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The Client: Scottish and Newcastle UK

Web application design and development solution for major international brewing group

Scottish & Newcastle UK

Scottish & Newcastle (S&N) plc was formed in 1960 with the merger of Scottish Brewers and Newcastle Breweries. The company has grown significantly in the past decade becoming a major international business owning over 50 breweries world-wide, and it is currently ranked number seven in the world's top ten brewers.S&N has the market leadership of half of the largest beer markets in Europe and owns three of Europe's top ten beer brands; Baltika, Foster's and Kronenbourg 1664.

The Business Requirement

S&N carried out extensive research to understand what people do and where they look at the bar, when purchasing drinks at a pub. The consumer research providedS&N with an understanding of where, in the back-bar fridges, licensees should place their bottled drinks in order to optimise sales. They also used the latest market sales data, from AC Nielsen, to determine the optimum product mix for any particular outlet. Results from trials with a number of outlets showed that by stocking fridges with the products most appropriate for a particular outlet type and regional location, and by placing the products in the optimum position within the fridge, sales of back-bar fridge products could be increased significantly.

The success of the trials supported the decision byS&N to develop a full web-based fridge planning solution for the On-Trade (any outlet where alcohol is consumed on the premises, e.g. pubs, clubs, restaurants, hotels). The requirement called for a system that would allow the bar manager to obtain a bespoke fridge plan designed specifically for their outlet type and their bar layout.

Given the varied styles and demographics of bars, and the numerous types and configurations of back-bar fridges, the application needed to be able to handle the entry of detailed information and to facilitate the production of complex, and infinite combinations of, fridge plans in ways that were easy to understand and share. In addition, given the challenges posed by the bar environment and working styles, the application would need to be quick, intuitive and easy to use if bar managers were to be won over by this new approach to stocking fridges.

The Sigmer Solution

Sigmer first conducted a usability study in order to understand how a bar manager might use the fridge planning tool, and the likely environment they would be in. It was also important to determine the characteristics of typical bar managers, such as vocabulary, understanding of the Internet and level of IT skills. The study was focused around workshops for representatives fromS&N Sales and Category Marketing teams, who were in regular contact with the type of outletsS&N were targeting. In addition to the workshops, Sigmer visited On Trade retail outlets, with S&N Account Managers, and interviewed retailers about their approach to the stocking of their back-bar fridges.

The user profiling study was successful and possible environmental constraints and user preferences where identified. The study providedS&N and Sigmer with an in-depth understanding of the intended users of the fridge planning tool, and it also identified some new features and requirements that would otherwise have been overlooked.

The next step was to turn the complex rules and processes, whichS&N had developed to manually generate fridge plans, into a software application that could produce fridge plans automatically for bar-managers using a website. This was achieved using advanced application and database design techniques which allowed sales data, product specifications, bar characteristics and fridge plan rules to be brought together in a flexible structure. Read a technical summary of how this was achieved.

For a web application with the potential for over 200,000 users, the need for quality is paramount. Sigmer created a sophisticated quality assurance environment in which changes to data, specifications and rules can be fully examined by S&N prior to being promoted to the live environment.

The website is managed using Scribe CMS, Sigmer's own website content management system. Sigmer also created quality assurance and live environments for the fridge planning website, and they procured and configured suitable servers, which reside, and are managed, in Sigmer's enterprise server racks in a secure and fully controlled data-centre.

As well as providingS&N with technical support of the website and fridge planning engine, Sigmer is also providing customer services for the bar managers and theS&N Sales and Marketing teams who will be using planyourfridge.com. Sigmer already provide customer services for other clients, and provide dedicated contact telephone number and email address. The Sigmer customer service team will handle the S&N calls, either solving technical or usability queries, or passing on account queries to the appropriate S&N Account Manager.

The Result

The final product, planyourfridge.com, is a rich and fully-featured internet website where bar managers can get advice on optimising sales from back-bar space and quickly produce custom fridge plans for their bars, that take into account the demographics and characteristics of their outlet.

Individual bar workstations can be created on-line with representative arrangements of standard or custom fridges - which can also be created in the application. Bar staff can create many different workstations and fridge plans which are saved and retained for future visits. Many options are also available to allow completed fridge plans and stocking lists to be printed or e-mailed in order that they can be worked with off-line or shared with other members of staff.

The completed application - www.planyourfridge.com - achieves fully the primary design-aim of providing a web application that is simple and easy to use for bar staff, while carrying out complex rule-based processing behind the scenes.

With retailers stocking and merchandising their back-bar fridges correctly, they should see a positive effect on their sales. ForS&N this will have a knock-on effect of increasing packaged beer and cider sales to retailers.

S&N are building on their fridge planning tool by developing bespoke sites for key national retail groups.

Jennifer Roberts, Project Manager and Space & Merchandising Planning Manager at S&N UK:

"Everyone atS&N who has been involved in the development of this project has been extremely pleased with the final system and website that Sigmer has developed for us. Sigmer's passion for delivering the best system they can, combined with their enthusiasm and deep appreciation of the challenges that the project needed to overcome, has led to the creation of a tool that is being welcomed by S&N and our customers alike."

Technical Summary

The system needed to be flexible and allow for change, so the data was separated from the logic and presentation layers. An Object Orientated fridge planning approach was used with Java and XML technologies used to build the fridge plan engine, and PHP 5 used for the client web interface. For the engine, this enabled rules to be simply added, removed and reordered, allowing a great degree of flexibility for future adaptations.

At the core of the architecture was a MySQL database that contained all the reference and generated data, including a full history of previous fridge plan generations to support the reporting suite.

For the client, the solution allowed for easy adaptation of the interface and workflow without impacting the underlying data or processing.



photo of Tara Diserens This page is managed by Tara Diserens. If you would like to talk with Tara please email tara.diserens@sigmer.com
or call 01273 669 700.

 

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