Retailers everywhere have been forced to modernize if not for changing consumer behaviors, then as a result of Covid-19. In this blog post, we illustrate the PepsiCo case study – why they chose to modernize now, and why they chose Couchbase. 

These days, modern retailers have an expanding list of supply chain variables to accommodate: large format, small stock format, delivering products in rural areas versus urban areas, real-time ordering or dedicated inventory for a store directly from their production facility, and of course, the one variable that impacted all retailers last year, Covid-19. 

Last year, Covid-19 sped up the need for retailers to go digital. According to this Forbes article, even before the pandemic, the most profound behavioral change in commerce was the shift to digital shopping. One of the largest consumer categories, grocery, was still nascent in terms of its transition to digital. According to Nielsen, just 4% of grocery sales in the United States came online in 2019. 

Because of the increasing demand for online sales, even large conglomerates like PepsiCo were forced to adapt. Over the course of the company’s 100 year history it has continually evolved its infrastructure to maximize sales. We had the pleasure of having Madhav Mekala, Commerce Architect, at our ConnectONLINE event in October this year to help us understand PepsiCo’s modernization journey better. 

 “Our legacy application is monolithic and consequently, it’s extremely hard to change. So we need to move to a new modern modular architecture that is very flexible, providing the agility we need to bring new ideas to life quickly. This is why we are modernizing our current system, building a better platform, leveraging newer and more flexible architecture, while supporting the latest devices, which will better serve consumers.” 

Traditionally, consumers would head over to their nearest grocery store, or even vending machine in order to make a purchase, however with changing consumer behaviors, PepsiCo’s infrastructure was forced to expand in order to deliver drinks and snacks to consumers via interlocking distribution systems and ever-shifting logistics. 

Nearly two decades ago, PepsiCo built an application to facilitate daily operations for their entire frontline sales organization, and at the time the application was leading edge, built for the newest 3G-enabled phones. As the platform gained traction internally it became the backbone of their field sales infrastructure, however over time the shiny new hardware became legacy hardware, which then began to encounter issues with memory stability, hindering the ability for the application to properly feed into their backend systems.  An additional issue arose as major cellular networks announced the plans to retire their 3G networks by 2022, which meant this application was at the end of its lifecycle.  Consequently, PepsiCo needed to modernize this application once again. 

This is when PepsiCo sought to partner with Couchbase to architect a 5G-compatible, offline-available solution to continue enabling field sales reps at the edge in their stores. “We penetrate more than 95% of households with our products, so we need to have a robust supply chain, as well as a good frontline sales application to be able to manage the orders and deliver products” Mekala said. The challenge confronted by the IT staff at PepsiCo was that many of its sales team members operate in environments where reliable internet is difficult to secure, but with Couchbase, PepsiCo was able to bring all of the data onto a database and synch it when there was a more reliable connection. “Hundreds of thousands of documents flow through back and forth between the devices and the server. It’s a very complex system, and from a volume perspective it’s huge. Couchbase takes care of the synch, and then we can focus on our business process.”

If you missed the keynote you can catch the whole session here:

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Posted by Tony Burton, Senior Manager, Customer Marketing

Tony is driven by the powerful impact that comes from connecting with people and sharing their insightful and inspirational stories of innovation and success. He stumbled into the field of advocacy out of college and soon found his niche in advocate-base recruitment, cultivation and deployment. His extensive experience ranges from activating a fan base that helped pass a stadium financing bill to growing a customer advocate community for a leading global software company.

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