Dressgate: How retailer Roman Originals supported massive interest in #thedress with cloud computing and data analytics

Roman Originals, the retailer that sells the controversial dress that 'broke the internet' at the end of February, has revealed how cloud computing and real-time data prevented its website and supply chain from buckling under massively increased levels of traffic and sales.

On 26 February, a picture of #thedress, was posted on Tumblr raising the question of whether it was white and gold, or blue and black. It sparked global debate and attracted huge levels of media interest, with attention quickly going to the seller of the dress, Roman Originals.

Yet despite the number of visits to RomanOriginals.co.uk on 27 February increasing by 9,838 percent compared to the average daily visit during the period between 1 January 2014 to 26 February 2015, the site - which runs on Netsuite's cloud ecommerce platform - was able to deliver on the user experience side.

In addition, transactions on the day across the site (not just for the dress) increased by 339 percent, and Roman Originals was able to use real-time data from Google Analytics to ensure that its supply chain could meet the higher demand.

Roman Originals' head of ecommerce, Adrian Addison, first became aware of the brewing internet storm when he was woken up at 4am on Friday 27 February to Twitter alerts on his iPhone telling him that "Roman Originals had broken the internet".

Acting on the data

"I looked at Google Analytics and I could see a spike in traffic on real-time view and a particular product had the largest amount of views on there. I managed to get into the office at 5am and I had to keep an eye on the stock," Addison told Techworld.

With the help of the caretaker - the only other person in the office at the time - Addison was able to manage the stock levels and ordered in more so that stock levels did not get depleted.

"We saved it from going out of stock," he said.

Two hours after arriving at the office, Addison then called Roman Originals customer services team to brief them on the situation and get them prepared, by bringing in more staff, to deal with the influx of queries.

"We made sure we had enough people to respond to the social media," said Addison.

Roman Originals has been using Netsuite's cloud ecommerce platform since 2008, and is looking at the main Netsuite solution to replace its existing back end systems over the next couple of years.

"The back end system is at the moment quite complex, made of multiple systems," said Addison.

"The main system is a DOS-based system that has custom-built Windows applications. It communicates and connects to Netsuite [ecommerce system] via SOAP [Simple Object Access Protocol]. We use the same communications to create products and upload images to the site."

Roman Originals has been using DOS for as long as Addison can remember, and an offsite team of developers in Indonesia supports the single IT employee at the company.

However, in the near future it wants to simplify its IT system so that it can support new technology in its 130 stores nationwide, such as EPoS systems, and a click and collect service, which is not yet offered.


Meanwhile, Roman Originals have decided to capitalise on the media attention by making the dress in white and gold as a one-off (yes, the original dress was blue and black) to raise money for charity, through Comic Relief.

Bidding for the unique dress, up for auction on eBay, is currently at £640.


Anh Nguyen

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