Bidfood loyalty program appetizing to 25,000 customers
We thought we didn't have the in-house skills for responsive web development, but with LANSA we can do it ourselves.
- Customer Bidfood Netherlands (formerly Deli XL) is the leading catering wholesaler for the foodservice market, from small cafeterias to large care institution.
- Challenge Taking back control of the ERP system and delivering responsive web app extensions, after going through a stage of mostly packaged-solutions and outsourced customization.
- Solution Use LANSA's low-code development platform, Proof-of-Concept and mentoring to get started with responsive web development.
- Key Benefits Bidfood's first in-house developed responsive web solution, the customer loyalty app, is a success. The IT team, having gained confidence and user's trust, sees many more opportunities to bring improvements.
- Product Used Visual LANSA
Bidfood Netherlands, previously Deli XL, is 'the' online wholesaler for food professionals. Bidfood offers, and reliably delivers, an assortment of over 60,000 food items and related services to its 25,000 customers in the hospitality, catering and institutional care markets.
Initially Bidfood was moving to an environment with mostly packaged solutions and fully outsourced web development. This project was stopped and Bidfood now has a diverse IT environment that includes in-house developed web apps that provide a competitive advantage. Using LANSA's low-code development platform, Bidfood's internal IT team has recently delivered a loyalty app that has led to a 15% increase in sales of participating products. Having gained the confidence and user's trust to rapidly deliver well integrated and easy to use responsive web apps, Bidfood's IT team is discovering a large number of business cases where they can bring improvements.
- The Challenge
- ERP Migration to SAP Cancelled
- Loyalty App for Customers
- The Project and Solution
- Benefits and Conclusion
- Company and System Information
Bidfood makes food professionals more successful by delivering quality products all the way into the kitchens of its customers, from small cafeterias and boutique restaurants, to large care institution, caterers and hotels.
Originally part of the Ahold group, the number 10 food retailer worldwide and Netherland's largest, Deli XL was acquired by the international Bidvest Group in 2007, who split off its foodservices arm as Bidcorp in 2016. With branches in over 30 countries across Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America, Bidcorp operates under the name Bidfood worldwide. Bidfood Netherlands ("Bidfood" in the remainder of this case study) has 1,700 staff members across 16 locations and operates a fleet of 350 trucks.
Initially Bidfood's IT environment was 'simple', according to Arnold Hendriks, application development manager at Bidfood. It consisted of an in-house developed ERP and warehouse management system, at first developed in legacy code, but extended with LANSA. It also included an in-house developed web shop, based entirely on LANSA, which was at the time the first integrated web shop in the Netherlands foodservices industry.
But then, some years ago, the planning for Bidfood's IT environment went through a strategic re-orientation. "The new direction was to move to a 'best-of-breed' approach with packaged solutions, explains Hendriks. Best-of-breed was popular with Gartner and other analysts at that time and many companies followed suit. Our in-house developed systems went into maintenance mode and we started researching the suitability of various packaged solutions."
After evaluating several options, the decision was to move the ERP System to SAP, the web shop to Oracle's ATG e-commerce solution and the warehouse management system to Manhattan Associates. All of it would run in a Linux/Oracle/DB2 environment and would be integrated with the ESB/EAI tool SAP-PI. The in-house developed ERP system and web shop would be phased out, and with that, LANSA as well. Hiring of SAP, ATG and Manhattan consultants, training and implementation started.
Bidfood's IT team became responsible for the functional management of the new application landscape, taking care of design, user stories and SCRUM-master tasks. However, the actual coding tasks were outsourced. Only maintenance of the old ERP system remained in-house
Our in-house developed systems went into maintenance mode.
ERP Migration to SAP Cancelled
"While implementing SAP Finance was relatively easy, moving our core ERP functionality to SAP turned out to be a lot harder. At some point we realized that our SAP ERP implementation was going to be too hard and too expensive. We decided to cancel the project and keep using our existing ERP system, which was already, at first on a temporary basis, coupled with ATG and Manhattan. So, our SAP implementation had eventually been reduced to the finance modules only."
By then, the ATG eCommerce and Manhattan Warehouse Management implementations had progressed quite far, so Bidfood decided to continue with them.
"With a renewed focus on our in-house developed ERP system, LANSA came back on the radar as well. However, since the ERP system had been in maintenance-mode for multiple years, we were several LANSA versions behind. Our ERP system had a legacy user interface and our IT team didn't have the skills to develop modern responsive web applications," says Hendriks.
At some point we realized that our SAP ERP implementation was going to be too hard and too expensive.
Loyalty App for Customers
Business users from Bidfood's eCommerce team recently came with a new requirement for a customer loyalty program. The program would allow enrolled customers to earn points with every purchase and exchange their balance of points for gifts. Gifts could be anything from kitchen supplies to theme-park entrance tickets for the family. Bidfood explored several development options.
Since customers place their orders in ATG ecommerce, the ATG outsource partner in India could develop the vendor portal in Java, but their quote reflected the effort involved. Hendriks comments, "Java is a very crafty and laborious language. It would require too much time, effort and money."
Another consideration was to use a low-code development tool, as used by a local IT partner in a previous year for a vendor web portal. However, that option was discarded because of deployment costs. While the tool's per-user/per-application licencing model had been affordable for 700 vendors, it would become extremely expensive for the loyalty solution to Bidfood's 25,000 customers.
