Office Advent Calendar SUPER MONDAY

You have survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but are you ready for Office Advent Calendar SUPER MONDAY?

Today in thousands of offices across the world, Advent Calendars face their first load spike of the season when demand is expected to TRIPLE as office workers returning from their weekend hit the calendars hard.

Not only will today’s door be opened but those workers allocated doors for Saturday and Sunday will be rushing to catch up and see what is behind them.

Once this rush is over, there will be little time to recuperate as Office Advent Calendar SUPER MONDAY is predicted to repeat twice more this year before the big day!

 

If you would like help with system capacity planning for next year’s peak trading then please get in touch.

Electronic Reciepts

Electronic receipts – which are emailed to the customer after an in-store or telephone purchase -are becoming more and more popular with retailers. Proverb2 recently managed a project to implement electronic receipts for one of our fashion retail clients.

The Benefits of offering Electronic Receipts are wide ranging

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Improved customer experience (no paperwork, therefore, no bulging purse or wallet, less chance of losing the receipt, faster process when returning or querying orders)
  • The receipt gives an opportunity to communicate with the customer, strengthening the relationship
  • Improves email marketing sign up rate

 

The solution chosen by the client was yReceipts which is a cloud-based electronic receipt service already used by many UK retailers. The service is really quick to set up and had the added advantage of already being integrated with the client’s EPOS system. At the end of the transaction, the customer is given the choice of electronic or paper receipt (or both) and then the email address is captured (if it is not already known). The customer details and the transactions details are sent to the yreceipts server. The email, with the receipt attached as a PDF, is sent by yreceipts and arrives within a yreceipts and Proverb2few seconds of completing the transaction.

The Project

As the integration was already in place the largest work packages in the project were

  1. To re-design the sales business process to incorporate the capture of the email address and the receipt preference
  2. Design the layout and information displayed on the emails and the attached PDF receipt

Once this was in place we thoroughly tested the solution on the bench before carrying out a pilot in a couple stores. After a couple of tweaks to the process and information shown on the receipt, the solution was rolled out nationwide and is in now in use. Take up is very good, with many customers opting to have receipts electronically.

Top Tips

Here are few things to look out for when implementing an electronic receipt solution

  • Ensure that customer experience during checkout is not adversely affected, no introduced delays or complexity
  • Ensure that all sales staff are briefed and are aware of the new transaction process
  • As always, test thoroughly and also regression check other transaction processes (e.g. email signed up)
  • Check with your QSA that your PCI compliance scope is not affected
  • Perform a pilot to check & refine the process and customer experience before roll out

If you require any help project managing this or other retail systems initiatives then please get in touch.

A Year of Third Party Logistics (3PL or TPL)

This year has been very busy for the Proverb2 team in the area of 3rd Party Logistics projects for our retail and wholesale clients.

3rd Party Logistics is the use of an outsourced service provider to provide one or more of the following:

  • Warehousing
  • Transport
  • Fulfillment to end customer, either wholesale client or consumer

Benefits

The benefits to retailers & wholesalers of using 3PLs include:

  • Outsourcing allows the retailer/wholesaler to concentrate on their core business – buying and merchandising
  • Pre-integration – good 3PL providers will probably already have integrations in place with:
    • Carriers, so these do not have to be rebuilt for each of their clients
    • Wholesale clients, Many 3PL’s already fulfilled to larger end clients so they already know the relevant documents, labels and sign off procedures
  • Local knowledge of carrier services, customs & customer touchpoints

Projects

The projects that we have managed so far have been focussed on delivering cross organisation, back office solutions for:

  • A fashion retailer which has expanded their B2C online web presence into the Far East using a local 3PL provider. This solution went live in July.
  • A wholesale manufacturer fulfilling orders direct from their Far East factory to large US based retail client via a US 3PL warehouse and logistics provider. This went into production this month.
  • We are currently working on a solution to allow a retail client to sell its goods via a popular Far East online marketplace fulfilling from a global 3pl provider with a Far East warehouse.
  • We have also been helping for a local start-up 3PL provider, guiding them on their IT strategy for a system to manage their 3PL business. In the end, we have recommended they have a custom system built and put them in touch with a software house.

