Groves & Banks
B2B eCommerce Platform
Groves & Banks are one of the largest UK distributors of needlework and haberdashery to the retail trade. They offer a range of nearly 25,000 stocked items to over 10,000 nationwide customers that includes large DIY centers, national and independent department stores and small high street retailers.
In reviewing their future business needs, they decided to invest in developing their online presence centred on an integrated eCommerce capability. There were a number of factors that contributed to this investment decision.
"Although we have an electronic ordering capability for our largest customers, using EDI, it’s simply not appropriate for our smaller customer base” said Andrew Groves, Managing Director at Groves & Banks, “When you have a customer base ordering an average 40 different items per order, each order line with an average value of £7.00, there’s a lot of room for human error across the sales and fulfilment process. Whilst we have already got one of the best warehouse picking systems in our industry, we wanted a system that could take the order requirement directly from the small retailer – hence the obvious need to review what could be achieved using the web”.
The justification behind the development went a lot further than the basic cost savings of order entry. In the distribution business, its rapid fulfilment, order accuracy, stock availability and consistency of customer service that creates customer loyalty. The Groves & Banks eCommerce system is fully integrated into their current stock management and warehousing application to allow orders to be picked for same day dispatch as late as 15:00 in the afternoon.
Integrated Barcode Scanning
The missing piece of the jigsaw was how to provide a method for the customer to reorder quickly and efficiently from the 25,000 line item catalogue? Whilst the G&B eCommerce system provides an easy-to-navigate catalogue structure and an advanced search facility, it wasn’t enough to make it an effective reordering system. After an evaluation of the alternatives, Adactus came up with an innovative solution – why not integrate one of the emerging, low cost, bar-code scanners into the eCommerce system so that the shelf-edge or product barcodes can be scanned on items with low or zero stock levels.
“Without the bar code scanner, it would simply not be worth the time searching for the 50 items out of the 25,000 items they stock and then adding them individually to the basket. It would be better to FAX the order in!” commented Peter Green of Green Furnishings in Thame, an early adopter of the system, ”the scanner gives me confidence that my requirement will be processed quickly and accurately. My staff have got used to it very quickly and it now takes less time to restock my haberdashery range”.
“In the distribution business the dividing line between competitors can be very small indeed. It’s vital to retain existing customers and anything that can give G&B an edge in customer acquisition is greeted with open arms. We now have one of the most innovative and compelling, web-based, ordering systems and I’m confident we can secure new customers simply as a consequence of this” continued Andrew Groves.
Just having the G&B catalogue online is delivering benefits to all their customers. The eCommerce system has already become the definitive source for the latest product and pricing information as sending out large paper based catalogues on relatively small print-runs is too resource intensive and cost prohibitive. The online catalogue has quickly become the reference for our customers and sales teams. Promotional Offers and end-of-line items are also being highlighted as you browse the eCommerce system to improve average order values and reduce exposure to the inventory obsolescence.
Tablet PC Solution
The spotlight then turned to the sales force, and how the online catalogue could streamline their sales activities. Adactus built a Windows application that runs on rugged tablet based PC's that the sales staff carry with them. Replacing their paper notebooks, they can search the entire catalogue and place orders from anywhere. A mobile 3G connection allows them to send orders directly into the eCommerce system on behalf of their customers. This assures the customers receive their orders in a timely manner, and eliminates errors that can be caused by rekeying data.
The Adactus core eCommerce system is based on Microsoft Commerce Server and use the latest XML technologies to integrate both with the back-end systems at Groves & Banks in Thame as well as deliver the web interface.
“We used some of the latest Microsoft .NET techniques to separate presentation of the web pages from the business logic of the application” commented Chris Hall, Managing Director at Adactus, “this will allow G&B to target mobile devices in the future with just a small incremental investment. As for connecting to other systems, then the underlying Microsoft XML technologies inside Commerce Server make the integration into other sub-systems a straight forward process”