Shoes – we love them. In fact, we in the UK buy millions of shoes each year. It’s not surprising that quite a few of them are purchased through the John Lewis Partnership who launched an innovation competition last year for UK technology companies to enter.
The inaugural ‘John Lewis Partnership (JLP) Great British Technology Innovation in Retails Award 2012’ (to quote the rather extensive proper title) presented those entering with some unique problems faced by the organisation and their stores.
One of these challenges set by JLP was to improve stock management and customer service for their shoe departments. Microsoft partner, Black Marble, entered the competition and duly set to work on a solution.
In November 2012, after a day of presentations to a panel of expert Judges, Black Marble won with a solution. Their answer was a new queue management solution (focusing on children’s shoes) that features a powerful Windows Azure website and service with an SQL Database system.
Richard Fennell, Black Marble’s Engineering Director, said: “At Black Marble we have always been keen to push the boundaries of technology, particularly in addressing improvements in everyday experiences. We saw the Great British Innovation Award as a chance to demonstrate what is possible in retail, and John Lewis as an organisation that is forward-thinking enough to make it a reality.”
While we can’t give away too much about how the system looks or is set up, it will allow customers to pre-book shoe-fitting appointments days in advance from their phone, tablet, PC or by using any number of other devices. Not only can customers book fittings but they will also be able to specify what type and size of shoe they are looking for during the booking process. Then, by the time the customer has arrived in store, John Lewis will have sourced the desired shoe.
Meanwhile, the current JLP system of tagging shoe boxes will also be entered into the SQL Database so that stock control and ordering work hand in hand… or should that be foot in shoe?
The Black Marble solution is currently in a proof of concept stage and a pilot is being tested at selected JLP stores. Meanwhile, other retailers have approached Black Marble for a similar solution.
Content and Communities Manager, Microsoft Enterprise Team