Revamped ecommerce for a crisis-proof shopping experience
Natura is a fashion and homeware brand with a multicultural ethos which was established in 1992. After years of expansion, the business now has over 200 shops in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Andorra. Some of its profits are also earmarked to fund environmental and social projects.
In early 2020, the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic spurred a change in the shopping habits of consumers who were compelled to turn to ecommerce due to the closure of brick and mortar stores. Against this backdrop, Natura, which had just launched its new website, had the challenge of keeping up its commitment to ecommerce, its only sales channel for months, in order to meet this growing demand.
So the company needed a robust technology development team specialising in ecommerce which could roll out the new platform design layer, developed by the Firma team, with core stable features and in just two months.
We had to deal with several challenges in the project including urgency, uncertainty and not knowing much about the new consumers. And the ideal tool to address them was to work with an Agile mindset which allowed us to respond quickly to business, gather feedback and learn in order to iterate and evolve constantly as the market evolved.
Co-creating the best solution
In this emergency we drew on Agile methodology by working in two-week incremental iterative cycles, known as sprints, featuring working product deliveries. In each sprint, the development and design teams held meetings with the client where we coordinated and co-created the best solution. At the end of the two weeks, we presented a demo to the client to show the working product and validate it.
By engaging Natura throughout the process, we were able to continuously address their needs and quickly reach a consensus to cut time to market as much as possible.
Unlike waterfall methods which plan the work from the beginning and leave no room for unforeseen events, Agile methodology can meet the priorities of the moment without compromising the project.
Implementing Agile methodology in this project with Runroom has helped us to enhance our work processes and achieve an increasingly stable and scalable product. The Product Owner role has enabled us to put in place seamless communication between the marketing, IT and e-business departments and the development team. Runroom brings us quality in performance and also a strategic mindset to tackle new challenges and a lot of planning to ensure that expectations are met to the full in each of the tasks we undertake.
An architecture adapted to needs
On a technical level, we had to come up with a highly scalable and iterable architecture featuring an automated continuous deployment system since online sales channel products and fashion industry needs are constantly changing.
Here our main challenge was to get in line with the Sylius product roadmap, an open source ecommerce platform for developers and highly customisable to Natura’s requirements. We chose to leave out bespoke features in order to seek out solutions which would dovetail with the offering of the new version of Sylius which is easier to maintain.
As part of our methodology, we tapped the code version management system (Git) to register changes made to files, virtualisation of development environments in virtual machines with Vagrant and automated continuous integration deployments with Jenkins. These tools enabled the team to roll out the enhanced functional product to the production environment (final website) in a regular and controlled way with quality assurance.
The Sylius ecommerce platform is developed with Symfony, a PHP framework we have been working with for over 10 years. The system is also supported by the Algolia search platform whose content indexes make it possible to search the entire product database very quickly and straight away, thus enhancing the user’s search experience.
Sylius’s flexibility meant it was the ideal solution for a project which called for implementing processes going further than standard projects, as was the case with Natura.
Working with Sylius brings a wide range of default ecommerce features which are also highly customisable. The great advantage of working on Symfony is that it means you can connect with large ecosystem service bundles.
Results in figures
We have rolled out Natura’s multichannel sales with a new ecommerce user experience which allows the company’s products to be sold abroad with prices and purchase specifications tailored to each region.
The release of Natura’s new ecommerce in March 2020 during the lockdown had an immediate response. Sales grew by 277% compared to the previous month; the number of orders also rose by 228% and the average receipt by 15%. We also cut the average load time of the brand’s website by 33%.
This outstanding achievement inspires us to work harder to find solutions for clients who need a quality product with quick results by harnessing the flexibility delivered by Agile methodology.