It’s almost 18 years since Woolworths first offered our Australian customers an online shopping service. Then called HomeShop, it was launched well before Facebook, Twitter or when the iPhone made their debuts.
Today Woolworths Online is Australia’s premier online grocery site allowing customers from across the country to order goods online for home delivery or collection in store. It works closely with our extensive store network to provide good food at good prices for all Australians.
Woolworths understands that technology is a cornerstone of competitive advantage – as it is for all organisations. In a world where technological disruption is happening on almost a daily basis, being able to harness technology to shift the dial on customer experience in a meaningful way is what we aim to do, day in and day out.
Over the last 18 years Woolworths Online has grown into a significant business in its own right. To cater for the extensive growth, the team made the decision that rather than continue to host the service internally, we would seek a cloud alternative. The series of unique requirements we had made our decision to move to Microsoft Azure clear cut.
Firstly, we wanted an Australia-based multi-region active/active cloud solution that ensured maximum uptime and availability. Trying to replicate this internally would have been far too costly.
Secondly, Woolworths Online runs technology that is predominantly from the Microsoft stack. We recognised Azure as an easy transition of current platforms and skills, whilst Microsoft’s strong roadmap gave us comfort that the platform would be able to meet our future needs.
Last and perhaps most importantly, whilst infrastructure is a key component of our customer offering – it’s not the area that provides us with our competitive advantage. By using Microsoft’s Azure infrastructure and tools, more of our teams’ energy and time can be focussed on the areas that do – whether they be the application layer, system performance or user experience. This is possible because we are confident Azure is handling our day to day needs without requiring direct intervention from us. We also worked with Microsoft’s chosen partner Readify to help deliver this project.
Alongside this, we have access to a rich and continually growing range of Azure apps and services that complement our operational needs. Already we’re using Azure VMs, Traffic Manager, OMS, AppInsights, Azure SQL, Application Service Environment, Azure Blob and Azure functions to name a few.
Azure also allows us to take a genuine DevOps approach to innovation so we can do true blue/green deployments thanks to the platforms active/active setup. It lays the foundation for our A/B testing so we can do live comparisons of different service iterations and provides far easier rollback options.
We’re also assured of the security of the data we collect because we use Azure SQL Database’s Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) and also run regular penetration tests of the environment with the Microsoft team.
It’s not just these new functions and features that engage our customers though. Azure’s reliability and robustness means that our site which is available across all devices including desktop, tablet and mobile – stays available. It means our customers know we’re always there for them. Even at peak periods, the nature of the cloud setup means that the team no longer needs to manually scale the environment either vertically or horizontally – the Azure stack now takes care of that automatically.
We’ve completed our first Christmas period on Azure and it happened to be our busiest Christmas period ever. For Woolworths, using technology like Azure that allows the systems to blend into the background and allow customers to focus instead on the shopping experience ensures you have a happier customer base, and that’s what really counts.