Golden Rules of 3PL projects

We have found few “golden rules” when embarking on a retail/wholesale 3PL project:-

  • Try to find a 3PL who already fulfils goods to your wholesale client using your preferred carrier – this will greatly reduce the amount of integration/dev work required
  • If your 3PL is overseas then it is beneficial to have a local client representative that can make decisions and knows how 3PL operate in that area. It is also useful to arrange project checkpoints that fit in with the local working day
  • As with all Wholesale projects make sure you allow time to get end client approval for any integration messages and business documents – nobody like a non-compliance chargeback!
  • Treat the 3PL like “black box”, review how they work in terms of Standard Operation Procedures but try not to get “in the loop” on their internal processes i.e. try not to get your systems involved in any way with picking, packing or dispatching the order, just leave it to them
  • Although they can customise their operating procedures, 3PLs have pretty long lead times on getting their IT systems customised. If at all possible, try to design the solution so they do not have to change anything at their end

Hope these are useful, if you would like any help with starting or managing an in-flight 3PL project then please contact  jon@proverb2.co.uk

Clients benefit from Proverb2 Email Marketing Management service

One of Proverb2’s online retail clients was having a few problems with their marketing emails.

  • No regular publication
  • Limited measurability (reach, uptake etc)
  • Poor preparation of content
  • Lack of co-ordination between promotions and marketing emails

So we developed a monthly process in which Proverb2 manages the client to prepare, publish and measure their marketing emails.

The process involves:

  • Monthly review sessions to:
    • Review the performance of the last newsletter
    • Plan the next issue and set the goals, agree content and target date
    • Assign tasks, with completion dates, to accountable individuals
  • Then a set of checkpoints is held to track progress during the build:
    • Product set up/checks for any items mentioned in the publication
    • Promotional offer set up
    • Publication production
    • Acceptance test and sign off
  • Publication of the Newsletter
  • Analysis of performance

The work is carried out by the client’s staff with Proverb2 providing the project management element. This helps keep the external cost to a minimum.

This process has been running for a few months now and has shown great improvements.

  • Subscribers up by 45%
  • Click throughs have doubled
  • The client is now seeing conversion rate of ~2% up from 0

We are now offering this marketing publication project management service to all our retail clients. If you are interested in this service then please contact Lucy@proverb2.co.uk

Odoo 10 Upgrade for Multi Channel Trading Platform

We use Odoo (aka openERP) on our multi channel trading platform for all purchasing, warehousing, manufacturing, CRM and financial functions. After attending the Odoo10 tour in February. We could see there were significant benefits to using this new version.

  • Improved UI & Stability for business users
  • Improved Point of Sale system
  • Re-write of the Warehouse module (now called Inventory)

So we took the plunge and decided (in consultation with our platform tenants) to upgrade the platform to this new version. Our existing webstore to OpenERP connector did not support Odoo10 so we needed to find a new version.

We choose the Odoo Bridge For Magento (MOB) bridge product from Webkul.com. After installation on the staging environment and initial sync of data with the web storefront, we ran a number of tests to check business processes. A couple of minor issues were resolved by the Webkul support team, very quickly. We then repeated the install on production and all is working well.

For data migration we performed a stock take prior to the change and then used the web store front as the stock master during the transition. The only other data migrated is cost price which has been done using the Odoo export/import functions.

First Post Peak Deployment of 2017

Today we successfully deployed the first change of the year to one of our clients warehouse management system. The change covered a number of functional changes which were designed & developed during peak trading for release in the New Year. These included a new returns courier service and fast track shipment handling for remote destinations.

Proverb2 retail customers are ready for peak trading 2016

Last week saw the completion of all scheduled system upgrades by Proverb2’s retail clients for 2016. They have now entered into a change freeze to let system and process changes bed in well before they are challenged by peak trading over the Christmas period. The suspension of system changes during this period removes the risk of introducing any new problems through code or configuration changes (which can occur even with careful regression testing).

Each year Christmas peak trading ecommerce order volumes are higher than previous years, here are a few of the changes recently implemented to help our clients cope with this year’s demand.

Platform Upgrade for Redmoped.co.uk

One of our food and beverage retailer clients online business is growing at a fast rate and they were worried that the service level they offered their customers would suffer this peak trading period. There main bottleneck was the manual transfer of data between their web storefront and on premise ERP system. To overcome this we migrated them onto a SaaS ERP system (ExactOnline) and integrated it with their web site (which we also replaced with a new Magento storefront), carrier and email marketing system. The system went live in September and the client is now enjoying automated order management and increased international sales due to the new destination based delivery charges provided by Magento.

