2 page Case Study
Posted: 1/10/2012
361
Rate This Evidence:

The Co-operative Group Intelligent Retail POS System Drives Business Success

Food retailer saves £3M by mobilizing its workforce

United Kingdom retailer The Co-operative Group (Co-op), which has £13.7 billion annual revenue, chose Windows Embedded over Linux for its retail solution. Using a familiar development environment, the Co-op created a tailored solution quickly and cost-effectively. Now, they even offer other retailers this connected solution—which runs on any device with robust security—to deliver rich applications and real-time analysis.

*
* Using Windows Embedded, we were able to mobilize our managers and associates, getting them out of the back office and away from the tills, to help shoppers.*

Lawrence Freeman
Development Manager, Software Development for Store Systems
The Co-operative Group

*

Situation

With 6 million consumers as owners and 5,000 outlets, United Kingdom retailer The Co-operative Group knows its business relies on robust solutions. Says Lawrence Freeman, Development Manager, Software Development for Store Systems at the Co-op, “Our systems must be secure, reliable, and agile. Forty percent of our sales are promotion-based: if we don’t provide the best prices in near real time, we’ll quickly fall out of favor.”

In 2002, the Co-op standardized on Microsoft technologies over open-source systems, because, says Freeman, “the Microsoft platform is so well-adopted and supported.” The Co-op also believes Microsoft technologies effectively fit its business and development needs around InControl Evolution, a point-of-service (POS) and management solution suite that they originally developed for internal use. InControl is comprised of nine modules, including those for digital signage, a store portal, and the InFront POS system, which encompasses sales tills, kiosks, self-
checkout stations, and their InHand mobile devices. InFront also had to be secure and robust enough to support an average 200 million pounds weekly across 15,000 POS terminals (the third-largest POS system in the United Kingdom).

The InControl modules needed to be flexible and designed to connect to existing IT systems. Furthermore, to compete in a harsh retail climate, the Co-op needed data from an intelligent, connected system, to more accurately order stock, predict trends, and set promotional pricing.

For cost-efficiency and simplified management, the Co-op envisioned a centralized, remote solution update model to free up its existing update teams of four or five employees per store. It also wanted to enable staff to work from anywhere in the store.

Finally, the Co-op has a typical retail-industry turnover rate for associates of about 35 percent. Therefore it wanted to simplify training.

Solution

Developers used the Enhanced Write Filter (EWF) in Windows Embedded Standard, the Microsoft .NET Framework 4, and Microsoft POS for .NET to abstract and virtualize InFront software code away from the hardware. Thus, the Co-op can deploy the same InFront software to their InHand devices, personal computers and smartphones, sales tills, and other devices, so associates and managers can perform price checks, cash out sales tills, and review orders from the sales floor. InFront can use SQL Server Analysis Services to track sales and product data in real time, so retailers can respond to shopping patterns immediately.

*
* Microsoft and Windows Embedded technologies are critical to the success of InFront and our decision to resell it. The intelligence the solution provides through technology integration makes it easier to provide stellar customer service to keep the retail ball rolling.*

Lawrence Freeman
Development Manager, Software Development for Store Systems
The Co-operative Group

*

For optimized security and easy maintenance, the Co-op deploys Windows Embedded Standard as read-only, with just selected components. Freeman says, “We can run a 14-megabyte OS footprint on POS terminals, which is fantastic: small, agile, and very secure from attack.” The Co-op uses the EWF to lock down these read-only elements to prevent unwanted changes.

With InFront, retailers can set up one central solution server to deploy automatic updates to their solution endpoints. This centralized model eliminates the need for dedicated update teams, and for having a database server at each retail branch.

To streamline the UI, developers leveraged .NET Framework and Windows Presentation Foundation tools to create visually compelling effects, and make more information accessible from the home screen.

Benefits

Using flexible development tools and intelligent connections to retail systems, The Co-op realized cost reductions and new business opportunities.

Trusted technologies

“Abstracting our solutions away from the hardware supports immense speed-to-market,” says Freeman. “We don’t have to write code with a particular device in mind. Open-source alternatives are no competition when you consider they require much more interaction with third-party products and drivers that do not meet our required specifications.” Using Microsoft technologies also means Freeman can easily find developers with the skills he needs—and they are certified, so he can be certain of those skills: “I can’t get that with open source products.”

Reduced costs, simplified management and increased revenue

The centralized, remote update model saved at least £300,000 per year over dedicated update teams. In mid-2011, The Co-operative Group deployed InFront to a well-known pharmacy chain in the United Kingdom. This customer will see a return on investment in less than a year, because InFront acquisition and maintenance are less than what it once paid for solution maintenance alone. Freeman also predicts savings from mobilizing daily tasks and new self-checkout options for shoppers.

Security and flexibility

The Co-operative Group used EWF in Windows Embedded Standard to improve security and reduce maintenance. “On our retail devices, the read-only aspects are locked down and can’t be corrupted,” says Freeman. “And, InFront will run on our resale customers’ legacy hardware—or any future hardware they choose.’”

Co-op staff member checking stock with InHand device
   Co-op staff member checking stock with InHand device

Intelligence and customer satisfaction

Freeman reports, “Before, associates had lots of screens to navigate and huge training docs. Now, all functionality is available from one screen.”

Real-time data supports more accurate ordering and better sales-trend tracking for promotional pricing. Security officers can see variances in sales tills and react quickly, instead of waiting for a weekly report. In addition, Freeman says, “Using Windows Embedded, we mobilized our managers and associates, getting them out of the back office or away from the tills, to help shoppers.”

Freeman concludes, “Microsoft and Windows Embedded technologies are critical to the success of InFront and our decision to resell it. The intelligence the solution provides through technology integration makes it easier to provide stellar customer service to keep the retail ball rolling.”

Keyword: Retail & Hospitality; Retail Point-of-Sale

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview



Organization Size: 110000 employees

Organization Profile

The United Kingdom’s fifth largest food retailer, The Co-operative Group employs more than 110,000 people and also has a large presence in financial, healthcare, automotive, and funeral services.


Software and Services
  • Windows Embedded Standard
  • Microsoft POS for .NET
  • Windows Embedded Compact
  • Windows Embedded POSReady
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 4
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services

Vertical Industries
Retail and Consumer Goods

Country/Region
United Kingdom

Languages
English

RSS