Management Software Review: A Year of Competitive Change

Jul 01, 2003 9:30 PM  By

After two years of sluggish software sales, we are finally starting to see catalog companies investing in new systems. Luckily for them, during the past two years software vendors didn’t stop investing in and improving their own products.

For instance, in January, CommercialWare acquired Toronto-based software provider Capture.Net Technologies and renamed its product CWStore. CWStore strengthens CommercialWare’s leadership in “cross-channel retail” and will allow marketers to offer a consistent shopping experience across all customer touch points by capturing and managing transactions and inventory information via one central database regardless of where — Web, catalog, or store — a purchase originated. Customers may start shopping on the Web, choose to pick up the product at a store, and if need be, return it to the distribution center. CWStore will be fully integrated into CWDirect by the end of the year. We believe that this may set the pace for the next revolution in retail systems development.

Most direct-to-customer systems now have a graphic user interface (GUI), but there is a drive to adopt Windows technology, which will simplify training and make the systems easier to use. Ecometry has released its Windows-based Oracle and SQL2000 system. Best Software/Computer Solutions Inc., Natural Solutions, NewHaven Software, and Page Digital all have development projects under way or in early implementation stages. There will be an interesting battle here to see if any of these systems in the long term can process the transaction volumes of larger enterprises served by AS400- and Unix-based providers.

Also, in the past year, some of the industry players have changed. ASTi ceased operation. Assist Cornerstone (formerly Cayenta) was purchased for the third time in the past few years, by Ameritege Technology Partners, a software holding company. And NewHaven Software, which bought the assets of the former Haven Software (Wizard Software) from Ecometry, has redesigned the small-company fulfillment and marketing system and sold it to several dozen catalog companies.

Indeed, a lot has happened in the world of commercial systems. Still, our research shows that more than 50% of catalogers develop their own systems. The decision to develop systems inhouse rather than acquiring a commercial package needs to be centered on the desired business functionality, but in many cases we believe that commercial systems offer a less expensive option for the business owner. The challenge in turn for the software companies will be to continue to provide the systems functionality and support as the direct industry becomes more complex.

The following resource guide will assist you in selecting direct-to-customer fulfillment and marketing systems, warehouse management systems, and supply chain management systems.

Direct-to-customer order management

The following vendors provide full-function call center, fulfillment, marketing, merchandising, and e-commerce-interfaced systems for catalog and Internet-based retailing.

ASSIST CORNERSTONE

Assist is offering ASSISTWebstore, an AS400-based system with full-function shopping cart capability and a real-time Web commerce solution to build, deploy, and manage powerful and scalable e-commerce environments. A reverse logistics component of the system’s new functionality manages order returns through Web-based self-service. The enhanced analytics feature leverages the sales analysis tools to provide greater inventory forecasting intelligence. Users will have the ability to set future inventory levels, predict buying patterns, staff call centers, and introduce product lines more effectively. A customer relationship management (CRM) portal provides centralized visibility and management of all customer interactions across an organization. Clients include Alta Resources, Atkins Dietary Products, Icon Health & Fitness, Mid America Direct, and Oreck Products.

Contact: Sean Skamnes, 801-355-7744; www.assistcornerstone.com

AVEXXIS

Avexxis has teamed up with some of the leading providers in the industry to deliver an assortment of advanced modules. Avexxis Corporate and Enterprise editions include advanced shipping and manifesting, e-commerce, address management, data replication, payment processing, advanced sales tax, and reporting tools. Users now can choose between a new Windows interface developed in Delphi, a green screen character interface, or a combination (on a user-by-user basis). Internet offerings include an integrated Internet Storefront interfacing directly to the Avexxis system and leveraging the business rules within the application. A new shipping and manifesting system, with a lower cost for smaller companies, is now an option. Through an Executive Dashboard, top management can monitor the metrics of their business from a new display of selectable reports, charts, and graphs. Avexxis has expanded its standard reporting with a significant number of new reports across the application. Clients include Federated Department Stores, Geerlings & Wade, Vermont Teddy Bear, and The Wisconsin Cheeseman.