Virtual Stock Pooling

Another client of ours had an issue at their warehouse where replenishment orders for their web pick face sometimes caused the destination location to become overloaded. The solution involved a modification to the clients Warehouse Management System to implement a “Virtual pool” in which to hold the replenishment orders. This pool is then depleted by a “draw down” job which periodically checks to see if there is space in the web pick face. If there is space then the system automatically creates warehouse transfers to fill the web pick face with stock from the virtual pool. Proverb2 managed the specification, development and testing of the solution which was deployed last week.

Stock out handling

It is a fact of  life that no matter how good your inventory management systems and processes are, sometimes a product is not physically available to pick when a customer order is being fulfilled. It’s not uncommon that this occurs on the fast selling items, which then results in “over selling” on products that the systems thinks are available but, for which, no stock physically exists. One solution for this, which was implemented in the summer, is to automatically suspend an item from sale on the web storefront as soon as a picking problem is reported at the warehouse. The solution also alerts a “hit squad” of stock controllers and merchandisers who then investigate the issue. If some stock for the affected item is located then the item can be unsuspended

Over the winter we will be managing the specification, development and test of the next set of changes for release to production in the New Year. This will be carried out more directly between Proverb2 and the clients suppliers to allow the client to focus on the operationally intensive peak trading period.

Point of Sale solution for Suffolk Socks at Yarndale

Background

Online specialist wool retailer Suffolk Socks made it’s first major show appearance at Yarndale this year. As this was their first venture into “real” retailing they needed a Point Of Sale solution that would allow them to handle card and cash transactions. Proverb2 provided a solution which worked without fail and also helped out at the show!

The POS solution was given rave reviews by customers, with one customer going as far as to call it the “Best till at the Show”!

Requirements

  • Price labels for all items (being pure online retailer price labels are not normally applied)
  • Fast POS software to speed up the transactions
  • Decrement stock from sales at the show to avoid over promising to online customers
  • Professional looking till hardware incorporating cash drawer, receipts and barcode scanning (to reduce errors)
  • Ability to run the POS all day with no mains power!
  • Tolerant of poor internet connectivity

Here is how we tackled each of these challenges……

Labels

We used LabelJoy (pricey but worth every penny) to print labels for all items in the warehouse. The data was taken as an export from OpenERP which provided SKU code, Price, Barcode, Quantity on hand and Short Description. The file was imported to LabelJoy which then printed a label for each item. The software uses the quantity to determine the number of each label to print (nice). Label printing was carried out and several thousand labels applied to stock by the warehouse staff!

POS Software

As Suffolk Socks runs on a OpenERP backend (with a Magento store front) we decided to use the built in Point of Sale module. This is web based but downloads the functionality and range on startup so it can run without internet connection (as long as there is a connection at the end when the sales are uploaded).pos

Stock is decremented in real time for POS sales, so web stock levels were updated regularly throughout the day with the push of a button on the OpenErp-Magento connector.

POS Hardware

We used as standard laptop, thermal receipt printer, barcode scanner and cash drawer for the on site hardware. the printer was set to print the store logo on all receipts and a link to the cash draw allowed it to open automatically when the receipt was printed. A standard PS2 barcode scanner was used (along with a USB adapter). The total outlay was under £50 (excluding the laptop and the barcode scanner which they had anyway).

For card payments we provided a Paypal Here terminal which provided chip & PIN and also contactless payments. At £49 for the unit and around 2% transaction charge it is a good solution for retailers who do not normally take customer present card payments. It connects to an mobile device running the PayPal Here app. Customers were comfortable to use it.

Battery Operated

Yarndale is held at a cattle market and each stall gets a sheep pen (rather appropriate) to set up their shop. There is no mains power to these areas so the system had to run on batteries. The cash drawer and printer run on 12V so they could be powered from a leisure battery. For the computer we set up 3 different laptops with the necessary print drivers (no POS software was required as this was web based) and these were swapped out as each one ran out of juice. All three were charged up back at the hotel for use the next day.

Internet Connectivity

Wifi was available at the site and all devices were set up to use it. Unfortunately due to the large number of customers using the wifi during the show it failed. We had a backup 4G device but that did not get a strong enough signal. The fall back was a personal hotspot on an iphone 5s which worked well enough for the paypal transactions and stock updates.

Proverb2 Visits – The National Museum of Computing

While attending a trade show in Bedford this weekend I popped over to Bletchley Park to visit the National Museum of Computing and met up with a few old friends 🙂

IMG_20160730_132210Remember the dreaded RAM pack wobble!

