Online business initiatives get payback

New Zealand supermarket giant Progressive Enterprises claims a 15-day return on its investment in the iPRO internet-based promotional planning and management system.

Launched in March 2002, iPRO links the Progressive merchandising team to around 740 suppliers, managing most aspects of Progressive’s relationship with them for promotional purposes.

The system helps both sides plan and manage time-based promotions, whether the promotions are called for by the supplier or the retailer. Category managers can study the space available in stores for promotions and use iPro to contact other managers to free up space if need be.

Developed for Progressive by Enabling Technologies (ETL) of Dunedin, the web-based B2B system took about 90 days to design, develop and test. It uses predominantly Microsoft-based technologies, including .Net for recent additions.

Wine category manager Stephen Sexton says iPRO replaced a manual system largely based around Excel spreadsheets and which was unconnected to other parts of the business.

Some 99% of suppliers use the system, as it brings quicker administration and payment of orders and also helps them manage their own businesses. More than 40,000 products are booked on to the system and iPRO has sent more than 55,000 emails, mostly by an automatic process, such as task reminders.

The 15-day ROI claim is based on the system allowing Progressive to identify which suppliers spent little, suppliers being now able to bid a premium to buy promotional space, and retail space available and sold to be managed more effectively.

Fellow retailer Warehouse Stationery launched its B2B channel in September 2001. The “clicks and mortar” operation features a contact centre capable of receiving orders by fax, email and phone. It promises to fulfil orders from a North Island distribution centre in just a few minutes.

Systems and technology manager Claudia Vidal says the B2B portal allows the company to better serve both its corporate and retail customers, including individuals, by, for instance, providing customised pricing. More extensive products and information can be stored on the system, and it creates a central repository for customer databases to aid marketing campaigns.

Technologies used include Microsoft BizTalk, Pivotal CRM, a warehouse management system (Tallships), plus a picking system (Siemens Dematic) that “reads” using a computerised voice. Track and trace of couriers is used in delivery and billing.

Since the November 2001 launch, Warehouse Stationery claims its B2B system has led to five times more customers using the portal than previous systems, and each call centre agent handling 72% more calls.

Auckland-based OnTap Information claims one of the country’s first privately developed e-government applications.

The Motorweb system aims to simplify motor vehicle-related transactions between dealers and various government departments, improve customer protection and reduce legal compliance costs.

Transactions are conducted online and in real time, allowing the retailer to check the vehicle’s legal status and history by looking at various private and government data sources in one go. It saves businesses having to ring around various organisations and reduces human error. The subsequent vehicle inspection report is displayed on the vehicle.

Motorweb also allows instant online change of ownership, saving dealers from having to take papers to an LTSA agent. Until this happens the dealer is responsible for any traffic infringements committed by the purchaser.

Technologies used include XML, XLST, Linux, JSP, digital certificates and 128-bit encryption.

Knight acknowledges the company faced some difficulties developing the product, but says revenue has doubled over the past year, new products and services are planned, and an Asian government is showing interest.

The relaunch of Air New Zealand and its new Express Class services also saw the relaunch of the company’s website. Changes made it easier for the online booking of fares and for the first time allowed the online redemption of airpoints.

The two-part rebuild took six months and saw a switch from J2EE-based open standards, using Solaris and BEA WebLogic, to Linux on IBM X-series hardware.

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