Two U.K. systems hit U.S. shores

Feb 01, 2011 10:30 PM  By

It’s not exactly a British invasion, but in the past year two U.K.-based vendors of multichannel order management and fulfillment software, MNP and Omnica, have established beachheads in the U.S.

Each has proven its ability to create and maintain an “Americanized” version of its system with regard to address formats, currency, spellings and terminology, as well as sales taxes and shipping/manifesting requirements. But in most other respects, there is a sharp contrast between the approaches that these vendors have taken.

MNP, a SQL/Server solution with about 100 users in the U.K., is setting up a separate U.S.-based division. The company’s first installation went live in 2010, supporting the catalog and ecommerce business of apparel merchant Body Central. MNP itself provided support directly to Body Central in the implementation and live environments.

With Body Central’s ecommerce site, MNP partnered with software provider American Eagle, using its WebActive .NET application and capsule OMS Connect Web Services to link the platforms in real-time. MNP has since developed its own ecommerce platform, and has integration facilities for Amazon.com listings, as well.

The ActiveSERIES

MNP’s suite, “the ActiveSeries,” consists of OrderActive (order management), WMSActive (inventory management and fulfillment), and PSMActive (purchase supply management) for product purchasing and procurement.

PSMActive allows users to review inventory status, item reorder levels, sales activity, open purchase orders, vendor terms and discounts, and vendor contracts and agreements to manage purchasing for pre/in/post-season procurement. It also keeps track of supplier’s stock information, allocations, pricing, minimum purchase quantities, payment terms, lead times, performance/scorecards, and so forth.

A single product may have multiple suppliers, a supplier can have multiple contacts, and there is support for maintenance of detailed supplier profiles and responses to questionnaires. The system also verifies receipts against Pos.

WMSActive is robust enough to stand alone as a warehouse management system. It supports a wide variety of picking strategies for user-defined location types (including virtual and staging locations), with granular/detailed user access rights and permissions.

The system handles intelligent item put-away, back orders, future orders, split orders, kit management and assembly, gift shipments, returns, exchanges and refunds. It can also manage bulk transfers for retail replenishment or wholesale distribution. There is full support for cycle counting, paperless picking, stock transfers, packing confirmations, and integration with other manifesting systems.

OrderActive includes more than enough warehouse management and fulfillment functionality for smaller businesses that don’t want or need the WMSActive module. There is no limit to the number of attributes you can assign to a product, including HTML files. Customer searches are based on search-engine algorithms for all customer data, and media codes can be assigned at item level.

The system provides support for gift wrapping, with separate charges as an option. Product personalization includes image management and proof approvals.

OrderActive is compliant with the Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA-DSS) (de facto, not de jure) and uses tokenization with revolving key sets and RSA encryption. Any order can be paid for with multiple tenders, including multiple credit cards.

Promotions (with start and end dates) can be for all channels or specified sales channels, triggered by product number and/or order value as well as promo code. You can track lost demand by value, and manage how the promotion is invoked (via a prompt, automatically or selectively).

MNP has included all this functionality in its own web platform, but has also made it available through DLL codes to export into any ecommerce platform via an XML configuration file.

Omnica

Omnica has three installations up and running in the U.S. Based on the Microsoft Dynamics AX platform, the company relies on Dynamics AX value-added reseller partners in the U.S. to handle most of the sales, implementation and support activities at its three sites: Flaghouse, Direct Wines and a merchant of health products.

Omnica’s solutions are configured for multichannel sales on the Dynamics AX foundation, which Microsoft maintains to assure a uniform baseline for all AX financial, customer relationship and supply-chain management applications. The Omnica suite itself, with an interface that is consistent with Microsoft Office applications, consists of:

Omnica Webstore: a comprehensive ecommerce platform with sophisticated online merchandising, customer experience and self-service capabilities;

Omnica Telesales and Service: for order taking and customer service on the phone, via email, live chat and other channels, in a contact center environment; and

Omnica MCR back-office: order management capabilities for high-volume marketers and order processors.

Omnica is working with K3, a provider of “Dynamics AX for Retail” systems in Europe, to integrate the AX Retail module with the Omnica suite to support point-of-sale, store management and retail headquarters management.

Omnica Webstore supports multiple versions of a website in different languages, with different/multiple currencies, and SEO URLs and keywords. Different business rules can be applied to each site, if required.

There is support for customer reviews, faceted search, automatic product recommendations, automatic reordering, upselling in the shopping cart, gift cards and PayPal as a method of payment. Customer service functions include assigning follow-up tasks to individuals or groups.

Item management and promotions are both robust. Entry of promo codes can auto-populate line items on an order and there are user-definable cross-sell/upsell prompts.

The system provides support for item personalization with the option to add a charge, and kits can be set up and sold with a bill of materials.

The back office module supports third-party fulfillment for multiple clients, and offers support for cross-docking and drop-shipping. The system has pick verification for the packing stations.

Returns processing can be a single step to handle refunds, credits and exchanges, with or without return authorizations.

A master planning and forecasting module links forecast plans to catalogs. This module can generate sales curves for products or product categories, by catalog, which the system will roll up to forecast demand by item across all catalogs.

Finally, Dynamics AX includes a complete accounting module for handling G/L, A/R and A/P functions.

Omnica has applied for PA-DSS compliance certification, and all of its users are currently PCI compliant. The company is putting all credit card transactions into a separate .NET payment window separate from the system, taking this out of scope — which is essentially the same strategy adopted by MNP.

Ernie Schell (ernie@schell.com) is director of the consultancy Marketing Systems Analysis in Ventnor, NJ.

PAYING THE PIPER

Both MNP and Omnica are priced for mid-size multichannel merchants. You can expect to spend in a broad mid-six-figure range for all licenses, fees and services.

But in either case, you will be receiving strong value for the money. These are conscientious vendors with well-developed systems that continue to evolve to meet the needs of the multichannel sales and marketing environment.

MAGINUS MAKING MOVES IN U.S. MARKET

Maginus (maginus.com) is another multichannel solution using Dynamics AX in the U.K. that’s making inroads in the U.S. market. The Manchester, U.K.-based provider of retail and distribution software has a number of users doing ecommerce business across Europe and in the U.S. market, a couple of whom have launched U.S.-specific websites using the Maginus ecommerce platform and the Maginus Multi Channel Commerce system for fulfillment. Maginus relies on its participation in Advanced Distribution Software Partners to implement its multichannel AX solutions in the U.S. — ES