in which shoppers can place an order for a floral bouquet, Cheryl’s chocolate chip cookies and a fruit tower from Harry & David, among other items. But an order like this from several of its brands is processed by different order and fulfillment systems. As a result, a customer who places the order at the same time often would receive the products at different times.

The gourmet food and gifts e-retailer, No. 57 in the newly released Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, plans to eliminate such fulfillment glitches and smooth the ordering process with a shift to the cloud to handle ordering and fulfillment across its brands.

1-800-Flowers says it struggled to eliminate complexities resulting from separate fulfillment processes and systems for its brands. The e-retailer could not give customers visibility into the status of their multibrand online orders, such as letting them know when orders would arrive and who would be handling delivery. To fix that, the online retailer has hired IBM’s Commerce on Cloud to unify and simplify transactions across its brands, replacing multiple, legacy systems and data centers with one connected system. IBM delivers its software via the cloud, meaning it’s hosted on the web instead of licensed to clients to operate from their own data centers.

1-800-Flowers, which signed a contract in January with IBM for the subscription-based service but did not disclose the price when it announced the deal Friday, has started to retire some brands’ order entry and fulfillment systems and plans to process its first order on the cloud by mid-July to early August, chief information officer Arnold Leap tells Internet Retailer. “We’re at a good checkpoint now, configuring and connecting systems. We’re not going to do a big bang with it, but we are moving quickly,” he says. “All green lights point toward taking our first set of orders and fulfillment from cloud services by late summer. We’ll be completely on the cloud in September, well in advance of the Christmas season.”

The shift to the web-based system will allow the retailer to be more responsive to customers’ needs, especially during holidays that generate traffic and order spikes—Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day—without having to worry about limitations of server space, Leap says. “We’re going to generate and put in place a reinforced omnichannel solution, one in which we can distribute products from retail stores, enable buy online, pickup in store service, and integrate our call center. It will all be unified under one platform.”

The transition is not expected to result in staffing cuts, he says. Operating costs for hardware, such as servers and data centers, are much higher than labor costs, and “we’re going to reduce operating overhead. Systems will be retired and we’ll ramp this [cloud] up with far less capital to invest in IT,” Leap says.

“Our on-staff developers are experts in the business and understand how orders should be processed. They’re all going to be subject-matter experts on the IBM cloud platform,” Leap says. “People will be reallocated; we’re just changing what car they’re driving.”




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