Selling more wine, feeding more pets, influencing more customers: JBS Solutions and AWS power the new world of retail
Since the start of the pandemic, retail customers’ purchasing habits have shifted dramatically—and they’re not going back. From online shopping and curbside pickup to changing brand loyalties prompted by supply chain disruptions to purchase decisions strongly influenced by social media, the world of retail has changed for good. To compete, retailers need to reinvent their business to deliver what today’s customers value: personalized service, tailored recommendations, and seamless experiences at scale.
Joe Rose, President of JBS Custom Software Solutions (JBS Solutions), an AWS Retail Competency Partner, has seen this change play out with his customers, including a large enterprise customers with brick-and-mortar stores all across the country to smaller direct-to-consumer retailer Wine Access. “People’s purchasing habits have shifted more dramatically in the last year and a half than in the previous 20 years. As a retailer, if you don’t innovate, you’ll get out-competed. You have to be able to innovate to influence purchasing decisions in your favor, which is the whole purpose of customer engagement in retail.”
Let’s look at some of the customer engagement strategies that are paying off big for retailers today:
Positioning as a trusted expert
One of the consequences of the pandemic has been a significant disruption in the supply chain for products that typically sell based on brand loyalty. Dog food is a good example—most dog owners buy the same brand of food for their pet month after month. What happens when supply chain disruptions make it impossible for you as a retailer to source that brand of dog food—but you have another brand that’s just as good, maybe better, sitting on your shelf? If your customers consider you a trusted expert in the pet care space, you’ll have the standing to convince them that switching to this new brand of dog food is a good idea. And, if they have a good experience with the brand you recommend, you’ll have further positioned yourself as an expert they can trust. “When customers perceive you as an expert, you’re able to move beyond competing on price to something much more sustainable,” noted Rose.
Wine Access’s position as a trusted expert enables it to sell higher margin wines by packaging them with wines it knows its customers already enjoy, based on insights generated by machine learning (ML) algorithms. Because customers trust Wine Access’s expert sommeliers, they’re more willing to give the recommended new wine a try. “Leveraging ML tools like Amazon SageMaker or Amazon Personalize, you can make recommendations that are so good that the customer is both impressed and satisfied, which really builds trust,” said Rose.
Uncovering unexpected new customer cohorts
It used to be that most retailers would identify their target customers by building cohorts based on demographic data, like age and income level. Today, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and ML has led to some surprising new cohorts that drive sales in unexpected directions. For example, the pet care retailer JBS Solutions worked with discovered that people who buy a certain brand of cat litter also buy certain brands of other products even if they have nothing in common in terms of age, income, or gender. Similarly, Wine Access learned that customers who buy a particular type of red wine also buy a particular type of white and a particular type of port—but that was only true for customers buying that specific type of red.
“AI and ML find patterns and correlations that are nonintuitive,” Rose explained. “These little nuggets of insight that seem wrong end up being right, and they help retailers find new markets that would otherwise go untapped.”
Rapidly responding to changes in customer behavior
One lesson of the pandemic is that customer behavior can literally change overnight. As lockdowns and restrictions were implemented and then lifted, demand for services like curbside pickup and mobile ecommerce fluctuated wildly, spiking as much as 500 percent in a day and then dropping back down a week later. “Retailers with a flexible technology infrastructure are much better positioned to respond rapidly to—and benefit from—changes in consumer behavior,” said Rose. “Today you have to move faster than ever before and having a flexible infrastructure that allows you to scale up and down as needed is a big part of that.”
For the pet care retailer mentioned earlier, relying on flexible AWS solutions enabled it to deploy curbside pickup in only six weeks. JBS Solutions worked with the retailer to rapidly increase the functionality of its mobile eCommerce app using a serverless architecture that combined AWS Lambda, Amazon DynamoDB database service, and AWS ElastiCache, among others. Curbside pickup now accounts for 60 percent of all pickup orders—and a way for the retailer to influence buying behavior and differentiate itself in a crowded market.
When Wine Access migrated from on-premises servers to AWS, JBS Solutions helped it transform and implement its architecture on AWS Lambda. The new solution scaled automatically to meet a 400 percent increase in website traffic, experienced no outages, and cut compute costs significantly and database costs by about 50 percent in the midst of the pandemic. Now Wine Access has an agile ecommerce solution that supports its pursuit of new business ideas and innovations, improves the customer experience, saves hundreds of in-house work hours, and launches new revenue streams.
How AWS is driving the future of customer engagement
AWS customer engagement solutions help retailers leverage the power of technology to create meaningful customer interactions that build trust, drive influence, and help brands stand out. “AWS gives retailers the foundational flexibility needed to develop new product sets, new experiences, and new ways to engage with the customer,” Rose said. “Plus, AWS has services that make tools like ML and data analytics in general accessible to most retailers for a minimal investment.”
According to Rose, the future of customer engagement lies in using data to predict consumer and market behavior and then respond faster than the competition. “The good news is that most retailers already have a bunch of databases. With AWS, it’s just a matter of harmonizing the data on Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), plugging it into Amazon Redshift and throwing a quick sight on top of it, letting Amazon SageMaker run ML algorithms, and then you’re off to the races. AWS has made it really easy for retailers to modernize their customer engagement strategy.”
AWS Partner Spotlight
JBS Custom Software Solutions (JBS Solutions) is a trusted technology partner delivering innovative, cloud-based custom application development solutions for high-growth startups to multi-billion-dollar enterprises. In its 22-year history of developing enterprise software solutions for large enterprise retailers, JBS Solutions has facilitated billions of dollars of transactions to date. JBS Solutions deeply understands how to use AWS technology to help retailers build new enterprise applications, modernize infrastructures, innovate through microservices, develop innovative mobile applications, and deliver personalized ecommerce experiences through machine learning. Visit www.jbssolutions.com to learn more.
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