Ocado: view from the top, part 2 – technology

In part two of our insight series from Ocado, Retail Connections interviews the company’s Ocado Smart Platform (OSP) Ecommerce and Last Mile Logistics Product Manager, Isabel Richards.

British online supermarket Ocado has enjoyed a good year to date, revealing strong profit growth, a deal to sell its proprietary software platform overseas, and the launch of a fresh funding drive to expand its capacity and further develop its software.

Ocado’s operating solution, Ocado Smart Platform (OSP), combines end-to-end software and technology systems with a physical fulfilment asset solution.

To find out more about how OSP is moving forward, Retail Connections spoke exclusively to Isabel Richards, Ocado Smart Platform E-commerce and Last Mile Logistics Product Manager.

What is your role, Isabel?

I’m responsible for evolving the detailed product roadmap based on the OSP high-level product vision, strategy and prioritisation set by the OSP steering group.

I also communicate directly and collaborate with business stakeholders, and work closely with product owners to ensure they are fully aware of, and bought into, the product vision.

How has OSP evolved, and where do you see it going?

As a product, it has evolved very quickly, with live trialling driving operational efficiency and a seamless customer journey. This incremental approach, combined with insight from our 17 years of running Ocado.com, our relationships with retail partners, and our R&D experimentation, will lead us where the need and opportunity is.

Which challenges/opportunities does Ocado most want to address through OSP?

In a sector where margins are already squeezed, going online and making it a success requires grappling with many new processes and the associated costs. Rather than relying on customers to walk into the store and pick their shopping off the shelf, an online operation requires orders to be processed, picked and delivered from stores or centralised warehouses.

Additionally, to make sure customers get what they want when they want it, retailers need to be planning an order in advance – will they have enough vans at the right time to reach customers, and are those products available for delivery in a specific area?

With OSP, we’re building on our extensive experience and providing a software and hardware package which will allow our retail partners to get online quickly and successfully.

How has OSP changed Ocado’s partner relationships?

OSP has fundamentally changed Ocado’s relationship with its retail and technology partners. From a structural perspective, OSP offers independence and autonomy. It’s built on principles of self-service, giving users the tools they need to run their own operations. It’s cloud-based, which means it can be run anywhere in the world and can scale automatically as they grow.

As well as independence, OSP also opens up new opportunities. It is the quickly-evolving nature of the Smart Platform that opens the door for retail partners to trial and launch new operational initiatives much more quickly.

It’s just this sort of evolution in the relationship which we have seen with Morrisons, for example. OSP is enabling them to extend their online business beyond the reaches of the current Ocado Customer Fulfilment Centre in Dordon, to offer groceries to customers in the North of England using their stores to pick orders – a new venture for them.

What will be the top three trends influencing retail this year?

Most shopping still happens offline, but that is changing. Consumers now have an intimate relationship with their phones, and this year we will see an evolution of the current mobile trend, with retailers trying to merge the boundaries between offline and online shopping.

Get to the alcohol aisle and know you won’t be able to carry it home? Your app knows you are there, and allows you to buy it seamlessly online so that it’s delivered for you. The buzzword is “omnichannel”.

With the shift to more online shopping, retail will also be impacted by the data trend. More data is providing retailers with the opportunity for much greater personalisation. You will no longer be lumped into one marketing category (for instance, young and mobile); instead your experience will be tailored to the way you shop.

Immediacy is another big trend that will be affecting retail. Just as consumers have become reliant on information at their fingertips, the norm is changing as to how fast they want their shopping.

Read part one of this interview for insights from Rui De Sousa Campos, Product Owner for Supply Chain Systems.

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