Earlier this year, UK click & collect specialist Doddle unveiled its new ‘Powered by Doddle’ service, whereby it licenses its technology platform to retailers wishing to implement click & collect services in their own stores.
As Doddle CTO Gary O’Connor explained to diginomica at the time, with Powered by Doddle, the company aims to build a new revenue stream, alongside that generated by its main business of providing locations that customers visit in order to pick up their online shopping orders.
What a retailer gets with Powered by Doddle, then, is the same family of mobile applications that enable Doddle’s own staff to check the status of parcels, verify customer details and to handle the return of orders, where necessary. These are built on the NoSQL database, Couchbase.
But for security reasons, and since Doddle is releasing updates to the apps at a fairly regular clip, what’s also needed is mobile device management (MDM) software. This comes from MobileIron.
Click & Collect, after all, requires staff to move around a great deal, consulting with customers front-of-house, before diving into storage areas hidden from view in order to fetch their orders. Says O’Connor:
Most retailers are recognizing that, with mobile technology, you have a more fluid, more flexible in-store environment and one where the barriers between customers and store staff are removed. But in order for that to work, you need MDM to manage devices and maintain control over the apps deployed on them.
Doddle was a MobileIron customer for some time prior to the roll-out of Powered by Doddle, and felt that MobileIron also represented a good approach for its new service for third-party retail partners.
The idea is that Doddle offers these retailers a fully managed service, where everything is done for them, says O’Connor – and MobileIron is the tool that enables Doddle to provision devices and push out software updates. That’s important, O’Connor says, because his team is generally rolling out new code every two weeks:
Broadly speaking, it’s more tweaks than big business-function changes. We tend to iterate quite quickly, based on the feedback we get. The model is still evolving, but we try to adopt the thinking that, if you release a little bit every few weeks, it’s a lot simpler than where we were 18 months ago, where you had bigger releases, say, every month or every quarter, but the release was a much bigger ‘business event’ for the company to absorb.
To support Doddle’s expansion into other retailers’ store environments, meanwhile, the company has redesigned its software to have a lighter footprint, so that it can run efficiently on handheld Android devices.
MobileIron, says O’Connor, then provides the framework that allows Doddle to implement the retail partner’s individual security requirements: some may want it to lock down some devices completely, so that they can only run Powered by Doddle, for example, and others may want a bit more freedom, allowing managers to download specific, authorized business support applications.
One retailer already using Powered by Doddle is fast-fashion retailer Missguided, which has used it to set up click & collect services at its flagship stores at Westfield Stratford and Bluewater Kent.
In these stores, the service is used by employees to accept delivery of parcels from multiple carriers, allocate them to specific locations in the storeroom, send Missguided-branded emails and text messages to customers to alert them to the status of their parcel, and to manage parcels that go uncollected by customers after a specific period.
Right now, Missguided is the only Powered by Doddle customer that has been publically announced since the service was launched at the National Retail Federation show in New York in January – but according to O’Connor, there are a couple more in the works. On top of that, he says:
We’re working with a big UK retailer, helping them to process online returns in a number of its stores. We’ve given them that ability through our software, but also extra benefits in terms of being able to consolidate returns, so that effectively, instead of having a logistics visit every day, we’ve got an algorithm that tells them when they need to pick up returns and that balances the amount of time items have spent in-store after being returned versus the number of items in-store, to make the process more efficient.
Future technology deals may be crucial: Doddle has recently announced the closure of a number of its stores and now favours a lower-cost business model, based on setting up concession stands and kiosks on third-party premises – the model it uses with its outlets in some branches of supermarket chain Morrisons. In a recent statement, the company said:
As a result of their success, we plan to open up to 500 of these [concession] locations by Christmas. We are in discussions with a number of other major retailers and plan to have 1,000 locations in the next two years.
But, it concedes, this expanded network will be complemented by just six key Doddle stores. The remaining standalone stores were closed in April.
Doddle is clearly a company in transition – and the success of its transition to becoing a technology provider to other retailers is still by no means certain.
Image credit - Image sourced via Doddle