Morrisons is one of the largest supermarket chains in the UK. With over 100,000 employees working in their stores and head office, they serve millions of customers every week. Compared to most other top supermarket chains, Morrisons manufactures a large volume of their food products.
Morrisons, one of the leading supermarket chains in the United Kingdom, needed to create new clubs for members of their loyalty programme, granting access to special offers and discounts for key workers in the Healthcare and Education sectors. The two new features were each delivered in just one month thanks to Objectivity's knowledge of the client's business and DevOps capabilities.
Morrisons aims to provide food and other essential products to everyone in the UK, and corporate social responsibility is an essential value to them. They endorse it by reducing and recycling plastic waste, tackling climate change, and supporting their employees and customers. Additionally, they have been working on sustainable sourcing of their products and supporting British farmers — 100% of their own brand meat, milk and eggs come from the UK. Their customers can benefit from club memberships, which provide special offers and discounts. At the end of 2019, there were clubs for university students and new parents.
As the COVID-19 pandemic began in the first months of 2020, Morrisons looked for ways to help essential workers during these trying times. They decided to create a new club that was dedicated to key NHS workers. It was developed in June 2020, followed by a club for teachers in December of the same year. These clubs provide special offers to all their members.
A major challenge in creating and administering these clubs was verifying the eligibility for joining. While the primary goal is supporting the customers, who are the key workers during the pandemic, Morrisons wanted to reduce unauthorised use of this programme as much as possible. Additionally, teams responsible for the creation of each club had to work under time pressure. Key workers needed help as quickly as possible, not in six months.
As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Morrisons considered ways to support the essential frontline workers in the NHS — nurses, doctors, and others, doing their best to keep the pandemic under control. In the first half of March, the idea for an ‘NHS Club’ was born, providing discounts and special offers to the verified NHS key workers. The customers who had an NHS ID in a brick-and mortar store or could provide an NHS email while shopping online would be eligible for the programme.
Over the next month, specific requirements were developed, with the finalisation of all requirements by mid-April. The new club's development and testing was finished by the end of April, with the live release in the first week of May. The entire process took less than a month from start to finish.
The new NHS Club's requirements included the randomised retrieval of documents. While DynamoDB was an excellent choice for other backend data access functionalities, limited randomisation capabilities meant that an alternative technology was required. The Objectivity team, consisting of a Frontend Developer, Quality Engineer and Backend Developer devised a solution quickly, allowing the release to go ahead as planned.
Building upon the NHS Club's success, in November 2020, the concept extended to include a Teachers’ Club. After a week of gathering requirements specifically related to the member verification system, development began in the second half of November. The completed club was released in the first half of December.
With the potential need for future growth, a review and design change to the code and architecture were required. These changes, primarily to parameterisation, would permit a straightforward addition of future clubs. With no new technologies required, these changes considerably sped up frontend development time. Backend additions were made in Java and frontend changes were implemented in AngularJS for the web app, SWIFT for iOS and Java for Android.
The project's most significant challenge was the technical complexity in interfacing between several systems while adding fraud protection, all on a compressed timeline. Data had to flow between the frontend (web and mobile applications), the APIs created by Objectivity, and Morrisons’ CRM. Reduction of the potential misuse of the system was crucial. Furthermore, the Objectivity project team worked together with two of Morrisons’ other suppliers, including one that’s wholly responsible for quality management. As a result of the Objectivity team’s excellent technical skills, and the project’s BA being able to take on some of the Project Manager’s duties in addition to managing the backlog, these challenges were overcome.
All four system components (Android, iOS, web frontend and Java backend) required changes. Existing endpoints were extended to send new club data, with a new endpoint added to improve the club experience. The web frontend involved adding customised marketing content for the new club and communication with the backend. The mobile applications were updated to include the new club, allowing users to have their loyalty card and discount barcodes in the app, reducing the need for plastic cards in the future.
Over a period of two months (mostly during the Golden Quarter), membership of the Teachers' Club rose dramatically. By the beginning of February, many teachers and other school key workers had joined the club, including some new customers.
Despite the initial pessimistic outlook on the required work to verify all club members, the actual number of registrations requiring manual verification has been about 40% lower than estimated. This was thanks to the automatic verification process implemented by the backend team.
All teachers and educators who joined the club have access to discounts and special offers to help them in these challenging times. Essential workers in the education sector have had a tough time dealing with the pandemic, with frequently changing restrictions, providing in-school teaching for children of other key workers, shifting to online learning, and dealing with childcare at home.
Thanks to an increased amount of application downloads and loyalty programme memberships, Morrisons can improve sales and brand awareness through personalised offers. These offers are delivered directly to the users' devices with push notifications. This brand awareness keeps Morrisons in customers' minds, increasing the number of transactions, as customers are more likely to then shop at Morrisons’ stores.
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