Billabong pins online retail hopes on new NetSuite platform

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Billabong pins online retail hopes on new NetSuite platform

Company turnaround hinges on technology.

Iconic Australian retailer Billabong has its fingers crossed that a new omni-channel platform based on NetSuite technology will allow it to overcome the challenge of disparate data and siloed processes and gain a single view of the customer.

The ASX-listed clothing company recently revealed it had signed up to roll out NetSuite's cloud-based financial, ERP and commerce software globally to support a real-time, omni-channel approach to its sales.

The technology will provide a real-time flow of customer, order and inventory information across all sales channels and better utilisation of inventory, the company said in May. It will also centralise monitoring and management of Billabong's many global websites.

Australia will be one of the first cabs off the rank, and the local rollout is expected to be complete by April next year.

Billibong is looking for the platform to be its knight in shining armour after several years of financial losses and declining sales. It has previously blamed its ailing fortunes on trying to do many things, and none particularly well.

It announced a turnaround strategy in late 2013 which included a big investment into digital and CRM that the company hoped would drive sales by more than 30 percent by 2018.

The strategy also included a plan to unify a number of disparate platforms used in its various locations around the world.

Online saviour?

The global company is currently running three different ERP systems, different email and warehouse systems, and different ecommerce platforms.

The NetSuite transition will allow Billabong to "regain full ownership of our ecommerce sites" and "implement a true omni-channel platform that will create a seamless and superior experience anywhere our consumers choose to shop," according to CEO Neil Fiske.

New technology in retail outlets - NetSuite's SuiteCommerce InStore - will give retail staff insights into a customer's purchase history, and allow them to order products that are unavailable in store online from a mobile device.

The technology will also mean Billabong can access real-time inventory numbers. At the moment physical retail outlets are techologically siloed from online operations and the call centre.

Importantly, Billabong's new CRM platform will also allow it to create single customer profiles, available to all staff in real-time. 

Tech not the be-all and end-all

But while the technology will deliver much-needed improvements to Billabong's back-end processes, it won't mean much if the company isn't structured in a way that allows it to capitalise on the benefits.

Billabong A/NZ ecommerce manager Tora Brophy told the Online Retailer conference in Sydney today that marketing, IT, HR, customer service and product development teams within the company all currently operate in siloes.

The company is now moving to a more unified model globally to ensure it takes full advantage of the potential offered by its technology overhaul.

"It's important to makre sure the business process adapts around the technology, rather than customising the technology to what you want it to do," Brophy said.

"It ensures the business keeps up with where the customer is as well as where the business sees itself.

The technology, he said, "in some respects is the easy part of it".

"Most of it is out of the box and you can just turn it on - it's how you use it that counts.

"The single data source we are building will put the customer at the centre of all interactions.

"It means finally we'll have wholesale talking to retail, social, marketing, channels and back to ecommerce and live inventory."

To determine the pain points in its omni-channel process, Billabong mapped out the customer journey - something Brophy said had traditionally been one of the company's biggest hurdles.

"The first thing is all about gaining visibility across every interaction - personally a challenge of mine is that we have complete analytics transparency as to what we do online, but how that translates instore gets dropped off. We're not tracking that at the moment, " Brophy said,

"[The goal is] to improve the customer journey through actionable insight."

The rollout's first phase will run until September, taking in a few stores at a time. Brophy expects Australia to be fully migrated onto the new platform by next April.

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