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Digital Stores Hackathon

For three days, the engineers in Digital Stores worked out of office in our Retail Academy above the Pantheon store to do a team hack. We broke off into four small teams, each with members of varied skill sets. We were all assigned a problem that either staff or customers would have while in store. Some problems included:

“Customers often want to buy products that are now no longer available.”

” Staff have to use multiple systems to update their store opening hours.”

Having a variety of skills in our team, we played on each other’s strengths and wrote a native Android application to help customers find similar products to ones that are no longer available.

We began by creating personas and investigating what our customer journey currently is when coming into store.

Alto App copy.003

From this we concluded that to increase the likelihood of a customer buying an item, we needed to provide a quick and easy way for staff to assist customers in finding a relevant, alternate item. From this we came up with the solution of a staff assistant to either scan a code or enter a t number, which would then pull relevant data such as size, category etc. and display similar, available items.

The customer could then be shown the available products and then view and filter down what they would like. They could see if the product was available in store and if not order it online.

We managed to get all of this functionality working in Android within three days: from choosing the solution to full functionality along with presentation materials. This wasn’t only a valuable experience from a product point of view, but it gave us some insight into some of the struggles that store staff and customers face on a daily basis. It also gave us the chance to work with people that we haven’t worked with before (including a non-technical team member) and to learn about everyone’s skill sets.

One of the other projects was store opening hours. Store opening used Django based implementation of the current store opening hour system. It was designed to allow the user to update or search for store opening hours. However, there was no single point of truth for the data. A stakeholder was contacted and communicated with throughout this hack, so the project could be driven from her needs and experience.

Python was then chosen as the technology stack, mainly due to a team member being very confident and strong with this language. We implemented a simple Django API with a plugin front end. Due to time limitations of the hack week we decided that this was the best choice.

Although not all of the innovations turned into full projects, creating a solution for store opening hours was so successful that it went onto become one of our main projects and we spent several sprints creating a system that is now complete and being trialled in stores today. For this project, there were a few blockers but these were mainly ironed out during the hack, paving the way forward for the full project.

If you like the sound of what we are doing, then head on over to http://www.mandsdigital.com/ to see our blog and current job openings. Join us!