The story so far
Mobiles.co.uk was an internet trailblazer, launching the UK’s first retail mobile phone web site in 1995. Since then it has kept pace with the explosive growth in web shopping, and is now the largest web-only mobile phone retailer in the UK.
Web retailing is an exciting but challenging place to be. Mobiles.co.uk has survived and prospered even under the additional pressure of the aggressive expansion of the mobile networks’ own web stores and retail stores.
Mobiles.co.uk became part of Carphone Warehouse Group in July 2007, and is now planning further significant growth.
Built on IT
As a web-only retailer IT pervades all that Mobiles.co.uk does. IT underpins day to day operations, but also provides a competitive advantage that pushes Mobiles.co.uk ahead of its rivals. So for Mobiles.co.uk IT has to be both boring and exciting.
Supping with Microsoft
Like many web pioneers Mobiles.co.uk was built on and committed to “open source” technology. Web retailing of mobile phones is very largely about minimising costs, and “open source” technology is free, so hard to argue against capital cost-wise.
But for Mobiles.co.uk it came with a price, which included pressure on individuals to keep products from a patchwork of suppliers working, extra risk for the business because of dependence on one or two people, and distraction from the core business of merchandising and retailing as too much attention was given to technical detail.
Further to advice from Protronics, and with no great enthusiasm, Mobiles.co.uk agreed a switch to Microsoft starting from early 2005.
Microsoft technology has subsequently crept throughout the organisation. It still isn’t anyone’s Valentine, but it has brought reassuring dependability, put the relaxing back into holidays for technical staff, and underpinned the joining up of data, processes and business information across Mobiles.co.uk
Integration with Carphone Warehouse
Carphone Warehouse purchased Mobiles.co.uk in late July 2007, with an ambitious plan to integrate order processing and fulfilment by the start of September. Mobiles.co.uk were equally keen to offer even more attractive deals on their web site based on Carphone Warehouse’s better pricing, but wanted to retain their advantage of writing high quality business through careful credit and fraud checks.
The challenges continued with the need to match the expectations of a small fast moving web business with the risk management approach of a corporate, and to dovetail Mobiles.co.uk web order processing with a system that grew out of the needs of Carphone Warehouse’s shops.
Protronics was able to reconcile the needs and expectations of Mobiles.co.uk and Carphone Warehouse because while we expect to execute software projects quickly we also understand the need for documentation, processes and change management.
The final solution not only bridged the gap between web order processing and a system based on physical retail, but also significantly improved ease of use compared to Mobiles.co.uk previous open sourced based order processing system.
Soon after the software went live, Mobiles.co.uk added an additional requirement to speed up access to a credit scoring web site. Protronics re-used elements of software (written previously to automate credit checks and placement of orders with the mobile networks) to quickly and inexpensively add the feature to the order processing software. Users are now able to rapidly and reliably investigate potentially fraudulent orders.
Protronics’ software and business processes now form the framework around which Mobiles’ current and future success is built. Everything is based on Protronics’ “methodologies” and Microsoft technology. While this is not conducive to the emotional commitment that there was to the previous open source technologies, it has replaced excitement with dependability. The taming of technical challenges has allowed a renewed focus on all that it takes to become the easiest to use, busiest, best converting, most profitable mobile phone web site in the UK.