Magazine Article | February 15, 2008

Multichannel Management Reduces Lost Sales

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

By integrating its sales channels, this scuba diving equipment retailer cut its Amazon sales returns 40% and order cancellations 83%.
By integrating its sales channels, this scuba diving equipment retailer cut its Amazon sales returns 40% and order cancellations 83%.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, March 2008

Multichannel retailers with growing businesses often can't devote significant time or resources to keeping various inventories, order statuses, customer databases, and other sales information up to date. As a result, customers sometimes find out after placing an order that the desired items are out of stock or on back order.

That was the challenge Huron Scuba faced. The retailer is a full-service scuba and dive shop selling diving and snorkeling equipment, high-performance apparel, and accessories out of its store in Ann Arbor, MI. It also accepts orders by phone, its Web site, and Huron Scuba's in-store POS system tracked inventory levels and customer histories, exchanging order data with its Web site, but Amazon content was maintained separately. This meant that orders originating from Amazon had to be entered manually into both the POS   and the stand-alone shipping systems.

Order processing was a full-time job for two people, and inventory information often was not up to date. Online sales were being cancelled when customers found out that an item was out of stock. In addition, product updates were made manually to each channel, leading to delays before new products were listed, as well as poor synchronization of product images, descriptions, and pricing.

Single Database Gets Products Online Instantaneously
In spring 2006, Rachael Kasper, president of Huron Scuba, started looking for a solution that would better integrate the company's sales. "After issuing an RFP and reviewing the responses, we chose CORESense, based on how well the vendor could handle the multichannel aspect of the business and its ability to integrate our CRM [customer relationship management] data," says Kasper.

CORESense's SaaS (Software as a Service) solution maintains Huron Scuba's data from all sales channels in the vendor's data center. The retailer's employees can access up-to-date sales, ordering, inventory, customer, shipping, and other information — from any sales channel — from the store's POS station or any other Web-enabled PC.

During implementation, CORESense modified the solution to meet Huron Scuba's business model, which includes equipment servicing, training classes, and dive trips, making it more complex than that of a retailer that simply sells merchandise. "CORESense worked with us to adapt the solution, creating some additional screens, custom data fields, and different reports to address all of our unique business aspects," Kasper explains.

Order processing and shipping has been reduced to a single-person job and a half-day's work for the same volume of business. Each order has notes electronically linked to it, so information can be located quickly when needed, and sales reps can provide up-to-the-minute information on product availability and order status. "We spend a lot less time chasing paper and more time working with customers," says Kasper. "This has positioned us better to handle the growth we are experiencing in all of our channels."

Another big improvement is that new product descriptions, images, and related information can be uploaded to a single database, where they are immediately shared across all the sales channels. "The cross-channel integration enables us to get our products up for sale almost instantaneously," says Kasper.

Up-To-Date Information Leads To Fewer Out-Of-Stocks
Huron Scuba uses the solution's CRM module as the basis for a variety of e-mail and in-store marketing tools, Kasper notes. "We can notify customers of upcoming trips they may be interested in based on past participation, or send e-mails to target groups of customers about  new items they may be interested in. Our in-store customers, in particular, have responded well to the campaigns. They like receiving updates from us."

Since it has been using CORESense, Huron Scuba has realized significant improvements in its Amazon sales channel. "With the reduction in out-of-stocks that comes with having more up-to-date information, our Amazon order cancellations are 1/6 of what they used to be, late shipments are down by more than 2/3, returns are down by more than 40%, and the defect rate is zero," details Kasper. "Best of all, our employees don't have to spend time looking for customer and order-related information. Instead, they can focus on what we're known for — sales and service." 

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