Contact: Larry Rocheleau, 888-Avexxis; www.avexxis.com

COMMERCIALWARE

CWDirect (formerly retail.dotcommerce) continues to be a leading AS400-based direct-to-customer system; it’s used by companies such as Brooks Brothers, Dick Blick, Park Seed Co., and United Retail Group. CWStore has five modules providing point-of-sale, retail back office, and other functions.

Contact: Sales department, 877-627-8709; www.commercialware.com

COMPUTER SOLUTIONS INC. (CSI)

Since 1978, CSI has marketed its AS400-based Order Power mail order system to marketers such as REI, Toast Master, and Walter Drake and to fulfillment houses including Arnold Logistics, Infinity Resources, Kable Fulfillment, and Total Response. The major enhancements to create the new Direct 500 with Best Software include source coding, upsell/cross-sell, coupons and promotions, FTC notifications, fraud checking, credit-card processing, manifesting, advanced shipping-and-handling tables, recency/frequency/monetary (RFM) modeling and mailing list selection, and manifesting to MAS 500. Direct 500 is engineered with Microsoft tools, technology, and architecture to provide a flexible, scalable and full-featured enterprise solution. Standard modules from the MAS 500 include Financials, Manufacturing, Human Resources, Distribution, CRM, and Business Intelligence Reporting.

Contact: Ernie Smith, 305-558-7000; www.OrderPower.com

DATAMANN

Established in 1975, Datamann worked with larger consumer catalogers early on to develop good reporting in marketing, merchandising, and inventory forecasting. Developmental efforts have been greatly expanded into business-to-business processing with SIC sales reporting, salespeople’s files oriented by sales region and source code, and catalog and SKU reporting for 130 weeks. The product is GUI enhanced throughout the database. Considerable expansion is in process for the lifetime value (LTV) and upsell/cross-sell processing functions. In the credit area, “risky zip code” flags and credit-card ID codes are added. Customers include Auto Body Toolmart, Baseball Hall of Fame, Charlie’s Greenhouse Supply, Monticello, and Touch of Class.

Contact: Andrew Warner, 802-295-6600 ext. 42; www.datamann.com

DYDACOMP

Dydacomp (Mail Order Manager, or MOM) continues to be the largest installed direct-to-customer system, primarily in small enterprises. Dydacomp is planning advanced features and reports surrounding the inventory, purchasing, and receiving portions of MOM to further enhance the existing product cycle and warehouse management functions. There are new options for point-of-purchase (POP) and SiteLINK e-commerce features to further integrate and streamline operations for businesses running across multiple channels. Flexibility in shipping carrier services continues to expand, building on the existing integration of United Parcel Service’s Online Compatible, U.S. Postal Service’s MAC/MAC GOLD, and Harvey Software’s CPS systems. Dydacomp has expanded its on-site and remote consultation and training programs. Clients include Fairytale Brownies, RC Bigelow Tea, Scooterworks, Sportamerica, and Sportswave.

Contact: Robert Coon, 973-237-9419; www.dydacomp.com

ECOMETRY

Ecometry Retail Enterprise offers an array of Internet-based, customer-focused applications that are fully synchronized across multiple business servers. Ecometry’s comprehensive suite of sales and service applications are arranged around a central customer database, providing a single view of each customer across the entire enterprise. Ecometry has implemented Web services (Extensible Markup Language, or XML, and Simple Object Access Protocol) for client and Web communication. It has also improved functionality in wireless warehouse, inventory forecasting, new client interfaces, advanced warehouse automation, predictive upselling, and delivery of new POS system and datamart, all focusing on single customer database. For 2003 Ecometry is planning voice integration, standard XML interfaces, QAS integration, Newgistics integration, and N-tier architecture running on Unix and Windows using Oracle and SQL2000. Clients include Coldwater Creek, Hammacher Schlemmer, Hickory Farms, and Nordstrom.com.

