About Nisa Retail
A member-owned organisation dedicated to helping independent grocery retailers stay competitive and respond to changing consumer expectations, Nisa negotiates product pricing, provides a supply chain, and offers sales, marketing, and business development services to its members.
Representing over 3,000 convenience stores in the UK and Ireland, today Nisa operates one of the UK’s largest B2B eCommerce sites – an online portal where members can order stock for delivery within dedicated timeframes.
Nisa’s Order Capture System (OCS) is the beating heart of the company’s commercial operations. Seamlessly managing 15,000 product lines, the platform powers the delivery of news, advertising and offers to members – plus the dynamic provision of digital catalogues to thousands of in-store ePOS systems.
Using the online portal to place regular orders, buy into daily web deals or browse information relating to key seasonal events, Nisa members rely on the OCS to keep their shelves fully stocked. For that reason the platform has to be resilient, fast and always available.
“OCS is a business critical system for us. If it goes down or fails to function optimally, then we go out of business,” confirms Paul Smith, Business Systems Manager at Nisa.
Operating a small in-house IT team, Nisa needed a partner to help it deploy custom-built state-of-the-art and high performance multi-tier commerce applications that deliver against the needs of the business – and its members.
Optimising the OCS to perform under pressure during periods of extreme demand was just part of the challenge. In a fast moving and highly competitive marketplace, Nisa has to ensure its digital platform keeps pace with evolving trends.
“We needed a development partner that could architect and deploy new technologies and system enhancements fast,” says Peter Walker, Head of IT at Nisa. “Intechnica offered all the capabilities we were looking for – everything from design to performance testing, monitoring and engineering services.”
Intechnica was first tasked with helping Nisa implement a next generation e-commerce platform architecture that would enable it to fast-track its digital ambitions in a more efficient way. Built on a .NET framework that delivers the scalability, agility, improved performance and ease of maintenance Nisa needs for its applications, the architecture refresh meant Nisa’s IT team would be able to take advantage of rapid application development environments like Windows-based and XML web services.
Next, Intechnica was asked to re-engineer Nisa’s online order system, ensuring deep integration with an Oracle ERP system that handles critical data exchanges information with a complex array of mission-critical backend systems. Far more than just an online order portal, the web and Epos-based order system seamlessly tailors Nisa’s master product catalogue – containing 17,000 SKUs – by geographic location and store type, to ensure each store receives its own personalised version of Nisa’s product catalogue featuring lines and assortments that are only relevant to them.
Offering members time-saving features like advanced order validation, immediate key-press response, targeted news and a streamlined user experience, the OCS now has the resilience to handle 3,000 orders a day – the majority of which typically hit the system within half hour of daily cut-off times. “With hundreds of retailers placing orders within a one-hour window, the system simply has to perform flawlessly, 365 days of the year,” confirms Paul Smith. “And, because we serve a huge diversity of customers – everyone from single operators to major conglomerates – it also needs the flexibility to cope with a huge variety of store formats and ordering profiles.”
To help Nisa achieve the fully redundant architecture it needs to ensure members can continue to place orders in the event of a catastrophic failure, Intechnica engineered a data snapshot process which continually populates a failover system that’s hosted in AWS –a switch over option that, thankfully, Nisa has never had the need to invoke. “We depend on Intechnica to constantly monitor and manage our order capture and member facing services – assuring the functional performance of these assets at all times,” states Peter Walker.
Handling 100% of all orders placed with Nisa, 98% of which are processed electronically, £1.4 billion of the company’s annual revenue is generated via its OCS. Fully optimised for mobile and tablet usage, the portal is now robust, stable and highly extensible. So, when Nisa ran its first member-facing Black Friday event last year, it was able to effortlessly handle £1 million of orders in a single day- thanks to web deals promoted in the OCS.
“Intechnica represent a great fit for our organisation. Their dedicated team oversees the performance of the OCS platform at critical times of the day and are on hand to undertake enhancements, fixes and changes as we continue to evolve services on behalf of members,” confirms Peter Walker.
Undertaking around 13 new enhancements to the system every year, the Intechnica team works hand-in-glove with Nisa to ensure releases are fully tested before go live – depositing a team at Intechnica’s offices to ensure the closest possible communication and collaboration during the production phase of major upgrades.
“With Intechnica on board, we’re able to tap into their expertise whenever we want to harness new technologies or develop specialist services quickly and cost-effectively,” concludes Peter. “Having developed our online ordering system, they totally understand the complex ecosystem of systems and processes we operate – and are instantly on-hand the moment we need to respond to new opportunities in short time frames.”