Case studiesRetail & E-Commerce
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How Retool is helping 152-year-old retail business Holland & Barrett on its digital transformation journey


How Retool is helping 152-year-old retail business Holland & Barrett on its digital transformation journey

Born as a grocery store in 1870, today Holland & Barrett is one of the largest health and wellness retailers in Europe, supplying over 1,600 stores in 19 countries with vitamins, health supplements, specialty foods, and natural beauty products. 

After more than 150 years in the retail space, Holland & Barrett is entering a phase of ambitious digital transformation, focusing its efforts on scaling technology functions and data capabilities. With the help of Retool, Holland & Barrett’s data team is building a host of internal tools faster than ever before, allowing them to efficiently process and report on large volumes of vital company data.

Problem: Making data actionable with interactive tooling

At Holland & Barrett, leveraging large volumes of data is central to the company’s goals, enabling it to be truly customer led, and data driven enabling better personalization, rich e-commerce/offline shopping experiences, and omnichannel marketing. To do this, the company has built up a large data organization that spans from engineering teams building the in-house data platform to business- and stakeholder-facing BI, Analytics, and Data Science teams. “It’s a stacked approach,” explained Holland & Barrett’s Chief Data Officer, Dobo Radichkov. “You’ve got the data lake as the bottom layer, the data warehouse layer in the middle, and the data applications on top.”

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When Dobo joined Holland & Barrett in 2021, he dedicated the first year to “fundamentals and fixing the foundations: setting up the teams, building a data strategy, delivering a new data platform on AWS, and so on.” Once this work was wrapping up, the data organization set its sights on the next piece: building that top layer of data products.

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“It’s not enough to just create reports or dashboards,” Dobo says. “We needed to get interactive tools into the hands of our business colleagues so that they weren’t just passively consuming data, but actually interacting with the data and configuring actions that can create value for the business.”

Solution: Use Retool to quickly build data tools with reporting and alerting capabilities

Dobo was first introduced to Retool in 2020 at a previous company using it to spin up tools for AI, sales, customer support, and other use cases. At Holland & Barrett, he recognized an opportunity to use Retool to scale his team’s productivity without hiring more resources. “For me, Retool is a way to build data capability—what I call data apps or data products. Traditionally you would need a full-stack resource or talent within your organization to be able to do that. But with Retool we can do that quickly and with a relatively smaller cost.” The flagship product that kickstarted Holland & Barrett’s adoption of Retool is, in Dobo’s words, an “unorthodox use case.” His team used Retool to build a self-service program governance tool called iTransform to report and alert on the many different internal initiatives in progress. This is now used by 200+ senior business decision-makers across the organization.

“We’re running a transformation at Holland & Barrett, so there are a lot of activities and work streams going on across the business,” says Dobo. “What we’ve built is a single source of truth—a tool backed up by a proper database where we can store all that information.” 

The tool now has 200+ users interacting with data by updating their work, adding comments, and classifying progress. The team didn’t stop there, though—they integrated new generative AI capabilities with the tool to automate manual work. “We’ve started to use OpenAI to summarize the content and bubble it up so you can get all the way up to the executive level of reporting,” Dobo explained.

Dobo and his team have taken a leading role in demystifying what AI can do. For example, they built a small internal copilot app with Retool to test out how the OpenAI APIs can scale various business actions: “We have certain prompts or templates that our business users can use off the shelf for specific H&B use cases. That immediately gives you that boost in productivity. ”

Impact: An easy, cost-effective way to build and scale data capability

After the success of the governance tool, Dobo is certain that Retool will serve Holland & Barrett in a variety of ways going forward. “What Retool does really amazingly is the rapid prototype—getting something up and running quickly.” Future plans include a Retool UI on top of a LangChain framework and vector database to help improve the team’s documentation and answer queries from analysts more efficiently. Dobo is also excited about the potential of automation with Retool and generative AI to optimize processes that are highly manual or take a lot of time to solve. “What’s even more exciting is when you can use the technology to make decisions for you. If you can drive your UI with that, that becomes really interesting. “  

As their digital transformation unfolds, the team at Holland & Barrett is ambitious about how applications are supporting the endeavor. “We have a lot of ideas for how to leverage Retool,” says Dobo. “For me, Retool can be a product that helps organizations scale their operations and data tooling, as opposed to one specific use case.”

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