I suppose on one level we’re an independent eCommerce agency – like many others, there are a lot of us about it would seem. 

This article is about how our experience working with retailers, and more specifically mid-market retail management and EPoS providers; gave us the insight and confidence to evolve our core eCommerce platform into something much more – when an important new client set us the challenge in early 2018.

A bit of background; we’ve worked for many years on integrations between our eCommerce platform and established retail management systems and EPoS software. To be honest, we’re pretty good at it, we’re an agency with a strong technical capability and we’ve thrived were some of the bigger eCommerce agencies have feared to tread or simply failed.

However – the truth about integrations is they are fudge and a phaff. Any eCommerce professional or retail ops person with experience of integrations between the web and offline retail systems probably knows what I am talking about here.

In our experience integrating leading-edge eCommerce websites with legacy retail management systems software (which, in many cases, were never really designed to work with the web – being conceived of and written in the late 1990s and early 2000s) has never been straight forward.

In the real-world retailers, especially independent retailers of all shapes and sizes, which have invested in EPoS and retail management systems need to get a return on that investment and sweat that asset fully and squeeze 10, 15 even 20 years of life out of the system. 

The exponential rise eCommerce has been most inconvenient, to say the least, disrupting established retail patterns and consumer behaviour and forcing many retailers to rise to the challenge of engaging with customers and selling online. If they wanted to stay in the game.

In the early days, this would often mean a standalone website, however as websites evolved into essential sales, marketing and engagement platforms the website needed to become another retail branch – brimming with products, fantastic images, helpful product descriptions and information, promotions and so forth. This was a massive exercise, in terms of data, getting it all onto the web and being able to manage it all effectively and keep things current and up to date.

It was this realisation that led many retailers to explore integrating their shiny new website with their dusty old retail management system (RMS) – as the RMS did have product data -SKU’s, price, options, stock – so maybe with a new description field here and a link to some nice imagery there this will work…….

And it sort of does by and large …. but there are many day to day operational issues with integrations. Such issues are many and varied and stem from moving data between different databases with different datasets and requirements. Problems with integrations invariably impact productivity and operational efficiency. A recent example I heard was a retailer has 5,000 SKU’s which were not yet on their eCommerce site. The reason being the products had to be created on their existing retail management system (as this powered their EPOS). The retail management system only allowed for 50 characters and a small single image, products couldn’t be mapped to a website product category – so totally useless for populating the website – which meant all the work needed to be done again – time and resource they didn’t have and a website which wasn’t fulfilling its commercial potential.

Anyway – our new client was new to retail, an international brand, used to selling via retailers. The company had picked the UK to pilot their Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) model. They didn’t have a legacy system to contend with – this was a blank sheet of paper. 

They gave us an exacting EPoS and retail management systems brief – and asked if our eCommerce platform could evolve – they wanted things like an integral EPoS for in-store retailing, inter-branch stock movements, a whole raft of specific reports to show sales by branch, by day, by colour, by size, sales by retail assistant XYZ, reports with stock valuations, sophisticated purchase ordering.

After a while we realised with could evolve our core eCommerce platform to meet these needs. This then got us thinking about all the problems, associated with integrations, between online and offline systems that would vanish, they wouldn’t exist, in fact, they couldn’t exist – because one system, one database was managing all aspects of the day to day retail function. All integration problems stem from moving data from one database to another – this need no longer be the case.

We’ve all heard terms like multi-channel and omnichannel, these tend to involve integrations of the type I’ve described so we’ve coined the working phrase ‘omnicommerce’ for our new platform.

Below are some details on the client who pushed us to take a leap of faith and some more information on our new omnicommerce platform.

Client detail – FootBalance UK, 

Average basket value per order: £67.59
Average monthly unique visitors: 7,400
Approximate company turnover: Up to £5m
Percentage growth from last year: 48% growth in net sales 

Iconography are delighted that the pioneering work we have produced for FootBalance UK was recognised at the eCommerce Awards 2019 where we won the ‘Best use of Multichannel’ category.

More info on our Omnicommerce retail platform:

  • Click & Collect
  • Instore kiosk – endless aisle
  • Product information at the fingertips of retail staff
  • Real-time stock availability
  • Customer notes & follow-ups
  • Enhanced reporting and analysis
  • Stock and inventory management
  • Centralised purchasing
  • Transfer stock between stores
  • Easy to replicate in additional stores
  • Customer loyalty scheme
  • Cloud-based EPoS 
  • And more…

Contributor: Wayne Robbins, Director – Iconography Ltd