Company: Software AGCustomer: Apollo 2000Submitted by: MCC InternationalDate: January 2002
Apollo 2000 wanted to ensure that it was going to launch a website that could provide its customers with the same excellent service on-line as they could expect to receive in each of its stores.
Having been impressed with existing Software AG customer sites, Apollo 2000 chose Software AG’s EntireX and Tamino XML Server to run its website from the back-end system.
- The only electrical retail website to be run directly from the back-end system.
- Real-time information available on-line, including instantaneous stock updates and overnight price changes.
- Software AG’s XML-based integration platform, EntireX, and Tamino XML Server, ensure accurate customer fulfilment.
- Reduction of the human error factor.
- Ability to easily add new affinity partners with differing pricing structures.
“For Apollo 2000, it is no good saying we will be able to deliver a product the next day if we can’t fulfil this.
That is why we enlisted Software AG’s help and experience to ensure we can. Without Tamino and EntireX we would not be able to do this. In a highly competitive market where numerous electrical retail chains have ceased trading over the last few years, it is more important than ever that our customers remain loyal to us. We have to be able to deliver our products on time and we must maintain optimum stock levels in order to succeed.”Paul Kearsley, Marketing & IT Director, Apollo 2000
Gas & electrical retailer goes back to front
Whilst high street electrical retailers have flocked on-line over the last twelve months, Apollo 2000 has been more wary. With Dixons, Comet and Curries now all in web competition, Apollo 2000 has been biding its time to join the throng.
Apollo 2000 wanted to ensure that it was going to launch a website that could provide its customers with the same excellent service on-line as they could expect to receive in each of its stores. The upshot of this decision is the only electrical retail website to be run directly from the back-end system.Apollo 2000 has been trading for over thirty years, offering its customers the widest range of gas and electrical appliances at the best possible prices. Headquartered in Birmingham, Apollo 2000 has branches throughout the UK where customers can enjoy the latest in digital technology, top branded white goods and a comprehensive range of smaller appliances.
Talking the same language
Apollo 2000 was aware of Software AG through existing customers and projects, as Marketing & IT Director at Apollo 2000, Paul Kearsley explains, “We knew of Software AG through its involvement with the Britannia Music website and also through the ce-commerce initiative that links electrical retailers with electrical manufacturers through an XML-based infrastructure to streamline supply chain communication.
I had talked to web agencies about what we wanted, but none of them talked of running a site from the back-end system. Software AG was the only one to point out that in order to achieve our goal, this was the direction we should be heading in.”Software AG and Apollo 2000 started to address the integration of the existing EPoS and stock control system with the new Web Services applications in March 2000. Paul Kearsley continues, “We wanted real-time information to be available on-line, including instantaneous stock updates when a product is ordered and to be able to run overnight price changes where necessary. This is key for our customers, so they can trust our website as they would our in-store staff.
Multiple system integration
Apollo 2000 sells 1300 gas and electrical product lines on its website and holds two of each item in its dedicated Northampton warehouse. The warehouse takes deliveries from the manufacturers for these 1300 lines only, so it is imperative that the stock ordering system runs in real-time. Software AG’s Tamino XML Server database houses all this information. The importance of this is heightened by the addition of Apollo 2000’s affinity partners to its customer base. These include large corporate customers, including MG Rover and Cable & Wireless, who want to offer in-house staff a way of sourcing electrical goods at a discount from their own corporate websites.
The implication for Apollo 2000 is that it has to integrate with multiple front-end systems.The Tamino XML Server stores information in native-XML format, giving it a huge advantage over relational database management systems, as no extra data conversion layer is required. In order to make all this data available in real-time to Apollo 2000 customers and affinity partners, an integration software product is required. EntireX provides integration up to ten times faster than traditional technology and eliminates up to eighty percent of traditional coding requirements all with a flexible, graphical point-and-click functionality and an XML compatible infrastructure.
The human error factor
“The only time this industry has a real need for human contact is if a problem arises.
For example, if we were experiencing difficulties with one of our suppliers, it would require the human factor,” Kearsley explains. “With the website running from the back-end Tamino XML Server database, the likelihood of stock levels being incorrect is a lot less than if we employed someone to physically count the product lines each day. The human error factor could cause us immense problems, especially as we hold a relatively small amount of stock in our warehouse for the site.”
A worthwhile expense
The expense of this implementation was a decision that Apollo 2000 was not averse to taking. The website had to be right first time and there was no margin for error, as the company knew it would be up against the high street retailers as soon as the site went live.
Paul Kearsley continues, “We deliberately waited until they [the competition] had started to provide on-line services and looked at ways that we could improve upon what they offered. That was where the decision to run the site from the back-end originated. It allows us to vary prices across our affinity partners and we can set-up a new one in a matter of minutes. We have no issues with overselling a product line, thanks to the automated stock management and it also allows us to run a low level of stock in the warehouse and to stock products that we normally couldn’t. For example, we can change the fulfilment route for a specific product set that may require installation as well as delivery.”
Customer satisfaction key
For Apollo 2000, the set-up costs for the website equate to launching and running a large branch for three years.
During this time, the build costs will have been recouped by the growth in popularity of the site. Since the site went live in September 2001, Apollo 2000 has seen the turnover from its website increase dramatically and intends to ensure it continues to do so, as Paul Kearsley comments:”For Apollo 2000, it is no good saying we will be able to deliver a product the next day if we can’t fulfil this. That is why we enlisted Software AG’s help and experience to ensure we can. Without Tamino and EntireX we would not be able to do this. In a highly competitive market where numerous electrical retail chains have ceased trading over the last few years, it is more important than ever that our customers remain loyal to us.
We have to be able to deliver our products on time and we must maintain optimum stock levels in order to succeed.”
Apollo 2000 is keen to be involved in technologies like Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI) that Software AG is currently developing. This repository stores information about businesses and their services and is based on XML schemas. With these XML specifications and the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), enterprises can integrate the services of other companies into their own business processes. This kind of technology would be invaluable to the electrical retail market, where retailers, distributors and manufacturers could communicate far more efficiently.Paul Kearsley concludes, “When undertaking a project like building the website, you need to ensure all your energy is targeted into that project for the duration, as ours has been.
We took our time during the implementation to ensure we got it exactly right and that has paid off. We appreciate that we need to run an integrated interface from our back-end system in order to maintain our high levels of customer service. Consequently, we have a unique website in the electrical retail market which helps us to exceed customer expectation.”