Kingdom Strollers started out of a condo in central Florida as a small family business in 2010. It is now a well-oiled, data machine, looking to implement business intelligence solutions next for features like up-selling opportunities on insurance, beverages and other add-ons and better visualization in forecasting inventory levels. Their investment in technology made them an industry leader in Orlando tourism.
SMB/SMEs have many start-up costs that are a priority. Investing in digital and business intelligence tools seems like something that can be developed later, yet delaying the launch of complementary technology can actually be the reason a business rapidly stagnates.
From a rented 6,700 square-foot space to a newly built, 16-000 square foot warehouse they can call their own, Kingdom Strollers can clearly see the return on investment from digitizing the business.
Kingdom Strollers, a stroller and crib rental company serving tourists and one of only a few Disney-preferred providers, has seen its revenue grow 40 percent year over year since working with Concepta on custom web development. This included adding abilities such as inventory tracking, online booking, delivery updates and travel agent referral tracking to its website.
The owner, Matthew Wilhite, knows the world of stroller rentals is not a glamorous one. The investment in technology made the company considerably more “attractive” though.
There is a lot of tracking involved with one simple order, from checking an inventory constantly in flux, to ensuring on-time delivery and knowing the exact stroller location drop-off. One major pain point for the company was constant updates to an order, all previously done through countless phone calls and changes to the master spreadsheet. Now, the order and update process is managed through the website—a win for the company and the customers.
Many small-to-medium size businesses struggle to update their processes as their business grows, not realizing that custom options for automation, insights and analytics are affordable. Kingdom Strollers prioritized the digital transformation of the business early.
When Kingdom Strollers started in 2010, it was a small family business operating out of a condo. It didn’t stay small for long. The steady flow of tourists to Central Florida created an opportunity to provide an often-overlooked service that makes vacations much more enjoyable for families: quality strollers and cribs delivered on demand to hotels and vacation homes.
By the third year owner Matthew Wilhite was overwhelmed with the tiny details of daily operations. It felt like he couldn’t go 30 seconds without some urgent situation blowing up his phone.
Things were made both better and worse when he secured one of three coveted spots as a Disney stroller provider: better because his business was growing fast and worse because it was now taking up the majority of his time.
At this point Wilhite made an unusual move: he made digital transformation a priority and began pushing high-level technology projects at a point when many small businesses are just becoming profitable.
Updating businesses processes to cope with growing business is something most companies struggle with, and Kingdom Strollers was no different. As demand grew they ran into challenges operating at scale.
They took orders by phone, requiring additional calls every time a customer needed to make a change to their reservation. Inventory management was complicated since had to be updated manually after every call and equipment delivery. That made it hard for staff to know what was available, let alone prospective customers.
Delivery presented more challenges. Drivers planned their own routes and had to update orders manually as they returned to base. There was no easy way to change delivery times. Plus, customers couldn’t track their delivery status in real time.
On top of everything, Kingdom Strollers was spending too much time compiling and processing reports. Wilhite’s business was beginning to boom, and he needed a fast, accurate reporting mechanism to support that growth.
By partnering with Concepta, Kingdom Strollers found solutions to help them scale. They had a new website built complete with a customer service portal.
Now customers can access inventory lists, add additional services or products to their orders, change delivery times, and more at their convenience. With the inventory system linked in, the availability problem was solved as well.
A custom driver app provides more flexibility to both drivers and customers. Optimized delivery routes made drop offs and pickups more efficient and responsive to customer changes.
Drivers can scan in products for up to-the-minute order status, and they have a dynamic view of each order and its special requirements.
Everything is tied together with a customized reporting dashboard. Now Wilhite and his team can pull detailed reports across the business with a few clicks.
Results That Speak for Themselves
With Concepta’s digital solutions in place Kingdom Strollers has been able to continue providing the kind of customer experience that brings visitors back for more. Since putting the system into action they’ve seen an average of 40% revenue increase year over year.
The rise in demand pushed them to move from their rental warehouse to a privately-owned facility with more than double the space. Besides the lucrative Disney contract, Kingdom Strollers is also recommended by popular guide books like Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers.
Better yet, Wilhite can now make it through an entire dinner in peace.
You’ve seen what we did for them- now find out what we can do for you! Schedule your free consultation today!
The growing emphasis on digital transformation has led companies to focus on one area of development which was once considered an afterthought: scalability. Companies stand to reap healthy rewards from their enterprise software and analytics initiatives; it makes good business sense to prepare for that success by building for scalability.
Vertical Vs. Horizontal Scaling
There are two different schools of thought about scaling: vertically – called “scaling up”- and horizontally – called “scaling out”.
Vertical scaling begins with one central system and adds more resources (like more RAM) to raise its capacity.