Jos Straathof, a senior developer at Bidfood who was involved in the low-code development project of the vendor web portal, suggested the latest version of LANSA should be evaluated as an option for developing the loyalty app. Straathof had experience with LANSA's low-code platform in the pre-ATG years, when he developed Bidfood's web shop. Although that was over seven years ago and although the graphical UI of web apps had dramatically changed over that time, Straathof thought that the vendor web portal could have been equally well developed with LANSA.
LANSA was invited to do a Proof of Concept (POC) for the loyalty app, which had to contain a reasonable section of the required functionality. The POC would primarily be judged on A) Whether it would meet the demanding graphical criteria of the e-Commerce business users, B) Whether it was developer friendly and productive and C) Whether it would perform well in the challenging ERP environment.
"LANSA passed the POC test with flying colours. The business users were impressed with LANSA's graphical capabilities. The performance and ERP integration were excellent as well," explained Hendriks.
Regarding developer friendliness, Straathof commented, "developing of responsive web apps has become much easier in LANSA, since we developed our web shop multiple years ago. Also, LANSA was easier and more productive than the low-code platform we had used for another project."
The business users were impressed with LANSA's graphical capabilities. The performance and ERP integration were excellent as well.
The Project and Solution
Straathof developed the first version in about 15 days, using the POC as a guideline.
Customers can access the loyalty app directly from ATG, using a single sign on (SSO). The app allows customers to sign-up for the loyalty program, view their accumulated points-balance, and to view and order gifts. When viewing gifts, they can be sorted by popularity, by date with newest on top, or by the number of required points. When ordering gifts, they will automatically be delivered with the customer's next regular order using the tightly integrated ERP system.
The ERP system stores the number of points customers can earn for each item. Points may vary for each customer segment (restaurants, care institutions and so on). The balance of points that a customer has accumulated is also held in the ERP system. ATG shows participating customers the number of points they would earn if they proceed with ordering an item. When the order is delivered, the points are added to the customer's balance by the ERP system. "The loyalty app, ATG e-Commerce and the backend ERP system all seamlessly integrate with each other," says Hendriks.
Initially Straathof had to get used to the new graphical capabilities and terminology in LANSA, as he made a skills jump from a much older version. However, since LANSA now includes standard Google Material Design capabilities, Bidfood's e-Commerce specialist immediately recognized things. "Although our e-Commerce specialist didn't have LANSA development skills, he could tell me exactly which LANSA graphical controls to use and where to find them. We could implement all his graphical requirements in the few hours he was sitting next to me."
We could implement all the graphical requirements of our eCommerce manager in the few hours he was sitting next to me and delivered the first version in about 15 days.
Benefits and Conclusion
Mark Croes, Bidfood's eCommerce specialist, who designed the graphical look of the loyalty app, explains "We have seen a 15% increase in sales of the products that are included in the loyalty program. There are many systems that allow you to collect data, but our loyalty program also allows us to make sophisticated use of that data with actions that increase sales."
"Digital innovation helps us to work more efficiently, allowing us to give more attention to the actual people who are our customers. Previously, we used a hosted loyalty solution that wasn't integrated to our e-Commerce or order management system. It required a lot of manual work, importing and exporting data between our systems and the hosted solution. Now we have a fully integrated solution, that doesn't require any manual steps."
"At first I was sceptical about LANSA, because my only experience with the platform was the seven year old web shop application. I thought of LANSA as a development platform for internal apps and boring B2B solutions. But when I saw the POC that LANSA presented, I became convinced that we could create an attractive and easy to use loyalty app with LANSA," concludes Croes.
"We went through a stage where we developed everything in-house, to a packaged-solution environment where we outsourced all customization and web development. Now we are taking back control of our ERP system and all additions and extensions. While we previously thought we didn't have the in-house skills for responsive web development, with LANSA we can actually do most of it ourselves. And the result looks pretty sleek," says Hendriks.
The development costs for the LANSA-based loyalty app were about one-third of the quoted price of the Java/ATG option.
Since implementing the loyalty app, Bidfood has embarked on several development projects using the LANSA platform. These include:
- An app that allows suppliers to view and download purchase orders to their own ERP system and, after processing the orders, upload the delivery information into the Bidfood ERP system , using REST APIs.
- A mobile app for warehouse workers to determine where items need to be stored and a similar app to scan items for ingredient and allergy information.
- A mobile app for drivers to register returnables and capturing the signature of the recipient as proof-of-delivery.
"Now that we made the turn to do responsive web development ourselves with LANSA, we see many more business opportunities. Further down the road, we will redevelop several applications that were originally created as part of the SAP project, to now be part of our existing ERP system. In addition we will use Visual LANSA's Framework facility to extend and gradually replace legacy parts of our ERP system."
"Despite all the stories that best-of-breed packaged ERP systems can do everything, in our industry homegrown applications still provide a competitive advantage. Our ERP system happens to run on IBM i, which is often and mistakenly earmarked as a legacy platform. Using LANSA and with a re-newed focus on our exiting ERP system, we have proven to be more flexible and productive than a packaged ERP like SAP ever could be. Moreover, thanks to cross-platform development tools like LANSA, our ERP system is evolving to be more open," concludes Hendriks.
We thought we didn't have the in-house skills for responsive web development, but with LANSA we can do it ourselves. And the result looks pretty sleek.
Company and System Information
- Bidfood is a leading foodservice wholesale company in the Netherlands. With it's advanced and reliable logistic network, Bidfood provides over 60.000 food and related products and services to its 25,000 customers in the hospitality, catering and institutional care markets. Bidfood makes food professionals more successful by connecting them to the best international and local food offerings.
- View the loyalty app and its announcement video
- For more information visit www.bidfood.nl