Virgin Group and Qatar Telecom (Qtel) formed a brand partnership in early 2010 to deliver Virgin-branded mobile telecommunications services to the population of Qatar and the wider middle-east. Other mobile operators had recently established a presence in Qatar, and Qtel needed to respond quickly and with an innovative new offering to fend off the increasing competition.
Qtel’s Virgin Mobile service was to be a fun brand, challenging conventions in a traditionally conservative region with the web being the primary sales and marketing channel backed by a series of retail outlets in malls and downtown areas, primarily in Qatar’s capital, Doha.
Priocept was selected by Qtel and Virgin as the development partner for the new Virgin Mobile Qatar e-commerce platform, and related customer-facing web systems, not least because of their reputation for successful delivery of complex web technology projects for companies such as TUI Travel, London Stock Exchange, Lloyd’s of London and Panasonic.
The new web platform was to be built from the ground up, using completely new hardware, hosting, and application software, and integrating with Qtel services where necessary for mobile number provisioning and billing, and to a very aggressive development schedule.
Within a six month timeframe a fully multi-lingual (Arabic and English) e-commerce enabled web platform had to be designed, built and launched and would act as the primary sales channel for Virgin Mobile Qatar’s products and services from day one of the company’s launch.
- Sitecore CMS (www.sitecore.net)
- Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) for web service communication, payment fulfilment and order placement, including custom integration with Tibco web services
- Microsoft Windows Server 2008, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and Microsoft ASP.NET 3.5
- VMware ESX for virtualisation, using the Real Time Infrastructure developed by hosting provider Attenda (www.attenda.net)
- Lucene.NET for multi-lingual content indexing and searching
Virgin and Qtel knew that their target customers were both brand and web-savvy, and would therefore expect the best possible experience from the new service.
Priocept’s user experience design team worked with Virgin Group’s branding agency to produce detailed design material capturing the key user journeys to be delivered by the new systems.
The Priocept development team then specified the core system components required:
- WCM – A multi-lingual capable Web Content Management system to enable non-technical editors to manage the web experience
- Product Catalog – To store and model the various products (talk plans, top-ups, handsets, mobile broadband, special numbers)
- E-Commerce – To include basket, checkout (pay now) and reservation (pay in store) features
- Backend Integration – With Qtel systems for credit card processing, fulfilment and billing
- Customer Engagement and Interaction – To allow online brand and community building
Sitecore CMS was selected as the web content management platform due to its market leading multi-lingual and internationalisation capabilities. The Priocept team then undertook the necessary customisations and bespoke development required to implement the website.
- Users can purchase Talk Plans, Handsets, Top-ups and Personalised Numbers through the site
- Orders can be paid for on the site, or reserved for payment in-store
- All website features are available to both end users and website administrators in Arabic (right to left) and English (left to right) languages
- The entire website, including product catalog data, rich media content and even the purchase process can be managed through the Sitecore CMS
- Administration tools for financial reporting and order tracking were integrated into the Sitecore CMS management suite
- The website delivers content to many different devices and channels including kiosks and iPad
Launching a fully transactional online shop for Qtel Virgin Mobile Services was always going to be challenging – timescales were very tight, strategic importance high and we needed to build everything from scratch. We needed a trusted partner adept at both online development and technical integration; we wanted to build a robust service that was open and scalable.
Priocept’s engagement showed real momentum right from the start. They rapidly evaluated the brief and translated our challenge into an implementation strategy and plan. Additionally Priocept assessed hosting systems and content management platforms and managed the full infrastructure deployment.
Launching any new venture means things change – rapidly! Priocept embraced the agile method of working with clear communication throughout; consistently weighing the tradeoffs as changes were introduced.
The result was a fully transactional multilingual website in six months from start to launch. Our online service is a critical sales and service channel – in the first two months of trading the online channel generated approximately 9 million QAR in sales – a resounding success.
I really enjoyed working with Priocept and happily recommend them to anyone looking for a solution-focused web technology company.