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Electronics Retailer Enhances Partnerships, Drives Traffic with Cloud Technology
RadioShack wanted to deliver timely and accurate product-availability information and promotional coupons to its customers and sales partners. The retailer worked with Pariveda Solutions to develop inventory and coupon management solutions based on Windows Azure, which helped RadioShack build better partnerships, enhance customer satisfaction, collect better data, and increase revenue, all at less cost.
"Windows Azure is helping us break down barriers to work with more partners, reach more customers, and compete on whole new levels."
RadioShack sells consumer electronics at more than 4,600 stores in the United States and around the world. The company reaches millions of consumers through its corporate and franchise stores, in addition to e-commerce and mobile channels.
To provide customers and partners with store location and inventory data, the retailer used several online mechanisms, but RadioShack could not deliver real-time inventory visibility. “We conduct business through multiple channels, so it’s very important for us make sure our partners and customers have up-to-the-minute information about what we have in stock,” says Dan Buckley, Senior Director of IT at RadioShack. “But historically, we could only provide inventory visibility from close of business the previous day.”
The virtual private network (VPN) at RadioShack did not integrate easily with the web services used by many e-commerce and mobile service providers, which made it even more difficult for RadioShack to deliver timely information to its partners and customers. The situation was affecting sales and customer satisfaction. “If we tell people that an item is in a store but it’s not available when they come in, we risk losing customers,” says Buckley. “We needed a better picture of what’s available and where.”
RadioShack used coupons as a key strategy to drive traffic in stores, but its coupon campaigns relied on manual processes that were costly, time-consuming, and prone to error. For a large coupon promotion, RadioShack had to involve multiple internal and third-party business teams, and significant engagement from its IT department. It could take close to a day just to generate the coupon codes. RadioShack wanted to build an automated coupon solution that would support the creation, delivery, validation, and redemption of coupon offers through stores, franchises, and partner-managed sales channels. “We needed a solution that would enhance our capacity to deliver rich product and promotional content to our customers and sales partners,” says Buckley.
In 2012, RadioShack worked with Pariveda Solutions to develop store locator, product-availability, and coupon management solutions based on Windows Azure, the Microsoft cloud services development, hosting, and management environment. Pariveda Solutions is a member of the Microsoft Partner Network with multiple Gold competencies.
Pariveda created a store locator hosted in Windows Azure—exposed on the RadioShack consumer website—and a product availability service that provides real-time sales and inventory data to internal RadioShack applications and partners, such as franchises, e-commerce sites, or media agencies. It developed an application programming interface that collects the information in a Windows Azure Blob Storage data store and then uses the Windows Azure Service Bus Relay to connect with the RadioShack on-premises data center and inventory-management applications. Windows Azure Access Control Service allows RadioShack partners to access the real-time inventory data without having to connect with the RadioShack VPN.
Pariveda also built a Windows Azure service that centralized and automated coupon management. The service includes a public website where consumers can print and manage coupons, and an internal web portal where RadioShack and its partners can generate and validate coupons and manage campaigns. Pariveda used the Service Bus Relay to connect the cloud-based coupon services to on-premises data centers managed by RadioShack and its partners.
The RadioShack IT team implemented several enhancements to the Windows Azure infrastructure, such as Autoscaling—which streamlined coupon code generation—and it worked closely with Pariveda to integrate the Windows Azure services with its existing internal systems. “We didn’t want to replace or overhaul our existing on-premises infrastructure, or move everything to the cloud,” says Buckley. “With Windows Azure, we were able to build a system that works easily with our legacy environment.”
By building inventory and couponing systems on Windows Azure, RadioShack upgraded its marketing infrastructure, reduced costs, built better partnerships, enhanced customer satisfaction, and increased revenue.
Better Performance, Lower Costs
RadioShack used Windows Azure to build a coupon system that is simpler, faster, more accurate, and less expensive. Marketing teams can create up to 1 million coupon codes in just 20 minutes, without having to engage the IT team. Individual stores and marketing partners can get up-to-the-minute product availability data when they need it, without hard-to-manage VPN connections.
“Instead of spending 40 hours helping a partner integrate with our network, my IT team can help them connect to our Windows Azure environment in less than 8 hours,” says Buckley.
More Productive Relationships
By offering a more flexible architecture based on Windows Azure, RadioShack can enhance its relationship with its existing sales partners and engage with more types of partners. It can also work with smaller, niche marketers—such as mobile partners—that can introduce new customers to RadioShack.
“Windows Azure is helping us break down barriers to work with more partners, reach more customers, and compete on whole new levels,” says Buckley.
Happier Customers, Increased Revenue
By providing real-time inventory data across stores, franchises, and e-commerce channels, RadioShack can help customers find the products they need whether they shop in stores or online, which will enhance the retailer’s market reach and generate more sales. With an automated, centralized couponing system across all sales channels, RadioShack can empower its sales teams and increase revenue through more creative marketing.
“With Windows Azure, we can be more responsive to emerging e-commerce and mobile sales channels,” says Buckley. “And we can help drive traffic by executing targeted, localized coupon offers.”
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