Carpetright is the largest flooring retailer in Europe with over 700 stores across the UK, Ireland, Holland, Belgium and Poland, with outlets in retail parks, high streets and concessions in department stores. The company also recently acquired Sleepright, the bed store. The latest step in the company's development is creating a new e-commerce platform to drive revenue, attract new customers and reinforce the Carpetright and Sleepright brands.
The project, which includes transactional web sites for both Carpetright and Sleepright started in January 2009 and will complete complete by the end of the year.
Ian Woosey, Group IT Director, Carpetright states: "We considered several vendors for our e-commerce solution and although we had a structured selection methodology the responses were so diverse it was impossible to compare like-for-like. Vendors used different approaches, methodologies and technology solutions. I recognised that we needed some specialist support."
"I contacted PMC because of their retail understanding and wide-ranging experience of e-commerce technology. They have also worked with many key players in the e-commerce market. The objective was not for them to do the exercise for us, it was to use their experience and sector expertise to help us with the process."
Difficulty in making accurate comparisons between technology vendors is a common problem when they respond to an initial information request. Each one puts forward a slightly different proposal and retailers find it increasingly difficult to make an accurate assessment between differing solutions.
Creating an effective 'joined-up' multichannel strategy
Woosey explains: "PMC's help was hugely valuable. They helped us identify requirements and draw up a shortlist of potential e-commerce providers. They also helped us create a detailed RFI (Request for Information). This included identifying selection criteria, business objectives, hosting, operational options and interface requirements, plus identifying multichannel stock management objectives, fulfilment and reverse logistic processes. As well as guidance on the selection process, PMC steered us through managing the vendor presentations, including advising us on the right 'searching' questions to ask."
Carpetright will offer it's customers an effective multichannel strategy. As Woosey confirms that means taking an effective 'joined-up' approach" "We know that beds and bedding sell online, however, carpet and flooring is a slightly different issue. We want our new site to encourage people to buy online and help them to search online. The objective is to forge close links between the 'site experience' and the 'store experience'. As far as possible, we want to check and track the cross-channel interaction."
"Eventually, we want to increase cross-fertilisation between channels. We are conscious the web experience must be complementary to the store network. We do not want to create a situation where we are competing with ourselves."
Carpetright selected Summit Media, which delivers all channels of online marketing and strategy to provide fully managed e-commerce platforms and marketing tools. Once selection was complete, Carpetright asked PMC to provide project management assistance, QA and testing.
Realising the value of effective Quality Assurance
The Carpetright e-commerce project team, PMC and Summit Media, worked together to identify critical activities to achieve the most value-add through targeted, focused, quality assurance activities. This includes continuing PMC providing guidance and support for the Carpetright project manager and project team plus objective, independent assessment on overall progress.
This collaboration enables the accurate formulation and validation of the overall plan ensuring that work stream plans merge into a single, achievable project plan that includes early risk identification, mitigation and management. Resource planning and allocation are also controlled in line with final project structure and industry best practise in e-commerce design and development.
Woosey explains the advantages of third-party QA: "The QA role must review, challenge and validate. This needs open-channel communication. The project team can easily become engulfed in what they are doing. It's too easy to focus on detail and lose sight of the longer term. However, external QA is most valuable when it's handled correctly. PMC don't simply list problems they give practical advice and offer solutions. For me that's the right way to work - it avoids conflict and solves problems."
Ensuring success through detailed solution testing
PMC also helped Carpetright with a dual testing programme as Woosey explains. "We want our new web presence and transactional abilities to be industry leading. That means it is important that take a 'right first time' approach to ensure an excellent customer experience from launch. Technical and user testing is therefore crucial. Delivering a defective product or failing to meet the business requirements is a significant failure and could cause delay and add substantial cost to the project."
PMC will provide an independent usability study and site review plus integration (end-to-end) testing. The usability study and site review covers customer reactions, quantitative and qualitative review, negative testing results plus recommendations and next steps. The integration testing will ensure that process flows take place as expected, and system components integrate together correctly passing the right information between them.
Woosey closes: "This is a project built on collaboration. We set up open and honest links between the Carpetright team, PMC and Summit. Right from the early stages we wanted everyone to sign up for the collaboration and it works. PMC are flexible, good to work with and practical. This project is moving at pace, so we need to work with partners that can move at the pace we want. It's an ambitious timescale and we're on track.