In horizontal scaling, the emphasis is on distributed architecture. Capacity can be increased by adding more nodes to the system.
For most purposes, horizontal scaling will be easier, cheaper, and more performant.
Vertical scaling has lower administration and operation costs when the server is on site, but with cloud databases becoming the norm that isn’t a consideration.
Requirements of Scalable Applications
What does scalability look like? There are three areas where an app needs to excel to be considered scalable.
- Performance: First and foremost, the system must operate well under stress with low latency. User experience is becoming a key brand differentiator. If UX suffers as more demands are placed on an app, there’s a serious risk of falling retention rates.
- Availability and Reliability: These are closely related and equally necessary. Scalable apps rarely if ever go down under stress. They need to reliably produce data upon request and not lose stored information.
- Cost: Highly scalable apps don’t have to be unreasonably expensive to build, maintain, or scale. Planning for scalability during development allows the app to expand as demand increases without causing undue expenses.
Components Of Highly Scalable Architecture
When scalability is a priority, developers have several options for building it into an application’s architecture. Here are a few of the most helpful:
- Cloud Storage: Using cloud storage allows companies to buy only what they need when the app is created. Adding more storage is as simple as upgrading a subscription. New storage is ready to use right away, no maintenance or construction fees required. Cloud storage lowers development costs since the upfront investment is relatively small. There are plenty of dependable options for SQL or NoSQL cloud databases available, too, so developers can choose one that meets the specific needs of a project.
- Caches: Data that’s been called up once is likely to be needed again; caching puts it where it can be accessed more quickly. A distributed cache structure works well for distributed architecture. Data is cached with nodes that check with each other before checking database. The lets the system store data closer to the user for faster access.
- Load-balancing Software: Horizontal scaling wouldn’t be as popular as it is without load-balancing software. It tracks stress on nodes and services, then spreads the workload across nodes to prevent bottlenecks and avoid applying too much stress to a single component. Apps that use load-balancing software handle sudden spikes or dips in demand better than their counterparts. The software makes adding nodes easy, too: developers just have to change the rules for handling a new node and routing traffic.
- Proxies: Think of proxies like middlemen. They’re essentially intermediary software that can be used to coordinate multiple server requests. Proxies collect simultaneous duplicate responses to a server, send a single request for the information, then share the data out among all the requests for the same resources. Using a proxy raises latency rises slightly, but stress on the server drops significantly.
- Microservices: Microservices are large services split into a number of loosely connected smaller services. Components can then be scaled independently of each other depending on actual usage. Microservice architectures handle asymmetrical demand well since only the service that’s needed is used while others are free. These systems are faster to develop and easier to upgrade.
Scalable From The Start
The decision about how to approach scaling should be made up front. Though planning for scalability is surprisingly simple, shifting directions down the road is complicated and expensive. Make this a talking point when discussing requirements during Discovery.
At Concepta, we’ve created beautifully scalable apps for clients as large as Disney and Warner Music Group. Schedule a free, no-strings consultation to discuss how we can build your next app with an eye to future growth.
The digital revolution is disrupting the traditional business model for small and medium businesses (SMBs).
On one hand it makes it possible for them to compete with much larger companies, but on the other the investment required can be daunting.
Before setting out to create a digital strategy, it helps to work through what digital transformation actually means and how that affects SMBs.
Changing the Pace of Business
Digital transformation is just that- a total restructuring of operations to function more efficiently in the digital era.
Its effects reach into every area of business.
Here are a few of the core components involved in a successful transformation:
Mobile presence: SMBs used to be fine with a regular website, but now consumers expect a fast, fluid mobile experience.
This is doubly urgent for small businesses.
40% of all mobile searches are for local businesses, and 88% of people who search for a local business will visit either it or a competitor within 24 hours.
60% won’t visit or recommend a business after having trouble with a poorly designed mobile site.
Optimizing for mobile is obviously important- yet 47% of SMBs still don’t have a mobile-friendly website or app.
Enterprise apps: Enterprise apps rework everyday functions- ordering, reporting, marketing, planning- into streamlined processes that can be managed via user-friendly apps.
They cut down on internal confusion since everyone has the most up-to-date information in the palms of their hands.
Implementing enterprise apps at the operational level eliminate redundant operations, increase efficiency, and improves employee morale.
A study by Adobe found that investing in enterprise apps netted companies a 35% ROI on average.
Chatbots: Chatbots are the answer to a major customer dilemma: how can a company provide twenty-four hour customer service at scale without the expense of hiring and training humans agents?
Natural language processing technology has advanced enough that chatbots can handle the majority of routine customer queries.
Technology experts predict that customers will conduct 85% of their brand interactions without speaking to a human at all!
Automation: Digital revolution creates a lot of work, but fortunately much of it can be automated.
