Clear Skies Ahead
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T he conversation about the cloud has shifted. Instead of convincing IT teams of its effectiveness, many retailers are seeing it as a necessary update. In early 2010, Lands’ End was considering cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) to transform outdated technologies and add new capabilities. The Wisconsin-based classic American lifestyle brand had been using e-commerce since 1995 — and the technology for order entry showed it. On the verge of expanding its web commerce into Sweden, Lands’ End couldn’t just clone pre-existing systems as it had done when moving into other countries. The e-commerce platform wasn’t just outdated, says Steve Cretney, Lands’ End vice president and CIO. It was also inflexible and, frankly, “difficult to move around. “As we moved into new countries, we would have to move into new languages, payment methods and shipment methods for each one,” he says. “The alternative was to go out and buy a new system, but that would have had to be pretty sizable — it would have taken a lot of time and it would have been complex. “The huge upfront costs really prompted the discussion of [moving] it to the cloud, and [having] it all there on demand,” Cretney says. “It would give us the scale we needed, but take away the front-end up-charge.” Demandware was the only provider of cloud e-commerce solutions Lands’ End found that was already “fully in the cloud,” Cretney says. “They built themselves there. They were different from traditional software companies that were trying to move their software to the cloud…. Demandware was our test balloon for cloud, and they’ve proven to be everything we’d hoped for — and a bit more.”
Value, growth and brand control Rob Garf, vice president of product and solutions marketing for Demandware, used to find himself convincing retailers that the cloud platform was “the way to go.” But these days, that’s increasingly understood; it’s less about reassuring clients that the cloud isn’t a fad and more about business value, growth and control of the brand. Granted, Garf has been having conversations about cloud computing — the idea of storing data online, accessible via web-based services rather than in a physical legacy system — for some time. “We like to say Demandware was cloud before cloud was cool,” he says. “We made early investments to really build out the technology model.” The market is catching up. That’s not to say everyone has the same understanding of what the cloud is; there is still some confusion, Garf says, especially in terms of third-party hosting of licensed software. “It is a viable option,” he says. “But it’s not the cloud. It still relies on an isolated, single version of software that, as soon as it is deployed, is out of date.” And updates can be disruptive. “Traditional licensed software doesn’t take advantage of the openness and innovation from peers in the community.” In addition, he says, hosted models are closed ecosystems. “But the nature of the cloud is open, which makes for easier integration into [things like] point of sale, call center, merchandise and supply chain applications.” As a result, Garf finds himself in business-value discussions on topics like supporting multi-channel operations. “At the end of the day, that’s one of the biggest business challenges — if not the biggest challenge — our clients are trying to solve,” he says. “Multi-channel, along with global expansion.” That’s precisely what got Demandware and Lands’ End talking.
Collaborative culture S ince working with Demandware to bring Lands’ End to Sweden, the companies have partnered to roll out in the U.K., Germany, France and Austria. Lands’ End is also taking advantage of the Demandware Link Technology Partner Program, “where there are lots of vendors with services we can leverage,” Cretney says. “Because of the nature of the on-demand model, it’s in their best interest that we’re successful.” Lands’ End has a collaborative culture, Cretney says, “and Demandware has shown us the same in spades.” Demandware even hosted a summit of e-commerce leaders to take a closer look at Lands’ End’s various sites and metrics, he says, building confidence and demonstrating that Demandware shared Lands’ End’s customer-first focus. “When we forge a relationship, we’re in it with our clients lockstep,” Garf says. “Every investment we make is hyper-focused on helping our clients grow their revenues. ... Our two companies continue to share success because Demandware supports not just one geography, but is the digital backbone for endless destinations.” Garf says Demandware certainly can help retailers who are focused on operating one site. But the cloud platform really soars with those, like Lands’ End, that demand aggressive growth across geographies and channels; the cloud model truly enables organizations to focus on business outcomes without being hindered by infrastructure.
Cretney agrees. “We’ve been able to move away from just maintaining the business to helping innovate and extend the business,” Cretney says. “In general, the partnership has helped us think through new ideas better and keep our time and energy focused more toward the customer, the product and the business — not just in IT, but across the business. “Rather than worrying about, ‘Should I upgrade that software before we make that feature change, or not make the feature change and jerry-rig it,’ with Demandware working on it we’re always looking forward,” Cretney says. “And that’s a huge change for us.”
Maintaining modernity Demandware, which now works with more than 400 transactional sites globally, deployed the on-demand e-commerce site for Lands’ End’s Swedish launch in just a few months. “As consumers, we live our lives in the cloud, whether it’s through Gmail or travel sites or financial sites, or Dropbox for storing documents,” Garf says. “Essentially anything digital these days lives in the cloud…. We’ve accepted the cloud and feel comfortable with its reliability and security. And now business executives increasingly look to the cloud for mission-critical applications such as digital commerce. “But let’s not make any mistake about it,” he says, “it’s still an alternative to the traditional way of procuring and managing enterprise technology.” Cretney admits he had to sell the idea of cloud computing to his own IT team, and recommends that retailers take stock of the way that business is changing overall, as well as whether their current systems are offering the nimbleness and agility necessary to keep pace. Cloud offerings impact not only e-commerce, he says, but mobile, digital signage and point of sale. “This is keeping us modern, keeping us current, and moving us forward,” Cretney says. “Now, if we choose to continue our expansion, we’re poised to do that.”