Ocado wants to hire more technology staff this year to support its ongoing operations and the international rollout of its proprietary retail platform, Ocado Smart Platform.
Ocado, which has today announced its first annual profit, has revealed plans to hire 150 IT staff during 2015.
The recruitment drive will see the online groceries retailer expand its technology team from over 550 developers and IT professionals at the end of 2014 to 700 this year.
It will bolster Ocado’s claims that it is a technology company at heart, not a retailer, as it aims to commercialise and rollout its proprietary platform internationally.
It said today in its preliminary results for the year to 30 November 2014: “Our technology team’s primary focus is on improving customer interfaces to support our businesses and those of our partners, replatforming to improve speed of systems development and to enable international expansion, and other projects to drive efficiency in our operations.”
Overall, Ocado employed over 8,500 people at the end of November, which it expects to rise by around 2,500 during 2015.
Ocado Smart Platform
Ocado also today unveiled new branding for the online retail technology platform it has been developing as part of its “Amazon-type” journey.
Ocado’s CTO Paul Clarke told ComputerworldUK last year that the company is building a technological platform that can be rolled out for food and non-food countries in other countries, not just in the UK.
“We have now combined our end-to-end technology platform with our modular infrastructure solution to form ‘Ocado Smart Platform’ as a single service offering,” the company said in its results today. The platform goes from the point of contact with the customer (the website), through to the fulfilment operations, to the delivery of shopping to customers.
“We will make this available to potential partners to power their online grocery retail businesses.”
Ocado’s first commercial partner for the platform in the UK was supermarket Morrisons, which began offering online groceries using the Ocado technology last January.
“We continue to receive interest from a broad group of potential international partners to discuss how we might assist them in introducing or improving online business in their own markets,” Ocado said.
“We expect to incur up to £5 million in 2015 in additional administrative costs to enable us to develop the Ocado Smart Platform capability further and negotiate platform service agreements. We are targeting to sign the first such agreement during 2015, although there is no guarantee we can meet this timeline.”
In addition, Ocado said it remains “on track” with its plans to replatform its IT systems. The company is moving to a cloud-based infrastructure to enable faster replication and rollout of its technology internationally.
Last year, Ocado launched two, specialist non-food retail sites, online pet store Fetch and kitchen and dining shop Sizzle.
It is further expanding its specialist retail areas by launching a new beauty and wellbeing retail website with magazine brand Marie Claire UK, via one of its subsidiary companies, Specialty Stores Ltd.
The new business will be separately incorporated and will operate using the Marie Claire brand. Based in the magazine’s office in central London, it will be led by the current head of buying for beauty and accessories at John Lewis, Amanda Scott.
“We believe that the high quality of service delivered by our technology and logistics platform combined with the awareness and relevance of the Marie Claire brand will make this an attractive shopping destination for customers,” Ocado said.
Ocado reported a pre-tax profit of £7.2 million for the year, up from a loss of £12.5 million in 2013.
In a breakdown of its costs, the company said it spent £14.1 million (up from £10.4 million) on internal development costs in 2014. A further £2.7 million (down from £3.7 million 2013) was spent on computer hardware and software.
Other capital expenditure in 2014 includes £16.3 million developing its new fulfilment infrastructure solution and £1.3 million to support the growth of its non-food websites.
Image credit: Ocado