In launching an online retail presence in Japan, L.L. Bean is relying on the latestWebSphere Commerce applicationto help integrate inventory and order-management systems — and to connectdirectly to third-party suppliers.
One feature that could help L.L Bean in this venture is the ability to let third-partyorder-fulfillment partners process Web orders.
Normally, a company’s inventory is distributed over multiple fulfillment centers, whichcan be internal or extended to support the notion of distribution partners, according toErrol Denger, WebSphere product manager atIBM.
The new version of WebSphere incorporates the notion of a fulfillment center into itsdesign, Denger said.
In WebSphere, line-of-business interfaces are prepackaged for fulfillment-center roles.Every role has a line-of-business interface, and specific roles are divided up so thatthe third party cannot access the whole storefront — only the fulfillment-centerfunctionality.
Thus, a third-party logistics or distribution provider can log in to L.L. Bean’sfulfillment center through a VPN (virtual private network) or a private port.That distribution partner would be considered part of the organization. But itwould only be able to control and see orders that come in through its ownfulfillment center.
Adding a new level of integration into a retailer’sback-end systems and into its distribution partner’s systems isbecoming a best practice for the industry, according toGiga vice president Erin Kinikin.
“The customer shouldn’t have to know that the company has fivedifferent divisions andthree manufacturing plants — just that their order is on schedule for delivery onFriday,” Kinikin told CRM Buyer Magazine.
“Products like WebSphere are working to deliver improved enterpriseintegration, more sophisticatedpersonalization andanalysis, and flexible business process and workflowengines to serve customer requests in a manner transparent to theunderlying company infrastructure,” she said.
The Cultural Factor
L.L. Bean has also taken pains to ensure its Japan Web site has been localized for theJapan market, Leslie Givens, program director, WebSphere Commerce, told CRM Buyer.
“[The L.L. Bean site] provides multicultural support in currency, tax and shipping,”she said.
Another feature is a pronunciation database to helpcustomer service representativesproperly pronounce names. “Pronunciation in Japanese can be difficult, varying fromregion to region,” she said.
“L.L. Bean felt that its customer service staff should have adatabase to serve as a guide.”
The new Japanese site represents theU.S. retailer’s ongoing commitment to the e-commerce space.According to IDC,e-commerce in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to grow from US$37 billionin 2001 to $894 billion in the upcomingyears.
Zane Shatzer, managing director for the retailer’s Japanese branch Office saidthat the company’s expansion in Japan is a move from retailand catalogs only to the creation of a Web presence.
Shatzer said the new Japanese Web site will include the same features of L.L. Bean’spopular U.S. site.