IMG_20160730_131850As a trainee technician I once connected two of these VT220s back to back and tried to fool my colleagues that I had an AI program running on the mainframe.

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These Transputers were the future once.
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I am sure the seat outside Fenwicks cafe in Newcastle was actually a Cray supercomputer.

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Source code
10 PRINT “Jon is King  “;
20 GOTO 10
This is not on github.

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A mate of mine once carried once of these around a trade show, as it was soo portable!

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The Oric Atmos was not particularly acceptable in the 80s, but I bought one.

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Wow, feeling so nostalgic I could bubble.

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Osborn, the first laptop!

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There was a sign saying “Do not touch” otherwise I would have knocked up a quick program using the front panel of this PDP11.

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I used to be able to type quite quickly on the Agenda personal organiser.

Well worth a visit if you are in the area. TNMOC

 

Proverb2 successfully completes business start-up project

Proverb2 has recently helped a local business, develop their concept into a operational, trading business.

Bee Farrell, a local food anthropologist and illustrator came to Proverb2 with a business concept to sell ethically produced illustrated products that document and celebrate artisan bread making. Bee wanted to carry out the majority of the work herself but needed professional project management input to make it happen.

Proverb2 converted the clients requirements into a phased project plan that covered everything from product development, business process engineering, brand identity and website content creation.

breadearhomepageSquarespace was chosen as the platform for ‘Breadear‘ as it is a easy to use low cost solution to get a online retail business up and running in short amount of time. Phase 1 of this project was completed in under 3 months which is quick considering the client had other business interests to run in parallel. Now that the business is up and running, there is a lot of interest in the product and values of Breadear which is reflecting in healthy initial trading results.

For Proverb2 this project was slightly different to its normal eCommerce retail assignments as 90% of the work related to business and product development rather than IT.

‘Working with Lucy from Proverb2 was so valuable, she understood my needs and supported me through the start up of my business with great skill!’ – Bee Farrell, proprietor of Breadear.

Breadearlogo

 

Online Chat with Formilla

Today we implemented live web chat for suffolksocks.com using the Formilla Magento web plug in. Hassle free installation and easy to customise to match the look and feel of the Suffolk Socks site.

Suffolk Socks are hoping that this real time communication channel helps increase conversion to the site by putting sales staff in direct communication with customers.

Proverb2 project manages implementation of CardEasy PCI compliant telephone payment solution

CardEasy

Last week we deployed a major PCI compliance upgrade for one of clients. The solution allows them to take secure telephone payments using a hosted service which means that no sensitive card data is handled by their customer service operators or comes anywhere near their systems.

The project involved:

  • Changes to their Magento Enterprise Edition web storefront to call the hosted service when a payment is required
  • Setting up the 3rd party DTMF based virtual terminal to use the client’s Payment Service Provider
  • Making sure the necessary fraud checking data was being supplied to the PSP

Proverb2 advised on the solution, project managed the development & config work and also managed system & acceptance testing.

This technique is becoming more popular with online retailers as, once implemented, it means their staff and systems can be regarded as out of scope for PCI compliance.

The solution used in this project is CardEasy from Syntec

Radley and Co ready for peak trading 2015

We completed the last of this year’s back office systems deployment for Radley and Co this week ready for their peak trading change freeze.  We have project managed a number of developments this year including:

  • Despatch bench printing streamlining
  • Introduction of electronic international invoices
  • Introduction of new click and collect carrier
  • New international delivery services

Atrium Studios Relaunch

Atrium Studios, providers of office and studio space for artists and small businesses, relaunched today following relocation to a new area within UCS. Proverb2 project managed the relaunch event and a refresh of the website. The was the first official engagement for new project Manager Lucy Walters. The launch event, held at the studios, was a great success with a large turnout of local artists and businesses.

50% increase in workforce

Trainee project manager Lucy Walters started at Proverb2 today. Lucy has several years retail sales and back office experience and has decided to move into project management. We are hoping that Lucy’s design experience (she is a graduate of UAL) will allow Proverb2 to expand into new areas.

Suffolk Socks

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www.suffolksocks.com a brand new online retailer launched today. This new online business provides an exclusive collection of wool and related products for sock knitters.

Proverb2 managed the implementation of the platform together with production of content for the initial product range. The business is the first to use the Proverb2 MultiChannel Trading platform which is in development.