Contact: Charlene Smith, 561-265-2700; www.ecometry.com

MORSE DATA

Based on Windows 2000 and the Microsoft SQL Server database, Morse Data’s InOrder system provides catalog companies with Web shopping, retail selling, order processing, inventory control, promotion analysis, and list management. Optional modules include warehouse management, contact management, purchasing, payables and multiclient processing. New InOrder features planned for 2003 include purchasing, payables, and job cost modules; gift certificate processing; packing verification; and order entry screen enhancements. The optional warehouse management system features summary picking slips, cart picking, packing verification, unlimited bin locations per item, lot tracking, expiration dates, oldest stock ships first, serial numbers, and up to three-level-deep bin replenishments. Receipts can be entered by purchase order (with exceptions), by bar-code scanner, or manually. Clients include BCI Eclipse, Janns Netcraft, Proliteracy Worldwide, Spirtuality.com, and the University of California.

Contact: Jim Morse, 888-morsedata; www.morsedata.com

NATURAL SOLUTIONS

Natural Order is written in Sybase Powerbuilder and operates on a Microsoft SQL database. In addition to order management, Natural Order offers online commerce, financials, and data warehousing. Its developmental emphasis this year is on expanding the inventory management module with enhanced methods of fulfillment, put-away techniques, and forecasting. Natural Solutions has a beta version running in a fulfillment services provider that allows a company to run several independent companies from a single Natural Solutions database. Natural Solutions, which is used by 25 companies, believes its technology and third-party application connectivity to other systems and the Web differentiate it from the competition.

Contact: Tyce McIntosh 317-596-1219 ext. 204; www.naturalsol.com

NEWHAVEN SOFTWARE

As mentioned earlier, NewHaven has been developing a system that’s more robust than the predecessor Wizard system. The company’s new Commerce Management System uses Windows, Sybase, and SQL platforms. Typical customers have 15-25 terminal configurations. NewHaven is developing a single terminal system with full functionality in addition to its other server-based versions as well as a purchasing module. Customers include Diamond Organic, Hart Research, McFeeley’s Square Drive Screws, Oasis Date Gardens, and Playback Now.

Contact: Tom Danner, 425-458-4670; www.newhavensoftware.com

PAGE DIGITAL

Page expects to complete a number of Unix-based changes to its Synaro Advantage direct-to-customer applications. These include Java-based GUI allowing the users to configure their own screens with user-specific data elements and field names; a working prototype of an Oracle-based database to replace the Metropolis proprietary database; Synaro running on Microsoft Server 2000/NT; and a marketing relationship with Hewlett Packard as well as IBM for Unix and Microsoft offerings. From an application perspective Page has developed Synaro Integrator, XML middleware to integrate third-party warehouse management systems, call center, payment processing, and EDI. Java-based Campaign Management and Segmentation Generation are among many other enhancements Page is developing.

Contact: Bonnie Handry, 303-754-4836; www.pagedigital.com.

SIGMA MICRO

Historically, Sigma has had dozens of custom systems implementations in addition to the base release level for its Controller + fulfillment and marketing system. This year much of Sigma’s development efforts are being spent in taking the best of the custom functionality and enhancing the base package. Sigma will then assist its user base to migrate over to the new enhanced version. Two major outcomes are expected. The base package will be greatly enhanced, and it will improve Sigma’s ability to support its customers. Sigma also continues to host not only the Websites of many customers but also to operate the Controller+ product on a service-bureau basis for one of the largest catalogers in the U.S. This lowers customers’ operating costs and allows them to concentrate on their core businesses.

Contact: Jim Mangan 317-631-0907; www.sigma-micro.com

TERNO & ASSOCIATES

TernoVelocity will be enhanced with improved business-to-business capabilities such as Discount Pricing Matrix, which allows the company to enter one “retail” price and give percentage discounts to each customer level (retail, wholesale, distributor, etc.) on a per-item basis, and in its Nested Accounts feature, in which several customer subaccounts are billed to one corporate account. Each customer can now be marked as “ordered by,” “mail to,” “ship to,” or “bill to.” RFM reporting has been improved to allow a more flexible user-defined score, which is also available in order entry and customer service screens. Items can be mandated to ship a certain method (for instance, “frozen foods must ship Next-Day Air”), and shipping of items can now be restricted geographically. In order entry/customer service, there are real-time credit-card authorizations, electronic check capabilities, layaway options, e-mail status messages, and “preferred method of communication” fields. In development for release later this year: radio-frequency (RF) scanning capability, enhanced productivity reports, improved warehousing functionality, replenishment enhancements, and enhanced Web options. Users include Cherry Tree Toys, Chinaberry, Cuddledown of Maine, Into the Wind, Tuttle Golf Collection, and Venus Swimwear.

