What does your company do?
Ampersand is an ecommerce agency. We use technology to help multichannel retailers quickly and simply solve complex problems around processes, integration and data. We advise on strategy, consulting and rebuilds as well as providing support on development.
What is your USP?
A no-nonsense approach and clarity of thought, which helps retailers deploy technology and changes faster. We frequently see the same challenges and we understand, overcome and deploy solutions faster than almost everyone else. It’s about how we integrate new challenges quickly by getting from talking about click and collect to actually doing it, or how we implement something new on mobile. One of the pieces of feedback that we constantly get is about how we implement a ‘sprint’ model, where we try to get new work into production every two weeks. We’ve found this is useful in terms of getting feedback from consumers to better inform the roadmap, rather than big waterfall releases every quarter or twice a year. By doing a number of releases a quarter, we get better feedback faster from consumers and are nimbler in our response, meaning we progress faster on the things they’ve asked for.
Our biggest challenge is not just to maintain momentum but to do so at a time when our clients are leading more and more concurrent activities
Darryl Adie, Managing Director
What are you doing currently in the ecommerce/multichannel market?
Aside from our core work of building and integrating ecommerce stores with other multichannel functions, we are also spending a lot of time helping team with cloud integration, PIM (Product Information Management) systems and merchandising processes. We see a lot of teams that have focused on better organising merchandising while centralising and internationalising,
but generally the systems haven’t kept up and coordinated, international change is hard.
We’re looking more at IT systems, and focusing more around master data management such as PIM products.
People are now saying we need a master system of CRM (Customer Relationships Management) data, or a master for PIM data, as well as the sales ledger in the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. Historically, the larger enterprise retailers would think in this way, but now it’s across the board as barriers to entry for CRM, data analytics and more are coming down. That means even the mid-tier retailers that we work with are able to leverage those master data systems and start to see some of the efficiencies they get from qualitative data, be that from how much time they spend doing merchandising to better understanding customers and creating a personalised experience.
Who are your customers?
Our customers are multichannel retailers who have historically focused on more traditional channels and now want to use ecommerce as a catalyst and a centre for bigger changes in their businesses. These include Bensons for Beds, Harveys Furniture, Poundland, Regatta Group, Hillarys Blinds, Interflora, Demon Tweeks and Moda
In Pelle, plus many more.
What do you see as challenges in the coming year and what are you doing to meet those challenges?
The momentum of fast development itself comes with its own challenges. I think our biggest challenge is not just to maintain momentum but to do so at a time when our clients are leading more and more concurrent activities. Our job is to remove the blockers to success and enable deployment of those parallel initiatives. Given the often-conflicting needs and objectives that we see, we will invest more time into strategy and using data to better understand user needs.
By opening the floodgates to more initiatives and input from different stakeholders, you have to become more involved in the strategy for the 12 months ahead. What are the initiatives that fit in that strategy? Does the customer data agree with those as a way of meeting the strategy and improving conversion rates or average order values?
How do you think your sector is developing and how will you have to change in order to adapt to that?
Our vision is to help retailers keep up with consumer expectations by understanding their customers’ needs and building technical solutions that help them get to market faster.
In the future, we’ll have to do more work around validating initiatives and data. We’ve gone from a position where a lot of initiatives aren’t possible due to capacity or technology constraints. Now, though, technical tools, processes and the way we work with retailers are improving all the time, so the constraints are through budget, or things happening elsewhere in the business. One effect of having more time because of being more efficient and running more things in parallel is that some items, things that have not faced as much scrutiny and are lower down the priorities list, might still be achievable, even though previously they would not have been.
Prioritisation will have to change and therefore we will have to change the way in which we set or interact at the beginning of the process, looking at the strategy of the business, helping to define its strategy, and then looking at the data to validate those assumptions. From there we’ll quickly develop things that can be tested by real users, asking if those changes are relevant and whether they improve the metrics that the business sees as important.
Customer case study – Poundland online
Ampersand is trusted to get it right by high growth retailers and last year it was entrusted to launch Poundland online. Poundland is Europe’s leading single price retailer, offering amazing value every day for the single price point of just £1.
Poundland had limited online and multichannel experience within the business and no previous online transactional data. With low in-store average order values and many products that are expensive to ship relative to their value, the high street did not provide a commercially viable business model that could simply be ‘put online’. Retailers always stumble upon challenges when embarking on customer-first re-platforming projects. However, Poundland is fairly unique in this combination of complexities.
Recognising the significant challenges of multichannel business transformation, Poundland invested in improving the overall online experience, creating a transactional model, setting ambitious goals and integrating ‘multichannel thinking’ throughout the organisation. From there, the business set its first multichannel roadmap and director-level ecommerce steering group. This allowed the business to define the journey ahead, align the project with its business values and initiate a period of digital change. Award-winning agency Ampersand was chosen to build Poundland’s first transactional ecommerce site using the Magento Enterprise platform as the best solution for Poundland’s immediate and long-term needs.
Poundland’s new transactional website offers more than 2,000 amazing value products across 17 product categories and over 1,000 top brands for customers to purchase from the comfort of their own home, on any device. The project also included innovative development that introduced gamification through the unique Shuffle feature, which randomises a visual representation of the range and aligns with customer feedback that trips to Poundland are a journey of discovery. The introduction of the Scratchcard feature enables shoppers to win offers at the end of the shopping journey and encourages repeat purchases.
“Our online shopping channel is designed to complement our successful stores,” said Paul McDermott, head of ecommerce at Poundland. “We can now offer the extra convenience of home delivery for customers, especially those with larger baskets for event shopping, bulk purchases and specific missions. The features we’ve introduced with Ampersand, such as Shopping Made Easy and Shuffle, are a great fit with our online offer and our brand values”.
The benefits to the business are clear. Poundland adopted a multichannel mindset and created an online offering that works both for the business and for customers, offering a new convenient way to shop.
AMPERSAND IN BRIEF