Péarlaí Pivots to COVID-19 Protection Provider with AWS



The flexibility and scalability of AWS meant we could get through the development process fast with no major challenges.”

Peter McCaul
CEO, Péarlaí

An AWS customer since it was founded in 2016, Péarlaí took advantage of an offer from Amazon Web Services (AWS) to pivot from retail analytics to a queue management system that helps retailers respond to COVID-19 restrictions.

Péarlaí offers loyalty fobs to shopping centers and their tenants. These fobs allow detailed tracking of customer visits to measure footfall, analyze conversion rates, and help retailers tailor their offerings and improve profitability. In exchange, customers get exclusive discounts and special offers via their mobile phones. Péarlaí aims to provide brick-and-mortar retailers with the data and insights that online retailers take for granted.

A Quick Change of Business Focus

But the COVID-19 crisis brought an overnight end to normal business for the majority of Péarlaí’s customers. This delivered a blow to Péarlaí’s business of offering data analytics based on visits to stores, conversion rates from engagement into purchases, and the impact of promotional campaigns.

After speaking with shopping center managers, Péarlaí CEO Peter McCaul decided to take the company in a new direction and help retailers cope with the challenge of reopening stores safely and within government COVID-19 guidelines.

The firm developed Péarlaí Protect. Retailers can use this service to manage queues by letting customers pre-book time slots to visit their stores after lockdowns were eased. This ensures social distancing guidelines are followed, reduces waiting times, and provides reassurance to both customers and staff. Péarlaí Protect also helps retailers better schedule staff to meet peak periods of business.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, AWS offered cloud credits to early-stage companies in Ireland through its AWS Activate program. After receiving business support and AWS credits, Péarlaí was able to offer its customers Péarlai Protect at no cost to help them get back up and running when lockdowns begin to lift.

McCaul credits AWS for making it possible to get the new service off the ground. “AWS support is the core reason we could do this and offer it to our customers for free,” he says. “The flexibility and scalability of AWS meant we could get through the development process fast with no major challenges.”

Working with an Unpredictable Deadline

It took just one developer and four weeks for Péarlaí to get from writing the first line of code to having a fully functioning feature.

The service relies mostly on Péarlaí’s existing infrastructure: Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), AWS Elastic Beanstalk, and Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS). But setting up the alert system proved more challenging. The solution came through AWS Lambda’s serverless technology, which was easy to add onto existing systems. This allowed the use of a code repository and code pipeline, AWS CodeStar, to make life easier for developers. The technology runs only when an alert is generated.

Péarlaí needed the instant availability of AWS services to get development and product testing underway as quickly as possible. This allowed the company to be ready as soon as restrictions on retail began to be lifted—which was effectively an unpredictable deadline.

“The biggest challenge was fear of the unknown, what the next three, six, or 12 months would bring,” McCaul says. “We just knew we needed to be ready as soon as possible.”

More Features to Come

Péarlaí Protect has received considerable interest from shopping centers, although adoption has been lower than hoped due to the pressure on retailers to just open their doors again. But one successful project was logging over 2,000 customer visits a day with the system.

Most Péarlaí customers are planning to use the Protect feature in the run-up to Christmas, when the weather makes queuing outdoors unappealing in Northern Ireland. The company plans to add more features to the product in the first quarter of 2021.

“It’s been a real benefit to our existing customers,” McCaul says. “We’ve seen conversion rates go up from 25 percent to 37 percent, as well as providing additional data for analysis. The system is also easy to adjust as the rules change—so when visits are limited, we can warn customers that their time is nearly up.”

About Péarlaí

Péarlaí offers retail analysis to shopping centers. COVID-19 closures meant it had to quickly find a new business model.

Benefits of AWS

  • Rapid development and testing
  • Generous cloud credit discount
  • Flexibility of serverless tech

AWS Services Used

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers. Amazon EC2’s simple web service interface allows you to obtain and configure capacity with minimal friction. It provides you with complete control of your computing resources and lets you run on Amazon’s proven computing environment.

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Amazon Relational Database Service

Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud. It provides cost-efficient and resizable capacity while automating time-consuming administration tasks such as hardware provisioning, database setup, patching and backups. It frees you to focus on your applications so you can give them the fast performance, high availability, security and compatibility they need.

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AWS Lambda

AWS Lambda lets you run code without provisioning or managing servers. You pay only for the compute time you consume. With Lambda, you can run code for virtually any type of application or backend service - all with zero administration. Just upload your code and Lambda takes care of everything required to run and scale your code with high availability. You can set up your code to automatically trigger from other AWS services or call it directly from any web or mobile app.

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AWS CodeStar

AWS CodeStar enables you to quickly develop, build, and deploy applications on AWS. AWS CodeStar provides a unified user interface, enabling you to easily manage your software development activities in one place. With AWS CodeStar, you can set up your entire continuous delivery toolchain in minutes, allowing you to start releasing code faster.

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