Giving experiences as gifts – from theatre tickets to spa days to parachute jumps – is a growth market globally. The number-one seller of experiences in Europe is the Smartbox Group which sells more than six million experience gifts annually in 16 national markets through a wide variety of brands, including Red Letter Days, Bongo and Buyagift.
With fluctuating peak periods for selling experiences across Europe, Smartbox has recently migrated to AWS to take advantage of the flexibility of the public cloud. Guiding this successful transition is New Relic, which has helped Smartbox in its digital transformation to a business focused on delivering superb digital customer experiences.
Going on a Digital Transformation Journey
Originally, the majority of Smartbox experiences were sold through traditional retailers as gift boxes. Today, customers increasingly prefer to buy experience gifts online, and receive a digital voucher or a gift box delivered to their door. Whether the experience gift was purchased online or in-store, recipients can register the voucher as soon as they wish on the web or through the Smartbox mobile app. This process also creates opportunities for them to explore the contents of the digital-gift box, check out the options for hotel stays, and buy other experiences linked to their experience gift.
Complicating this digital business model is how Smartbox operates in 16 countries under multiple national brands. There are different patterns of peak buying and gift registration behaviour between these markets.
As Paul Cash, director of IT operations at Smartbox, explains: “The busiest time of year for selling is the run-up to Christmas. From the 25th of December, or even the 24th in some markets, when people get their gifts, the user experience that we must manage dramatically changes. It switches from the buying of experiences to now people wanting to redeem those gifts and book their experiences. This is a very busy part of the year when we must ensure a consistent flow of data moving back and forth.”
Smartbox realized it needed to be able to move faster to respond to changing customer demand for buying and registering gifts at all peak times across Europe. The business decided to modernize and move all the front-end software used by each of its brands onto AWS, while also reviewing and building extra capacity in its data center for the back-end applications.
Cash says, “The big challenge was looking at how we can spread our infrastructure across both AWS and our data center, and then get a seamless view of the performance across the multitude of our applications. New Relic provides this end-to-end visibility and allows us to give the business the confidence to move into the cloud without negatively impacting the digital customer experience.”
Migrating the front end for all brands and countries took some time, with New Relic proving invaluable in ensuring there was no performance degradation during the process. The ongoing observability of the new cloud infrastructure also enables the business to confidently scale and size its spend with AWS.