IBM recently announced a partnership with Tractor Supply Company (TSC), a large rural retail store chain, to revamp and migrate the company’s online retail operation to the IBM cloud.
The new Website will provide Tractor Supply customers with an easier way to connect, browse and shop for goods and services online. IBM redesigned TractorSupply.com to provide optimal viewing across all devices, easier integration with social media pages, and a simplified check-out process.
“At Tractor Supply Company, we are committed to deepening the relationships we have with our customers, and the newly redesigned TractorSupply.com website allows us to do that in an impactful way,” said Rob Mills, senior vice president and CIO of Tractor Supply Company, in a statement. “IBM Cloud is more agile and has management capabilities that let us respond quickly to market and individual customer needs, the direct result of which is a better customer experience.”
When people in rural areas need anything from a seven-foot tiller to a rake, or from a pair of boots to a bag of dog food, they often turn to Tractor Supply Company. With more than 1,400 stores in 49 U.S. states, the $5.7 billion retail giant has been serving small farmers, weekend gardeners, and land, pet and animal owners with basic maintenance products for more than 75 years.
According to the National Garden Association, more people have taken to planting their own food. U.S. households and community gardens grew 17 percent from 2008 to 2014, from 36 million to 42 million gardens. In addition, people are turning their small farms into petting zoos or horseback ranches or just taking on a pet. Overall pet spending exceeded $58 billion in 2014, according to the American Pet Products Association.
With these trends, Tractor Supply has enjoyed steady growth and recently turned its attention to its online retail operation. Up until now, the company operated its Website through a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution, provided by a partner who used a third-party cloud provider. Though the solution satisfied initial needs, it left TSC with limited visibility into infrastructure and network performance, and an inability to scale quickly based on customer demand. That the company to turn to IBM and SoftLayer.
TSC migrated the entire operation to SoftLayer earlier this summer. With the new cloud infrastructure, TSC, which has been a longtime IBM Commerce client, has more direct management of not only its re-designed Website, but the infrastructure behind it.
Key to the infrastructure overhaul was the migration of the Website, which was built on IBM Commerce, from a SaaS platform delivered through two distinct partners, to IBM Cloud. With the new Infrastructure as a Service architecture, Tractor Supply Company gains improved overall system performance, greater visibility and the ability to scale quickly based on market demands.
IBM Moves Tractor Supply Company to the Cloud
“By melding innovative technologies with open cloud standards to create solutions that work across private, public and hybrid cloud environments, IBM is helping clients around the globe realize their digital transformations,” said Jim Comfort, general manager of Cloud Services at IBM, in a statement. “It’s a strategic approach that can improve overall business performance.”
Other new features of TractorSupply.com include simplified categories to make shopping and browsing more intuitive, an enhanced store locator capability, easier social integration and new product review features. The emphasis of all these improvements is to build a comprehensive online experience that ties together content, community and commerce.
Additionally, IBM said the Website redesign and infrastructure lays a foundation for enhancements to be made in the future, by creating easier ways to quickly add on new features and improve functionality.
Meanwhile, another large retailer tapped IBM for help improving its customer experience. Markor International Home Furnishings, a large Chinese furniture supplier, announced it selected an IBM MobileFirst for iOS app to improve its customers’ shopping experience, empowering sales associates with iPhones or iPads to place orders, demo products and show 3D images of custom furniture.
In addition, the apps feature analytics to enable sales associates to make personalized recommendations such as complementary pieces or fabric patterns personalized to a customer’s taste and preferences.
With the new IBM MobileFirst for iOS app, Furnishings sales associates can help customers browse home furnishings, offering to record their preferences and capture purchase details on their iPhone or iPad and feeding that data into Markor’s back-end systems. That data can, in turn, be analyzed to classify customers’ historical buying behaviors as well as to guide Markor on the design of new products and pricing.
“What we’re delivering for Markor aims directly at the new quest of business — smart technologies that unlock new value at the intersection of big data and individual engagement. With a range of custom options and discrete customer tastes, the home furnishing industry is in the perfect position to capitalize on this opportunity,” said Nancy Thomas, managing partner of IBM Global Business Services’ Greater China Group, in a statement. “Industry by industry, Apple and IBM are lifting the performance of business professionals by combining IBM’s industry expertise and big data analytics capabilities with Apple’s legendary user experience and excellence in product design.”
Built for the iPhone and iPad, IBM MobileFirst for iOS apps feature analytics and can be customized for any organization and easily deployed, managed and upgraded via cloud services.