Automation involves creating a list of processes that trigger other actions or processes without needing to check with a human first.
One example would be generating order confirmation emails after a customer completes a purchase online.
Automation can also walk a customer through basic troubleshooting after an error is reported.
It’s often confused with artificial intelligence, though automation uses set rules to complete its tasks instead of analytical reasoning.
AI-powered customer management: There’s a marketing adage that 80% of business comes from 20% of customers.
With artificial intelligence, that’s changing forever.
Intelligent profiles formed by automatic customer classification and segmentation help companies identify their best customers.
These profiles also help provide the kind of personalized experience that keeps customers happy and loyal.
Data science and analytics: In many ways, data science is the cornerstone of digital revolution.
Data has been called the new oil, and for good reason.
Increasing data utilization is one of the fastest ways to grow a company, resulting in lower operating expenses and higher revenue.
For more about data science and its impact on the business world, read our white paper: “How Businesses Can Use Data Science and AI to Gain a Competitive Edge.”
The Looming Threat to SMBs
When unchallenged, large companies who refine their digital strategy can satisfy needs once available only through a SMB.
The traditional advantages of small businesses over corporations are personalized service and an inventory of niche products tailored to their local market.
Techniques like intelligent customer profiling give companies that would ordinarily be too large to customize their offerings the insight to do so.
If SMBs aren’t pushing digital transformation themselves, these large companies could steal their client base and push them out of a local market.
The problem is the investment in time and resources required for traditional digital solutions.
Getting maximum efficiency from daily operations like reporting, inventory, or accounting is easy to do with modern software.
However, the type of programs used by corporations aren’t practical for SMBs.
They’re complicated to operate, needing trained staff to maintain their databases, and the typical SMB will only use a fraction of their capabilities.
To complicate the issue, large-scale software is expensive enough that recouping an investment would take too long to merit the expense.
SMB managers often make do by stretching the capabilities of programs like Excel, but that can cause more problems than it solves.
Analytics software inspires a similar dilemma since the rewards of data science and analytics for SMBs are hard to see.
Unsure how to translate their data into actionable results, owners hesitate to invest the time and money to join the digital revolution.
They worry that the potential damages from project failure are much higher for smaller businesses that can’t absorb losses like huge companies.
The Path to Digital Adoption
Fortunately, software developers are beginning to cater to the digital transformation needs of SMBs.
Solutions aimed at SMBs are more widely available.
Owners no longer have to buy management software meant for global corporations in order to digitize their operational needs.
Instead they can choose software with only the features they will use.
For example, a landscaping company can have a unified dispatch and reporting app built that lets managers assign jobs and receive completion reports.
The app costs less than a solution meant for larger companies and meets the company’s requirements more closely.
Analytics is easier now, too.
Rather than hiring an in-house data science team, SMBs can take advantage of off the shelf enterprise analytics software.
This is a popular option among SMB owners.
Last year SMBs used an average of 4.8 apps to manage their operations, up from 3.8 in 2015.
46% are tracking their social media metrics through analytics programs, and 47% use some level of business intelligence software.
SMBs do run into trouble with premade software that doesn’t quite meet their needs.
Some solve the problem by stringing together a collection of apps that each solve a different problem.
The resulting technological complexity can give the impression that data science is too complicated for SMBs, but there are good alternatives to the “patchwork app” system.
Custom programming on an SMB level is surprisingly affordable.
Instead of using a handful of apps to manage outcall scheduling and reporting, for example, a customized business app could combine those functions in one easy to navigate place.
Cloud technologies are making many of the same analytics favored by large companies available to SMBs, too.
By tracking and predicting customer needs, SMBs can implement smart inventory systems that make the most of limited shelf space.
Targeted marketing is another convenient tool for reducing operating costs.
It lowers the price of customer acquisition while raising the value of individual clients through repeat business.
Speaking of lowering costs, data science can reduce overhead in general.
Artificial intelligence and automation takes tedious or repetitive tasks out of human hands, leaving employees free for more skilled projects.
The boost in efficiency makes up for SMB’s comparatively smaller staffs.
Leveling the Playing Field
In a very real sense, SMBs are better positioned to benefit from digital transformation than large companies.
41% of SMBs feel their size is an advantage when overcoming institutional resistance to adopting new technology.
They have less bureaucracy surrounding the decision to change, and they have more to gain by going digital.
When they do commit to digitization, their efforts have a high success rate.
Three quarters of SMBs feel that gains from investing in data science technology met or exceeded their original expectations.
Despite the challenges, digital strategy should be a priority for SMBs.
It’s a game-changer.
Half of industry leaders believe that technology levels the playing field between small businesses and large corporations.
Digital transformation is the most reliable path to maximizing an SMB’s resources to gain an edge against their bigger competitors.