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Delivering When It Mattered Most

How Tesco scaled its digital business to deliver essentials amid global crisis

Key Challenges

When COVID-19 upended the world, Tesco had to immediately change course to scale its online business, meet unprecedented demand and ensure people in the UK had reliable access to groceries and household essentials.

Key Results

With Splunk, Tesco used data to understand customer touchpoints, streamline supply chain operations and improve delivery tracking. As a result, Tesco doubled online delivery slots to meet customer demand while keeping systems secure and reliable around the clock — even ensuring zero downtime during a 30% surge in online traffic over Christmas.

2020 was a study in resilience — and Tesco was a quick learner. 

The UK’s largest grocer had to adapt to COVID virtually overnight. Supply chains were disrupted. Grocery aisles were stripped bare. Consumer behavior was affected by lockdowns and concern about public safety. Demand for home delivery soared.

And Tesco had to manage it all across thousands of stores throughout the UK and Europe.

With Splunk already embedded across customer touchpoints, supply chain and fulfillment operations and more than 100,000 endpoints, Tesco leaders were able to scale their digital business, handle a surge in deliveries (and driver hiring), and manage constantly shifting supplier conditions to keep customers’ needs as their No. 1 priority.

Then came Christmas.

Splunk is embedded as part of the core nervous system of our operations. Splunk’s ease of use and versatility have enabled us to deliver against both business and technology use cases that would have otherwise been impossible.

Chirag Shah Head of Technology, Group Monitoring, Tesco
3rd largest in the world 3rd largest in the world

3rd largest

retailer in the world

33TB data per day 33TB data per day

33TB

data per day

100K endpoints pointing to Splunk 100K endpoints pointing to Splunk

100K

endpoints reporting to Splunk

Making 33TB a day look easy

Tesco is booming — and so is its data. With more than 1,300 Tesco employees relying on the Splunk platform, teams across the business — from email tracking to customer support — are using data to work more efficiently, proactively solve problems and ensure customers enjoy an exceptional experience.

“Splunk plays a vital role in our entire process, from the moment a customer buys something, to when we fulfill products and services, to how we maintain relationships with suppliers to fulfill all that demand,” says Chirag Shah, head of technology for group monitoring at Tesco. “Splunk helps us understand things like: Is our online experience delivering against customer expectations? Are our handheld devices and tills available and working properly in stores?”

Splunk plays a vital role in our entire process, from the moment a customer buys something, to when we fulfill products and services, to how we maintain relationships with suppliers to fulfill all that demand.

Chirag Shah Head of Technology, Group Monitoring, Tesco

Tesco uses these insights to drive future innovation and deliver more value to customers, faster. “With all this data centralized in Splunk, we have an end-to-end story of where customers start and finish, so we can continuously iterate and improve their experience,” says Josep M. Olive, lead technical program manager at Tesco.

Security is everything

Tesco clocks over 42 million transactions per week — roughly 66 per second — and every single one must be secure. Not to mention the additional security complexities created by Tesco’s myriad systems and devices — as well as its over 450,000 employees. That’s why Splunk is at the heart of Tesco’s security efforts.

Tesco teams rely on the Splunk platform to monitor infrastructure, ensure compliance and provide visibility into 150,000 distributed devices in a single dashboard, making it easy to patch devices and protect customers against evolving threats. “The future for us and for all of retail is to not only balance the relationship between hardware and software, but to do so in a way that’s secure,” Shah says.

The future for us and all of retail is to not only balance the relationship between hardware and software, but to do so in a way that's secure.

Josep M. Olive Lead Technical Program Manager, Tesco

Rising to the pandemic challenge

When COVID-19 upended the world, Tesco was thrust into a new reality. As demand for essentials surged, UK citizens relied on Tesco more than ever. And the team delivered — literally.

Compared to before COVID-19

3x more weekly website orders 3x more weekly website orders

3x

More weekly website orders

2x more online delivery slots 2x more online delivery slots

2x

More online delivery slots

3.3x more data ingested daily 3.3x more data ingested daily

3.3x

More data ingested daily

In just five weeks, Tesco doubled the number of online delivery slots to 1.5 million a week, which also meant hiring an additional 49,600 temporary staff to manage supply, deliver goods and keep business running as usual. That’s a lot of change in a short period of time — and having the Splunk platform already rooted across its organization helped Tesco adapt at record pace.

“Our websites needed to hold new demand. We had to have new warehouses to put our products through. We had to monitor all deliveries using a real-time van scheduling system. To do this, entire operations teams relied on Splunk dashboards to monitor every detail, from website performance to final delivery to the customer,” Olive says.

A Christmas miracle

And then, just when things seemed easy … Christmas happened.

On the day that online delivery slots were to be released for December, more than 20,000 people logged into Tesco’s online waiting room, ready to snag a slot. Demand was so fervent that Tesco became a topic of national conversation, trending on Twitter the entire day. “The pressure on our systems was unlike anything we’ve seen, and having Splunk to provide visibility into these systems was critical to to fulfilling our customers’ needs,” says Olive.

Tesco engineering and operations teams used Splunk to monitor everything from infrastructure health to critical business transactions to the virtual waiting room. “During this Christmas surge, Splunk helped us improve our monitoring, observability and entire software development environment,” says Davood Torabzadeh, Splunk product manager at Tesco. “Because it was easy to set up Splunk and launch monitoring dashboards, we could repeat that practice over everything.”

The pressure on our systems was unlike anything we’ve seen, and having Splunk to provide visibility into these systems was critical.

Josep M. Olive Lead Technical Program Manager, Tesco

Shah says, “Splunk played a critical role in making sure that we identified and resolved any glitches in our systems as quickly as possible so that we could ensure customers had their turkey on Christmas Day.”

From legacy to observability

Currently replatforming its complex monoliths into agile microservices, Tesco’s not done transforming. “Our website is one of the oldest in the UK, and to increase website capabilities for customers, we needed to replace legacy systems with an API SLA model,” says Olive. “Splunk was crucial for our transition. The platform gave us visibility into all these new APIs going into production and the flexibility to manage a threefold spike in our data due to a boom in logging.”

Moving forward, observability will be an increasingly significant part of Tesco’s business strategy. “The next step is observability and really understanding signals to give us context,” says Shah. “Observability helps us identify that we're focusing on the right things to have a direct impact on our customers. We have the ability and versatility to change course quickly — but doing that based on data is extremely important.”

Tesco grocery legacy observability Tesco grocery legacy observability

Splunk is helping us bring the right data to the right people at the right time. That’s key for us to succeed now and in the future.

Chirag Shah Head of Technology, Group Monitoring, Tesco

As it transitions out of the pandemic but into a world that's more digital than ever, Tesco will rely on insights from Splunk to adapt with finesse. “Splunk is helping us bring the right data to the right people at the right time,” says Shah. “That’s key for us to succeed now and in the future.”

Hear more about Tesco's observability journey and business resilience.

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