A song in the key of ERP Flat.
Logistics Viewpoint blogger Steve Banker has a blog post today about Nordstrom’s efforts to increase sales by improving its customers’ shopping experience. He cites a scenario in a NewYork Times article describing the benefit of making their inventory visible to customer-facing systems:
Say that a shopper was looking at a blue Marc Jacobs handbag at Nordstrom.com. She could see where it was available at nearby stores, and reserve it for pickup the same day.
Banker speculates that the Seattle-based retailer implemented a distributed order management (DOM) system as part of this strategy. He explains that an ERP system by itself couldn’t offer this level of inventory visibility: “ERP solutions lack the logic to track order fulfillment events from order to delivery and they lack intelligence to support the logistics of multichannel order fulfillment.”
You can add the inability to handle detailed product attributes and rich marketing copy as another ERP shortcoming. Why is this important? Let’s go back to that customer in the Times piece.
Let’s say that instead of looking at a “blue Marc Jacobs handbag” on Nordstrom.com, she’s looking for a “blue Marc Jacobs handbag” on Nordstrom.com. In that case, the inventory system would certainly have returned the Chelsea Satchel. But it might have missed the Day to Night collection (“dark petrol”) and the Swinger Shoulder Bag (“sky”).
But if the ERP system were paired with a product information management (PIM) system, a product manager could have added “light blue,” “medium blue,” dark blue” or any other “blue” in the rainbow to a product description to enhance the basic color attribute. They wouldn’t have been displayed as a color choice, but the Nordstrom’s inventory system would have returned “dark petrol” and “sky” handbags when a customer searched for “blue” handbags.
If you’re an industrial manufacturer or distributor, the stakes are even higher. You’re risking long-term relationships with valued b-to-b customers such as engineers and contractors when they can’t find the exact product they need, when they need it.