GHD's internet technical solutions manager, Spencer Hudson, is tasked with overseeing the back-end online development at the company to help support the global growth of the international hair styler products business.

Bringing technologies to market before its competitors and an "aggressive development schedule" are key components of the organisation's success for Hudson, who told Essential Retail that the business is frequently adding new features to keep customers engaged.

"We've got a very aggressive development schedule internally with regards to identification through to implementation on the website," he said.

"We don't have an official stoppage on delivery – we try to stick to two- to three-week deliveries, which afford us a number of advantages over anyone else who has a lock down. Every two weeks we endeavour to add a new feature."

For the GHD technology team to function in the desired way, there is an acknowledged reliance on partners who they can trust and who are able to deliver what they promise. Hudson admits the company has "learnt very hard lessons" over the years in terms of managing those vendor partnerships.

"The partners who stick with us are a testament to the relationships we've been able to create with them and the level of trust we have in them to deliver," he commented, name-checking web hosting provider Rackspace as a partner for nine years and information assurance firm NCC Group, which GHD uses to monitor the performance of its supplier base.

Last month, GHD migrated to a new Rackspace data centre which is promising to deliver increased performance and advanced security, and it comes after around 18 months of web performance optimisation work. The migration of the IT infrastructure to the tech firm's new centre in Crawley, Sussex, involves moving the testing and development process to sit with production so that all of GHD's hosting will be on a VMware Private Cloud, backed by Rackspace's Fanatical Support package.

The hair products specialist also uses an SAP Hybris platform to support its growing B2B sales channel, which handles orders from salons in multiple territories around the world.

"From a technical standpoint, resilience, reliability and opportunities are very important to us," Hudson noted.

"We've always got to be available. If the site's not available, we're not transacting. Scale is another important one. We have to be able to respond to peaks. If we're not bringing out anything new and standing still only delivering the same old stuff, people will get tired of that – so we have to innovate as well."

The correct eCommerce infrastructure is vital for GHD, which experiences peak periods of trading each year on Black Friday, around the festive season and coinciding with special events such as Valentine's Day. Highlighting its gifting potential, the products are listed on the website with an opportunity for visitors to quickly email a "hint" to friends or family, suggesting to them that it is an item they would like to own.

Web traffic increases around calendar staples such as London Fashion Week , but this typically doesn't convert into sales, according to Hudson – rather, the situation is frequently a case of seasonal purchases for gifts and holidays.         

"Our real peak period is Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas and January – it's a huge opportunity the whole Christmas season, leading through into Boxing Day," said Hudson.

"We see a huge peak on Christmas Day, too."

During busier periods in trading, the company uses load balancers that distribute workloads across multiple servers and resources. Their hybrid solution combines dedicated servers with a public cloud, allowing GHD to adapt to peaks in traffic.

Like the wider industry, which is seeing retailers and parcel carriers alike invest millions of pounds into new warehousing, additional staff and updated data management systems to ready themselves for Black Friday and the forthcoming Christmas season, GHD is preparing for the expected end-of-year sales rush. The Rackspace deal is seen as a key part of that process.

But what's ahead for the business in the longer term, from a technological perspective?

"We have to look for new ways of doing old things, either improving what we've got or looking at new ways of operating," Hudson explained.

"I'm incredibly interested in the [digital] wallets that are out at the moment – that's a fantastically interesting area. It won't be long before people are able to authenticate with their mobile phones, so there's lots of technological things that could be of interest.

"Some are of just of interest, others we may be able to execute on. We're definitely out there looking for opportunities."

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