Contact: Pasquale LaRocca, 877-99-Terno; www.terno.com

Other direct-to-consumer customer vendors include

Colinear: Trish Lane, 800-265-4632; www.colinear.com

Data Management Associates: Larry Maher, 800-660-1275; www.dmasales.com

Island Pacific: Jim Philips, 949-476-2212; www.islandpacific.com

Morgan Custom Soft: Mark Morgan, 770-422-1300; www.mcsiworld.com

Rigden: James Jobson, 303-442-8190; www.rigden.com

Yantra Corp.: Joseph Vukson, 978-513-6180; www.yantra.com

Warehouse management systems

Catalog and e-commerce companies have interfaced the following warehouse management systems to direct-to-customer systems when more advanced warehousing capabilities are required.

HIGHJUMP

In 2003, HighJump has announced its initial release of Transportation Advantage, which has four major modules. Transportation Advantage integrates seamlessly with other HighJump applications to consolidate shipments into optimum truckloads; automate the tendering, tracking, and proof-of-delivery processes; and communicate electronic tendering requests to truckload carriers. Retail company users include Circuit City, HH Gregg, Overstock.com, Sports Chalet, Starbucks Coffee, and Verizon.

Contact: 800-866-HighJump; info@highjump.com

MANHATTAN ASSOCIATES

Manhattan Associates offers a variety of supply-chain management software suites for both retail and direct enterprises. Perhaps its best known product is PkMS, in its MA FulFill suite. PkMS manages orders at the line-item level, features a rules-based returns processing, and has its own integrated parcel manifest system. Its VAS and personalization capabilities — including compliant labeling, promotional inserts, gift wrap, monogramming, kitting, assembly, and price ticketing — enable custom orders to turn quickly and cleanly. There is also PkMS Pronto, a cost-effective, Windows-based warehouse management system.

Manhattan offers several other supply-chain management suites including MA Collaborate. This suite offers the ability to have Web-based real-time information access that interfaces with every link in your supply chain.

Contact: Leanne Kushner, 678-597-7088; www.pkms.com

Other warehouse management system vendors include

Catalyst Warehouse Management Systems: 800-236-4600; www.catalystwms.com

IRMS: Carl Brewer, 800-682-2910;

Retek: 888-61-RETEK; www.retek.com www.iws-irms.com

Supply chain collaboration

The following are among the supply chain collaboration systems used by catalog and e-commerce companies today.

COMMERCIALWARE

CWCollaborate maximizes drop-shipping by automating and streamlining every phase of the order process across the supply chain, including fulfillment, customer service, payment, and returns/logistics. This Internet-based solution runs on industry-leading IBM WebSphere Application Server and integrates seamlessly to any order management system. Features include flexible data structure, executive dashboard of supplier and order statistics, complete shipment tracking, automatic notification of orders and confirmation of receipt to and from suppliers, vendor control of returns processing, and optional automatic invoice processing. Companies using it include Army/Air Force Exchange and Sundance.

Contact: Sales department, 877-627-8709; www.commercialware.com

DIRECTNET SOLUTIONS

Two supply chain collaborative systems are available from DirectNet Solutions. The Web-based drop-ship application performs order delivery, shipping, invoicing supplier to retailer, customer service, returns, item updates, reporting, and administration functions. More than 1,000 suppliers and 35 retailers now use the system. For smaller suppliers there’s a system using a browser-based interface rather than an EDI exchange. The stock purchase system writes purchase orders; allows PO confirmation of quantity, due date, and cost; offers PO modification; and facilitates advanced shipping notices from the suppliers. Companies using this system include Cornerstone Brands, Hammacher Schlemmer, Miles Kimball, Taylor Gifts, and The Wine Enthusiast Cos.

Contact: Sharon Gardner, 561-392-6280; www.directnetsolutions.com


Curt Barry is president of F. Curtis Barry & Co., a Richmond, VA-based consultancy specializing operations, fulfillment and catalog systems consulting.