How Staples Canada became a leader in ‘best-in-breed’ modular ecommerce

Website:

staples.ca

Industry:

Retail

Market:

Office supplies

"We wouldn’t be where we are at Staples Canada without the work of Bold Commerce. As we move forward, digital commerce is going to be more important than ever. It’s going to be very exciting for all of us to see where this journey goes."
Simon Rodrigue Chief Digital Officer at Staples Canada

The company

With 305 retail locations across Canada and a growing ecommerce presence, Staples has become more than the store Canadians go to for back-to-school and office supplies. A private equity acquisition in 2018 brought in new leadership and a renewed strategic direction.

The launch of Work, Learn & Grow as the company's new mission laid the groundwork for the digital transformation that would follow. An aggressive roadmap and a relentless focus on the needs of distinct needs of Canadian consumers shifted Staples Canada into one of the largest and most dynamic success stories in the acceleration of Canadian ecommerce.

The challenge

Before their digital transformation, Staples Canada ran on an all-in-one platform that lacked the flexibility to adapt to the needs of the modern consumer. As a large retailer with complex pricing and promotional requirements, including customer- and location-specific pricing and fees, they required an enterprise software solution that would be agile enough to keep up with the rapidly changing marketplace — one that could be implemented quickly and efficiently.

Staples Canada came to the table with a vision of handpicking “best-in-breed” partners to build an enterprise ecommerce solution. They wanted to “own their technology,” and be seen as an independent force within the Canadian marketplace. Having the foresight to recognize where the industry was already headed, they set out to construct a modular solution that would empower them to stay agile as the needs of their customers evolved.

Bold was handpicked for their highly-customizable modular solutions, alongside partners Orderbot and Contentful to build on top of their ecommerce platform. With their best-in-breed tech stack in place, Staples underwent the digital transformation they had dreamed of with speed, agility, and cost efficiency. This approach would allow them to solve for the challenges they faced as they forged their new identity in the Canadian marketplace.

"One of the things we strongly believed in was “buy vs. build”. Our approach was to find the experts who were best at what they do and partner with them to do the best job, rather than build and own it ourselves."

The solution

Staples Canada combined Bold Checkout, Price Rules Engine (PRE), and Store Locator solutions with other best-in-breed partner solutions in an API-driven modular architecture. This approach provided speed to market, flexibility, and improved quality and performance, while helping to future-proof their business.

A modular approach allowed them to “add, connect, and extend” new features, as opposed to having to rebuild parts of their sites from scratch every time they wanted to integrate new functionality. The upfront investment in API-driven commerce significantly improved speed-to-market while reducing the potential cost of future upgrades.

"The flexibility and modularity provided through our partner integrations has been fantastic. We see Bold and our other partners as members of our family and team."
Jeff Serota Senior Director of Product Management at Staples Canada

Checkout Solution

As a large Canadian retailer that services both B2C and B2B, Staples Canada was faced with the challenge of building a digital solution that would handle the complex requirements of a diverse customer base. Bold Checkout improved Staples’ ship-to-store functionality, increasing inventory availability and providing a better shopping experience for customers.

Bold Checkout streamlined the ordering process for B2B customers, integrating a private label credit card and loyalty program functionality. Users could now place an order using stored credit card information on their business account. Checkout also enabled the continuity of their Air Miles program, allowing customers to collect points for their purchases online. This provided Staples with valuable customer analytics they could use to produce actionable insights for online purchases.

To solve existing issues with eco fees and tariffs, Bold development teams integrated a custom plugin that allowed prices to be displayed based on provincial guidelines. Customers would no longer be hit with hidden fees at checkout, reducing overall cart abandonment.

"Bold Checkout is such a vital part of our ecosystem. And PRE has become the backbone of pricing for us."
Jeff Serota Senior Director of Product Management at Staples Canada

Price Rules Engine (PRE) Solution

Staples Canada wanted to ensure their customers were treated to a true omnichannel shopping experience, especially where pricing was concerned. Bold’s API-powered Price Rules Engine (PRE) provided a single source of truth for all pricing and promotion management. From allowing customers to enter a discount code on top of a sale price, to scheduling timed promotions such as midnight launches and flash sales, to updating thousands of prices per second, PRE helped Staples maintain a firm culture of “best price wins.”

