Notonthehighstreet overhauls data systems

Online gifting marketplace Notonthehighstreet has “ripped up” its systems in order to keep up with the data load and regulatory responsibilities of running a fast-growing online marketplace, according to the company’s data director.

Speaking to Retail System, Andrew Thomas described the process of migrating the site’s architecture from outdated legacy systems, in place since the site was first founded in 2006, to data warehousing service Snowflake.

He explained that the cloud-based storage provider is helping to support the e-commerce platform adapt to the needs of a site which connects three million customers to 5,000 merchants and small businesses.

“We’ve ripped up our systems and replaced them pretty much in their entirety with Snowflake at the heart of our new platform and really everything has changed,” Thomas explained.

The data management overhaul was focussed on the site’s partner dashboard, where sellers can access billions of data points about their customers’ orders, pricing and product presentation on the online platform.

“The challenges are just the standard challenges that other companies face, but it’s just so critical to an e-tailer to and online digital marketplace to be on top of all the data and make use of it to inform the customer experience,” said Thomas.

The introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May has also necessitated a careful balance between sharing of data within the company to improve customer experience and offers, with the need to ensure personal details and other identifying data is held securely.

“We just make sure that PII [personally identified information] data is very carefully guarded and separated as much as we can from other data associated with it,” said Thomas.

“We do like to democratise data, to give data freely to people in the business if they need to use it, we make sure they have the data they need. GDPR layers this governance constraint over the top of that, making sure that we don’t share too much information with people who don’t have the right to use it or see it.”

However, while he said the company has received its fair share of requests for data curation and deletion from individuals under GDPR legislation, his department’s main focus is handling the historic data already held across the company’s systems.

“I think everybody in the industry is figuring this out to some extent. I think the challenges we face are with legacy data stores more than our core ability to deal with these sort of challenges.”

Asked about other challenges facing the retail industry, including the woes of High Street giants such as Debenhams and House of Fraser, Thomas was optimistic that there will be a role for omnichannel retail in future, and excited about the prospect of taking up its own physical presence in the run up to the Christmas period.

“I think the future is very much a mix of the two,” he explained. "So we’re experimenting with physical presence over this period – we’ll be introducing pop up stores and really starting to dip our toe into that water for the first time.

“We really think the consumer is king. They definitely want the convenience and the flexibility of being able to shop online but also they do want more experiential type experiences and physical allows you to offer that.”

The pop up shops, running during November at Waterloo Station in London and in December at Westfield White City, will offer a showcase of 200 products from notonthehighstreet sellers.

Earlier this month it was announced that Notonthehighstreet had poached ASOS’ technology director Richard Zubrick as its next chief technology officer (CTO) as the company gears up to corner more of the online gifting market.

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