Swift lives up to its name as ODSNet update enhances catalogue management & account self-service on its B2B website for white goods retailers

Swift Electrical Wholesalers, based in Stoke on Trent in Staffordshire, has been distributing white goods to high street retailers, electrical wholesalers and the building market since the late 1970s. The business as a whole turns over around £20 million annually, and around 12 per cent of that business comes in online, from retailers placing orders via the company’s website.

Moving with the times
Because Swift has long understood the efficiency benefits of enabling transactions via the Internet, it joined up its website and back-office system many years ago, choosing a combined e-commerce/back office platform from On Demand Solutions (ODS). This has served the business well, but as times have evolved and Swift’s growth ambitions have grown, the company wanted to build on its e-commerce capabilities.

“Our aim this year is to get our online retail business to 14-15 per cent of total revenues, by adding new capabilities and making sure all of our products are online,” explains Adrian Eyres, Swift’s technical director. With the support of just one assistant, Adrian has responsibility for keeping the company’s online product catalogue current. “We have over 8,500 active products, and it’s just me keeping the details up to date, which can be like painting the Forth Bridge – it’s a never-ending job,” he says.

Manufacturers change their product models with such frequency, that having more than 90 per cent of the current range listed on the web site historically has been a feat the company has rarely achieved, he explains.

Greater content control
To make content management easier, Swift recently upgraded to the latest version of ODSNet, ODS’s B2B e-commerce platform. This offered the company a number of clear advantages. The updated platform, which is also mobile-friendly, is easier to adapt and add to, and its content management is more user-friendly, Adrian says.

“Before, the site was more static, whereas now it is more dynamic because it supports HTML,” he explains. “It means we have more control over the look of the pages. Previously, these were ‘flat’ so if we wanted to change something we had to redesign the whole page. Now, we have more options.”

Thanks to a ‘flexible kitting’ feature, Swift can sell a pack of products with swappable items, with automatic repricing. The company has also implemented ODSNet’s promotions management module, making it easier to run and manage special offers on the web site.

Self-service for field sales teams
The updated ODSNet platform also provides additional capabilities for the field sales team, including live reports of customers’ purchasing, and real-time visibility of how area managers are performing against targets. “All of this is available at the touch of a button now, running on their mobile devices, wherever they are,” Adrian says. Sales people can also place customer orders from the client site, instead of having to wait until they’re back at base.

“It’s about giving our staff the tools to do their job even more effectively and efficiently,” he explains. “We’ve been in business for 38 years and it would be easy to become set in our ways, but it’s important we move with the times. Our aim for this year is to consolidate our procedures so we can do more the business with the resources we have.”

Value-added information for customers
Customers can serve themselves more easily with information now too. In addition to the ability to peruse all of the latest products and prices online, retailers can now access fuller product information as well as their own account data. “If they want a copy of an invoice, they can access this online; they no longer have to phone us to ask for one,” Adrian notes.

“The aim is to streamline everything, so we’re offering a really slick service. The plan for the rest of this year is to take this message to customers with the help of the sales team, educating them about the benefits of buying online.”

Swift may also look at the possibilities of providing closer integration with its suppliers via the ODSNet platform, although nothing has been formally discussed yet. “It’s just an idea at this stage, but I can see a lot of potential,” Adrian says.

Seamless joins make light work of business growth
As one of ODS’s oldest customers, Swift rates its partnership with ODS as critically important to the business. “We’ve developed a very close relationship over the years, since our original use of Astute, our ERP platform, which we’ve been using for more than a decade now and continues to deliver everything we could possibly need,” Adrian says. “ODS as a company have always understood what we’re trying to do: in fact ODSNet itself came out of work they did for us. They’re very good at listening to what’s needed and coming up with a plan.

“If we’d gone down another route we’d have ended up with a lot of integration work to join up our Internet sales with the back office, whereas that is ODS’s area of expertise,” he adds. “Everything integrates very, very well. That’s what gives us the efficiency – the fact that everything flows through automatically from online ordering to warehouse management and van routing and despatch.

“From my own perspective, I only need up update and maintain everything from one single point,” he concludes. “I only have to make changes once, in the back-office system, and they’re reflected throughout. That’s a huge time saving, as I’m not having to maintain two separate systems side by side.”

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