PRE also helped simplify the complexities of managing both B2B and B2C pricing, ensuring regional pricing was always correct, with respect to eco fees and tariffs, and offering customer-specific wholesale pricing.

This not only elevated the ecommerce side of their business, but positioned them as a leader in the Canadian ecommerce industry.

"We live in a promotional space, so being able to drive timed or complex sales and stacked promotions, while making sure the right price is always in front of the right customer at the right time means everything to us."
Jeff Serota Senior Director of Product Management at Staples Canada

BOPIS Solution

BOPIS, also known as “buy online pickup in store,” has grown in popularity as customers seek new ways to shop online and get the products they need. Staples Canada was able to combine Bold Checkout, Store Locator, and Orderbot to integrate a BOPIS solution that would accommodate shoppers across the country.

Today, customers enjoy the convenience of being able to buy online and pick up at a store. Key features include geolocating customers to connect them to their local store and inventory, as well as perks like “2-hour pickup,” and giving customers the option to ship out-of-stock items to their closest Staples location.

"The complexity of understanding inventory in 305 locations and knowing how to connect customers to the right location gets complicated. Understanding where people are, what’s available, and setting the expectation that it will be there when they get there is key, especially for customers who do not live in a major city."
Site product page

The results

Staples Canada’s digital transformation was a huge success in terms of speed to market, increased flexibility, improved performance, and cost efficiency. They experienced record highs in traffic and orders processed with 100% reliability, including BFCM and COVID load spikes. The project featured rapid deployments, such as 72-hour curbside pickup implementation and speed to market with an aggressive roadmap. Overall there was an elevated shopping experience, empowered by agility with evolving customer needs.

BFCM

One of the big tests of Staples Canada’s newly transformed ecommerce solution was how it would perform throughout the “Superbowl of ecommerce,” Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM). The result was a huge win for Staples and their stack of best-in-breed partners.

Staples Canada experienced their best Black Friday ever, with their highest traffic ever recorded in a single day. Even with the surge in traffic and sales, they saw 100% reliability and zero downtime during the weekend event. BFCM 2019 highlights included:

  • Record high revenue for Staples.ca in a single day
  • Highest traffic ever recorded in a single day

Preparing for BFCM 2019 was much easier for Staples Canada than it had been in past years, because they no longer had to stress test their entire system. All they had to do was reach out to each partner to ensure everything was ready to go. Bold Discounts, powered by PRE, enabled them to schedule and deploy promotions with just a few clicks, giving them the freedom and flexibility to run limited-time promotions and flash sales over the weekend, as well as strategic midnight launches to attract eager shoppers waiting for the clock to strike twelve.

Overall, it was their most successful BFCM to date, and they are already ramping up for an even bigger BFCM in 2020.

"The flexibility and modularity provided through our partner integrations has been fantastic. We see Bold and our other partners as members of our family and team."
Jeff Serota Senior Director of Product Management at Staples Canada

Overcoming Adversity

When Covid-19 struck, Staples Canada didn’t hesitate to add a curbside pickup to go with their already efficient BOPIS solution. It took only 72 hours for Staples to implement a curbside pickup option their customers could count on to shop for the products they needed while feeling safe. Today, this service is offered at most of their locations.

Covid-19 also caused an unforeseen spike in online sales. Even as their sales began to skyrocket in March, Staples Canada’s brand new modular ecommerce stack had no issues handling the sustained increases in traffic. The robustness of their solution continues to prove steady as they achieve new growth milestones.

"We’ve had hundreds of thousands of new customers who have never shopped online with us before who did for the first time in the last couple months. The goal was to provide an easy ecommerce experience, seamless customer service, and great delivery."

Looking ahead

Staples Canada's decision to create a best-in-breed modular commerce solution has paid off, both in terms of their immediate gains and their positioning for what the future holds. Within an API-powered modular architecture, they will be able to easily adapt to the challenges of the future, integrating the latest technologies and consumer trends as the company grows and expands. They will create commerce-enabled experiences for their customers — to shop when, where and how they want; and their partners will be right there beside them, helping define a new normal as leaders in digital commerce.

"We consider everyone at Bold our partners. The reality is they are an extension of the Staples Canada team. And, I think that is very critical because there are only a few companies that we have those types of relationships with."

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