Mobility project:

East of England Co-op

200+ stores | 5,000+ employees | 26,000 members | £350m turnover

Building a platform to enhance customer and employees’ lives

Introducing a new POS that is sufficiently flexible to integrate with other solutions in order to exploit the digital opportunity for both customers and employees, has been the over-arching objective of East of England Co-op since it began working with WonderLane.

But a more immediate requirement back in September 2019 was to use the expertise of the tech specialist to support East of England’s existing POS system when the retailer felt it was being held back by its existing support partner at a time when it wanted to push ahead with its technology transformation journey.

John Dixey, head of IT development at East of England Co-op, says: “They were good with simple coding issues but did not understand how this fitted into our broader systems as a retailer. They could not see the bigger picture of how the POS integrated with other systems. We therefore transitioned the existing systems support to the WonderLane team who immediately got on top of the software challenge. They were responsive and understood retail and the implications of any changes made to the POS on the overall business.”

Ease of integration

The success of the partnership quickly led to East of England piloting the WonderLane POS alongside the existing solution in a number of stores through 2019 and into 2020. The ease with which the WonderLane products integrate with other solutions easily enabled this parallel test to take place.

Such flexibility also enabled some additional complexity to be overcome without any problems. Firstly, there was the implementation of the WonderLane payments solution SureCanPay as a replacement for that from Mastercard, which had informed East of England it would officially end the arrangement on September 1, 2020. Secondly, an existing pilot of a self-checkout (SCO) solution needed to be re-routed to the WonderLane POS infrastructure and SureCanPay initiated before any consideration of a roll-out was to be undertaken.

This four-store pilot proved successful, powered by the new POS software, and the impact of Covid-19 prompted a rapid roll-out of 180 SCO units to 80 stores across January to March this year. With great change taking place at this time Dixey says the responsiveness of the WonderLane team was especially valuable: “They were very quick to recognise our business needs across SCO, SureCanPay, and the WonderLane POS integration. We changed course at certain times and they responded in a timely manner and in partnership with us.”

Flexible and agile capabilities

The SCO implementation has given a flavour of how East of England will benefit from its much more flexible, agile POS architecture in the future. It has created lots of value in-store, according to Dixey, with in-store employees able to work in a more customer-focused way with a greater service culture since as much as 35% of eligible spend (excluding BWS and tobacco) now goes through SCO devices in the chosen 80-plus stores. “The tech integration has been done well, with Diebold, and lots of efficiencies have been created,” he says.

With WonderLane having brought forward the SCO roll-out during Covid-19 the focus now shifts towards the completion of the pilot of the WonderLane POS software on 20 fixed tills within four selected stores, which is integrated into PayPoint and the SureCanPay payments solution. Android-based HP tills have been chosen, which work well with the POS of WonderLane, and are effectively a touch-screen with the full capabilities of a till.

Streamlined architecture

Dixey says it is anticipated that the new POS will be running across the full East of England estate comprising 320 tills within 122 stores by October. At this point all tills will be talking to the historical back-end system and the process of streamlining the infrastructure will then take place. “We are not taking a Big Bang approach but will migrate things gradually,” says Dixey, citing the company’s hand-held terminals used by in-store employees as a part of this process.

Not only are the existing units being replaced with Datalogic Android devices but the myriad interfaces they utilise will be rationalised with the help of WonderLane. The likes of price checking, gap checking, label requests and stock checking will all be handled seamlessly utilising the single view of data held at the back-end within East of England head office.

The flexibility of the WonderLane platform and its ability to enable the easy integration of third-party products is especially appealing to Dixey as he now looks to draw up the next stages of the digital journey of East of England Co-op. Part of this involves digitising the retailer’s membership and integrating various possible solutions at the till point such as coupons, electronic gift cards and loyalty-type elements. “With the existing solution none of this has been possible. As a result of this new capabilities the customer experience will be enhanced,” he says.

Next stages of digital journey

But it is not just about customer because Dixey is equally aware of the benefits the new POS solution will bring to employees within the stores who will enjoy much more easy-to-use products than previously and which are also more stable and can function much more quickly.

Against this backdrop Dixey is confident that he and his team working closely with WonderLane on a “mutually beneficial journey” will be able to enhance the East of England business through the intelligent use of digitally-progressive technology.

“We have the platform from which to move forward. With the new POS we will be able to use it as a springboard into other areas that are beneficial for both employees and customers,” he suggests.

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