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By George, I Think They Get It!


Systems integration has become a popular topic in this column for two reasons. Why? First, I feel it is important to cover the promise—and slow progress—of systems integration across the retail industry. And second, many of my own personal retail experiences often illustrate the impact of (for the most part) a poorly integrated enterprise on customer service.

I know this sounds cynical, but many of these poor retailing experiences are truly taking a toll on the industry and impacting customers’ loyalty.

So you can only imagine how thrilled I was to find a company that has truly integrated its electronic storefront, online checkout, fulfillment and call center.

As a working mother of two little ones, organization is the name of the game. That’s why I had my Halloween costumes ordered by mid-September (As a reformed procrastinator, I know what it’s like to wait until the last minute, scramble and come up short).

On Sept. 18, I ordered my older daughter’s costume from , a pure-play baby-merchandise retailer that has been my go-to source of Halloween costumes since Daniella was an infant. The costume, an adorable purple-and-black velvet witch costume, complete with tall pointed hat, was $29.95. After a $7 shipping and handling fee and a bill for $36.95, I was set.

But when I logged onto my e-mail on Sept. 19, and a OneStepAhead promotion in my inbox touted that all Halloween costumes had been slashed by at least $10, my cauldron boiled over.

Since my order was less than 24 hours old, I got on the horn seeking an adjustment. I provided the agent with my order number and confirmed my name and address.

She was able to pinpoint my order, and pleasantly informed me that it already reflected the discount, and a new receipt was on the way. It seems that when the previous day’s orders were pulled into the inventory management and fulfillment systems, the company’s ERP system must have also polled its marketing applications and applied the $10 discount. I got the new receipt minutes later.

Finally! A company that “gets it.”

I’m not sure whether I was more excited that I saved money, that I didn’t have to argue for an adjustment, or that I finally found a retailer that is successfully integrating its internal operations. (I would say it’s a three-way tie.)

I don’t know if OneStepAhead was created on completely integrated systems or if this is a work in progress. But its mission-critical systems are clearly linked. And speaking from both an industry insider and a customer perspective, the value of a streamlined enterprise is evident.

The retailer is clearly supported by both a centralized platform and database. Once my order hit the system, each linked application pulled the data it needed to accurately process and fulfill my order. You know, the way it should be.

After dressing Daniella in her witch costume (with her younger sister Cristiana standing at her side dressed as a Hershey’s Kiss), I took pictures to go into our photo albums. Besides capturing the holiday memories, these photos will also remind me that OneStepAhead is an integration trailblazer—another reason why it will continue to win my customer loyalty.

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