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Solutions Group logo

 

Solutions Group


B2B Microsoft DynamicsTM NAV based web-shop provides alternative route to market and significant competitive advantage

 

Company Background

 

Based in Northampton, Solutions Group is the fastest growing UK trade distributor of TV & Satellite equipment selling over 4,000 products via 15 nationwide trade counters. The company can also design and deploy equipment for digital communal TV systems for hotels, hospitals and multi-dwelling properties.

 

Situation

 

Solutions Group wanted to expand their e-strategy by moving into e-commerce. This would provide them with an alternative route to market and a significant competitive advantage, enabling them to maintain their growth in the marketplace. The company had already implemented Microsoft Dynamics NAV to handle financials, sales, purchasing and warehouse management. However, they required a partner with the appropriate .NET and e-commerce skills to deliver the full potential of the solution to allow them to realise their e-strategy objectives.

 

“We wanted to provide our customers with a convenient, alternative method of access to our products and services”, explains Grant Lester, Solutions Group Managing Director. “We had a requirement to give our customers secure, online access to their own account information, order history & status. We also wanted to deliver an easy to use self-service environment to allow our customers to perform product searches, place orders and to check stock availability and pricing.”

 

We knew that our existing Microsoft Dynamics NAV solution had the potential to deliver that interface, we just needed a partner with the skills to unlock that potential for us”.

 

The Selection Process

 

Solutions Group’s existing IT partner didn’t have the required .NET skills to develop the Microsoft Dynamics NAV implementation further.

 

Lester recalls, “We explained our requirements to Microsoft and asked them to recommend a suitable partner. Microsoft suggested we contacted Anglia Business Solutions as they had the proven .NET skills and had already deployed some award winning B2B e-commerce solutions.

 

The Anglia team took the time to understand our requirements and provided a detailed design specification and project plan to match.”

 

The Requirement
 

Solutions Group had already assembled a comprehensive set of requirements and desired functionality elements for the new solution.
 

The requirement was for a web based, efficient and cost effective method of selling to, and servicing the needs of, the existing customer base. Once proven, the selected technology would be used to leverage opportunities in new market areas by economically extending the reach of Solution Group into differential branding related opportunities.
 

The initial design should be based on generic principles so as to allow any products that the company chooses to sell in future to be represented consistently through the web shop.
 

The solution should seamlessly integrate with the current Microsoft Dynamics NAV system to enable easy maintenance of the web site by non-technical personnel. In addition, the solution should provide users with 24 x 7 secure access to relevant product and commercial information. It should facilitate a self-service environment that is informative and user friendly. Success would be measured both by customer loyalty and an increasing volume of business being taken over the internet. The overall initiative would be deemed successful when increased sales are experienced accompanied by reduced administrative costs per transaction.
 

The Solution
 

Reflective E-Commerce Technology Suite
The new web-shop was deployed using components from Anglia’s Reflective E-Commerce Technology Suite, to include: shopping basket functionality, secure checkout, multi-branded shops, full product descriptions with product images and item search.

 

Security

Before being granted access to the web-shop, customers are required to provide username and password credentials to verify their identity. This was a key requirement as Solutions Group provide customer specific preferential pricing and access to some products is reserved for preferred customers only. The solution uses internet cookies to remember the computer (IP Address) used by each customer to access the site. Fraud avoidance measures were also implemented to detect unusual account activity.
 

Products & Pricing

Products are grouped on the site in a 3-level hierarchy; product, product group and parent group. Unlimited products and product groups can be accommodated.

 

There is a cross-site search facility to locate products by free text search term or product code.
 

Each item displays a picture along with pricing information, volume price breaks and units of measure. Pricing information is reflected directly from the Microsoft Dynamics NAV solution. Any changes made to pricing information in the database are automatically reflected on the website. This allows Solutions Group to rapidly react to competitor pricing strategies or price fluctuations in the supply chain.

 

Screenshot showing website product presentation

Fig 1: Product presentation screen showing product grouping in left-hand menu, with product image, description and volume price break information in the central area.
 

Similarly individual items can quickly be displayed as a special offer on the Home page to move surplus stock or end of line goods. This is actioned by simply checking the “On Special Offer” box on the individual product item card within the Microsoft Dynamics NAV database. The exact text to appear with the special offer is also configured here (see Fig 2). The top 5 selling items are also displayed to the customer on the Home page.

 

The site will also display cross-sell information to show items that other customers have purchased. Again, the cross-sell information for an item is configured on the item card within the Microsoft Dynamics NAV database in a simple table format.

 

screenshot showing special offer configuration card in Dynamics NAV

Fig 2: Special Offer Item Card configuration screen in the Microsoft Dynamics NAV database with corresponding display element from the web-shop.


Order Entry & Checkout

Regular customers can take advantage of a “Quick Order” function to allow them to rapidly enter item codes and required quantities for purchase (see Fig 3).
 

screenshot showing quick order entry form in Dynamics NAV

Fig 3: Quick order entry form.
 

Customer selections are summarised in the Shopping Basket which displays the items and quantities selected, along with total/unit prices and any volume price break information available to the customer.
 

Quantities can be amended and recalculated, or removed from the basket at this point. This area also displays other useful account information to the customer, for example; current account balance, credit limit and available credit amounts (see Fig 4). Orders can also be saved for processing at a later time.
 

Screenshot showing scure shopping basket and checkout functionality

Fig 4: The secure shopping basket and checkout screen, with additional account status information (circled).
 

Orders taken via the web-shop are stored temporarily in a holding table ready for import into the Microsoft Dynamics NAV database. The import process takes places every 1 minute. This is a configurable timed event which can be set to occur automatically at specific intervals or by manual execution. The import process generates order confirmation emails which are automatically sent to the customer.
 

Account Admin
An Account Administration screen is provided to allow the customer to view order history, view saved orders or to change their account access password. The user is required to re-enter account login and password credentials to perform any of these tasks.
 

Online customers are also allocated their nearest Solutions Group Trade Counter. The information displayed to the customer on the contact details screen is dynamic and is dependent upon which branch bas been allocated on the customer card within the Microsoft Dynamics NAV Database.
 

The Solution Benefits
 

“The system was deployed to reflect exactly how we wished to work.” recalls Managing Director, Grant Lester. “The project was completed to very tight timescales and within budget. We can now offer our customers an unparalleled level of service and ease of access to our products and services. In return, high customer retention and repeat business will help us to realise our future ambitious growth plans.”
 

The increasing percentage of web-shop sales has enabled Solutions Group to reduce the administrative cost per transaction.
 

Lester continues, “The web-shop solution has provided a versatile route to market which has enabled us to extend our customer reach beyond our 15 trade counters. We are now able to instantly react to competitive pressures or market changes, and we can offer a new product to customers for purchase via the web-shop in a matter of minutes. We have experienced a significant drop in the number of customer service calls as customers take advantage of the self-service web shop to access product information and account details online.”
 

Software & Hardware Overview

- Anglia Reflective E-Commerce Technology Suite
- Visual Studio .Net 2005
- ASP.NET 2.0
- Windows Server 2003
- Microsoft DynamicsTM NAV 3.60
- SQL Server 2000
- Dell Server Hardware
 

For further information contact:
 

Anglia Business Solutions Ltd
Tel: 0123 873400

 

 



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