Tulip: Building a smarter, leading-edge retail platform

About Tulip

Based in Toronto, Tulip offers next-generation, mobile and cloud-first enterprise software that empowers retail workers to transform in-store shopping experience, increase sales, and improve customer service.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods
Location: Canada

By making a move to Google Cloud Platform, Tulip is building a leading-edge multitenant environment using next-generation cloud services to improve store operations and uncover new sales opportunities for retailers.

Google Cloud Results

  • Provides full multitenancy, helping reduce costs and meet customers' growing cloud expectations
  • Allows for continuous integration of new software features versus 4 to 6 upgrades a year
  • Helps customers improve store performance and sales associate effectiveness using machine learning and analytics
  • Enables Tulip to leverage new technologies to increase its competitive edge

90% projected reduction in cloud costs

Retail experiences are constantly evolving, but it's clear that brick-and-mortar stores are not going away anytime soon: Physical stores still account for well over 80 percent of retail sales. Especially in high-end retail, where many customers want the personal conversations and connections with sales associates that only in-store experiences can provide.

"Google Cloud Platform offers out-of-the-box analytics solutions that can be directly applied to retail without much rework, which is very attractive for us. Retail customers are also much more comfortable with their analytics data being stored on Google Cloud Platform versus other cloud providers."

Amit Bhalla, VP Partnerships, Tulip

To make sure the customer experience is personalized and intimate, Tulip empowers workers in retail stores with advanced, easy-to-use mobile apps for looking up products, managing customer information, checking out shoppers, and communicating with customers. Leading retailers such as Mulberry, David Yurman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Kate Spade, Coach, Michael Kors, and Bonobos use Tulip in their stores to elevate the shopping experience, increase sales, and improve customer service. Tulip is the leader in "clienteling," a technique used to establish long-term relationships with customers based on their preferences, behaviors, and purchases.

Tulip was looking for cloud services that can handle massive data imports and variable usage patterns along with the capability of reducing the cost and time to market for customer upgrades.

"Because we had to scale for peak demand, we had to buy capacity up front, which sat idle much of the time when sales demand was lower," says Jeff Woods, Director of Software for Infrastructure at Tulip. "It became difficult and expensive. We were constantly asking the vendor to waive arbitrary limits. We had to use massive instances, and it was difficult to scale down."

Tulip decided to move to Google Cloud Platform (GCP) as the new foundation for its next-generation retail platform. To give customers more value, Tulip wanted to leverage Google Cloud services to offer new analytics solutions.

"Google Cloud Platform offers out-of-the-box analytics solutions that can be directly applied to retail without much rework, which is very attractive for us," says Amit Bhalla, Vice President Partnerships at Tulip. "Retail customers are also much more comfortable with their analytics data being stored on Google Cloud Platform versus other cloud providers."

Better customer experiences at a lower cost

Tulip engaged Google Cloud Professional Services to assist with the migration, which began with a lift-and-shift approach before moving to a multitenant model. "Compared to conducting the migration ourselves, we moved to Google Cloud Platform twice as fast with the expert guidance we received from Google Cloud Professional Services," says Jeff. "We got valuable advice about which architectural approaches would work best, helping us get more value from GCP faster."

"From what we've observed, Google Cloud Platform has consistently been about a year-and-a-half ahead of its competition in rolling out containerization features. We can leverage these features as market differentiators to increase our competitive edge."

Jeff Woods, Director of Software for Infrastructure, Tulip

To orchestrate containers for rapid, lower-cost development and easier deployment of applications and services, Tulip chose to base its new architecture on Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), Cloud Identity & Access Management for role-based access control. Moving to full containerization increases application density and allows Tulip to scale down easily during non-peak times. Tulip also uses Cloud Memorystore, a fully-managed in-memory data store service for Redis, allowing easy migration with zero code changes.

"From what we've observed, Google Cloud Platform has consistently been about a year-and-a-half ahead of its competition in rolling out containerization features," says Jeff. "We can leverage these features as market differentiators to increase our competitive edge."

Tulip is now moving toward full multitenancy, helping it reduce costs and meet customers' expectations for fast deployment and seamless upgrades. It has much more control and flexibility than with its previous cloud provider, which would have been much more expensive.

"We could do self-hosted Kubernetes, but then we'd be bearing the infrastructure and maintenance burden and costs every day," says Jeff. "GKE lets us run the system the way we want and use it as we need it, but still leave the management and upgrades to the experts."

Soon, Tulip plans to replace its Cloud SQL databases with Cloud Spanner, a globally distributed database service, and use Istio to simplify monitoring, logging, and tracing of microservices.

"Google Cloud is a better technological, philosophical, and economic fit for us," says Jeff. "It has more next-generation offerings and a better alignment with how we work. We can provide better experiences for our customers at a much lower cost. We expect to reduce our cloud costs by 90 percent or more."

"Every day, Tulip collects millions of data points from customer interactions across channels. By integrating Google machine learning and big data products into our core platform, we can now use that data to provide intelligent insights and recommendations to in-store retail associates."

Ali Asaria, Founder and CEO, Tulip

Improving store operations and sales

Tulip's new cloud architecture enables it to move toward continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD), helping it get valuable new software features in customers' hands faster. Instead of undergoing lengthy upgrades that take place four to six times a year, customers will benefit from new functionality as soon as it is released. Tulip can update production code in seconds and roll back easily if needed.

The company is also developing new products for in-store retail analytics, using BigQuery to identify trends and gain insights related to customer behavior, associate activity, store operations, and in-store sales.

"Moving to Google Cloud will massively reduce the cost and time to market for customer upgrades and new feature development," says Jeff. "Over time, that's going to have a huge impact on the value we deliver to our customers, and how quickly we deliver it."

Unlocking retail insights with machine learning

In the near future, Tulip will use Cloud Machine Learning Engine (Cloud ML Engine) to train ML models and use predictive analytics to drive behavioral recommendations for store associates and managers. It's also using Google Analytics for Firebase to power mobile analytics.

Retailers will be able to use machine learning to analyze data from Tulip's in-store mobile applications to uncover customer insights and sales opportunities. The new solution will make recommendations on when to connect with customers and how to engage with them using highly personal and relevant communications. This more intelligent and proactive engagement with customers will elevate the shopping experience, increase loyalty, and drive sales for retailers.

"Every day, Tulip collects millions of data points from customer interactions across channels," says Ali Asaria, Founder and CEO of Tulip. "By integrating Google machine learning and big data products into our core platform, we can now use that data to provide intelligent insights and recommendations to retail associates."

About Tulip

Based in Toronto, Tulip offers next-generation, mobile and cloud-first enterprise software that empowers retail workers to transform in-store shopping experience, increase sales, and improve customer service.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods
Location: Canada