In today’s rapidly evolving world of digital B2B sales, it no longer makes sense for sellers to keep their electronic data interchange and B2B ecommerce platforms siloed.
We had to do a lot of finessing to achieve the look we wanted on the website.
Derek Hagan, director of business systems
One of the biggest issues for sellers that support both electronic data interchange (EDI) and ecommerce sales channels is the inability to see orders from both channels in a single dashboard and to have both platforms automatically feed order data to the company’s enterprise resource planning application.
In many cases, getting order data from the ecommerce platform to the ERP system requires manual order data entry, which is a time-consuming and inefficient process that can lead to data-entry errors. The same goes for sharing any data between EDI and ecommerce platforms.
Connecting commerce platforms to ERP
Fifteen years after opening launching its EDI portal in 2006, Trenditions LLC, a fashion accessories supplier to western, farm and ranch, and outdoor gear retailers, realized it needed to implement a B2B ecommerce platform connected to its enterprise resource planning system and EDI platforms. The aim of connecting the two platforms was to enable ecommerce orders to flow directly to their ERP system, just as they do from its EDI platform.
The Hurst, Texas-based designer, importer and wholesaler also sought an ecommerce platform that provided a better customer experience and a more user-friendly interface for everyday tasks, such as adding and categorizing new products to its webstore catalog. At the time, Trenditions had operated a webstore for a few years, whereas it adopted EDI out of the gate to satisfy the digital ordering needs of one of its first customers.
Trenditions counts such large retailers as Justin Boot Company, Red Dirt Hat Company, and Catchfly among its portfolio of more than 1,500 retail customers. Others include Boot Barn, Cavender’s, Coastal Farm & Ranch, Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply, as well as independent retailers in the United States and Canada.
Upgrading the customer experience
One reason Trenditions sought to improve the customer experience on its webstore was that managing its ecommerce catalog was difficult and often resulted in formatting issues that required extra work to create the right look and feel for product pages. The company also sought to categorize products more easily.
“We had to do a lot of finessing to achieve the look we wanted on the website,” says Derek Hagan, director of business systems for Trenditions.
Other reasons for implementing a new ecommerce platform included the need to reach customers through automated emails, such as purchase confirmations and order status updates, as well as email marketing blasts.
Having used Recommence Inc.’s EDI software since its launch, Trenditions approached the technology vendor about providing an ecommerce platform that could interface with its ERP and EDI platform — a logical step, Hagan says.
A 20%-plus increase on online orders
As it turned out, TrueCommerce’s ecommerce platform integrated without a problem to the TrueCommerce EDI application, which was connected to an Odoo ERP system. The new configuration provided for automated processing of B2B orders processed through Trenditions’ ecommerce store as well as orders through its EDI system. Odoo is a provider of open-source business applications including customer relationship management, ecommerce, accounting, point-of-sale, and inventory and project management.
Since the new Trenditions webstore went live in February at store.Traditions.com, Trenditions has seen a 20% to 25% increase in online order volume. Implementing the new ecommerce platform took about eight weeks, Hagan says.
A big factor in the company’s online sales increase has been the new ecommerce platform’s email capabilities, particularly the ability to send customers email blasts promoting sales and special offers. Earlier this year, for example, Trenditions had a product line that it planned to discontinue, and it wanted to clear the merchandise out of the warehouse as quickly as possible. Blasting an email promoting a clearance sale for the product line immediately boosted orders for the product line by about 50% and resulted in those products selling out in about a week, Hagan says.
“Prior, when we wanted to clear out products, we had to contact retailers individually,” Hagan says.
Customers now prefer the website over the phone
The ability to contact customers en masse via email helped draw buyers to the website and make them more comfortable using it, Hagan says.
“We have customers telling us they now prefer using the website over placing a phone order,” Hagan adds. “I am surprised by the sales we have been able to drive through the website from email campaigns.”
Along with increasing sales through its website, the integration of its ecommerce and EDI platforms has significantly improved productivity. Prior to that integration, Trenditions had a dedicated staff person managing sales generated through its EDI platform; the company used customer service representatives to process its ecommerce sales and manually rekey them into its ERP system.
As a small company with about 20 employees, manually processing ecommerce orders was an inefficient use of personnel. It also opened the door to data-entry errors. Integrating the EDI and ecommerce technology with the ERP system enables Trenditions to view EDI and ecommerce orders through a single dashboard.
Increasing employee productivity
As a result, Trenditions has assigned order management for both platforms to a single employee, which has freed up customer service reps from rekeying ecommerce orders to focus on customer service issues. From a time-savings perspective, Hagan says the company has improved employee productivity by about one to two hours a day.
Without the ability to view and manage ecommerce and EDI orders in a single interface place, Hagan estimates Trenditions would need to hire at least four additional customer service representatives to handle the high volume of orders from their largest EDI trading partners.
“Just one big customer like Boot Barn or Cavender’s can send thousands of orders per month over EDI,” says Hagan. “Now it’s just one person managing both systems in the TrueCommerce platform.”
From a customer experience perspective, Trenditions’ new ecommerce platform has made it easier to add new products to its webstore and categorize them so buyers could more quickly find them.
An easier way to manage online product content
“We now have a template to which we can upload and categorize products,” Hagan says. “Prior, we had to manage products directly on the web page.”
Trenditions’ new ecommerce platform also provides tools for branding campaigns, something its previous platform lacked.
“We had worked with a number of third parties on branding through our old platform, but it was an amount we were no longer willing to pay,” Hagan says. “With TrueCommerce, branding tools are part of the package, which is a big reason we chose it.”
From a training perspective, Hagan says it has not been difficult to get employees up to speed on the new ecommerce platform. He notes that even he has been trained well enough that he feels confident training other employees, if necessary.
“Without our two TrueCommerce products, it would basically be impossible to handle our order volume We have customers telling us they now prefer using the website over placing a phone order,” Hagan says. “The automation is absolutely essential to process all those orders with minimal errors.”
(This article is part of the broader report, “Back-End Integration: Building the Table Stakes for Customer Experience,” published by Digital Commerce 360.)
Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.
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