How Lush got ahead in the cloud

Last year, Poole-based retailer of handmade cosmetics Lush made the decision to migrate its entire ecommerce infrastructure to the cloud.

Purportedly accessible, cost effective, capacious and flexible, cloud technology is fast becoming the country’s de facto computing choice. According to Ovum, more than 40% of UK businesses currently employ cloud communications, back-up and storage – and this figure is set to double over the next 24 months.

With its contract with an inflexible and limited platform partner coming to an end, the soap specialist set its sights and leapt skywards – within a window of just 24 days.

“We needed the migration complete by Boxing Day 2016, when the site goes down every year,” Ryan Kerry, Global Head of Engineering and Technology for Lush told Retail Connections at RBTE earlier this year.

The company’s commitment to ethical solutions – “we won’t commission any proprietary-based software in the business, all our hardware is conflict-material free, and we won’t mine or sell anyone’s data” – led it to choose a platform aligned with open source software.

With per-minute billing, no lock-in, sustained usage discount and a high level of support, Google Cloud was the solution for Lush.

With infrastructure assistance from managed services provider Bashton Claranet, and project management support from Ancoris (and Google, of course), Ryan’s team began a process which would see the website’s architecture, build, data migration, testing and go-live completed in just 22 days.

Old software, potential database corruptions and a lack of visibility in the site’s existing architecture made it a challenging process; coupled with this was the need to “dump the data, old school, from databases to the cloud, over an intense four-day weekend”, explained Ryan.

Lush quickly realised the benefits of the migration; not least of which was a saving of 40% in yearly hosting fees.

Autoscaling capability means the machines behind the enterprise now run to meet demand; low traffic means fewer servers operate (and Google are up-front and honest when downsizing is required, says Ryan), while the potential for scaling upwards during periods of high traffic is infinite.

Cloud hosting has also enabled Lush to automate or remove a host of day-to-day operations. Ryan commented that there was initially some resistance from team members afraid their roles might become redundant, but cloud hosting has instead enabled them to embrace a wider remit. “Our operations staff are still very heavily involved,” said Ryan, “but are retraining – they are now focused on where we go next as a company.”

Lush now plans to break down its larger systems into smaller chunks, so “if anything goes wrong, it’s isolated” – in the same way as it decided against storing its more sensitive information (such as IPs or recipes) on the cloud, due to the damage that could be caused by a breach, the company’s approach to the cloud remains measured.

In all, Ryan is confident Lush has taken the right direction, and said that the business planned to turn its attention towards how machine learning might be employed to improve customer care – all while maintaining a clean conscience, of course.

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