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Case Study: US Supply Virtual Counter eCommerce Customer Portal with ERP Integration

The US Supply Virtual Counter offers a personalized Magento eCommerce experience that interacts directly with US Supply's enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform.


OVERVIEW RESULTS



US Supply Virtual Counter Customer eCommerce Portal
 

Challenge

US Supply is one of the largest wholesale suppliers of plumbing and HVAC supplies in the Delaware Valley region, and has built its legacy on exceptional inventory, competitive pricing, and personal customer service. US Supply understood the advantages that eCommerce could offer to the company, but also knew how hesitant their typical customers were to adopt new technologies. US Supply decided to use Adobe’s Magento for their new eCommerce customer portal, a powerful and customizable eCommerce solution which is used by over 200,000 businesses in the United States. The key challenge would be to not only customize the Magento shopping cart to their products and customers, but also connect it to their Eclipse enterprise resource planning system (ERP) which manages pricing, ordering (both online and in-person at their 11 retail stores), credit, payment terms, payment, distribution, and employee access. DDA's Magento development experts worked with US Supply to envision a comprehensive customer eCommerce portal that would integrate seamlessly with existing Magento and ERP systems for a fully realized online business platform that would be user friendly enough to even get technology-adverse customers to adopt it with ease.

Objectives

While the Magento platform helps with Cloud data storage and organization, its integration with US Supply's ERP system was not robust enough on its own to facilitate the complex transactions that power US Supply’s business. The unique per-customer pricing that US Supply uses, with each customer getting a unique set of discounts on the hundreds of items in its inventory based on each customer's specific needs as negotiated with US Supply, required custom programming and additional server support to facilitate searches of the extensive inventory. US Supply also needed the cart to update inventory and invoicing on the back-end ERP system for both online and point-of-sale in-store purchases, as well as facilitate payments via credit card and direct ACH checking account transfers.

Solution

In order to accommodate this more complex pricing, DDA built additional ColdFusion and SQL Server support applications that would extract per-customer pricing information for each customer from US Supply’s ERP system so that when customers logged in and searched for products, they would see their company’s pricing. The DDA server application leverages Magento to extract this per-customer pricing, while other product information and inventory is taken directly from the Eclipse ERP system. The additional DDA servers also allow for the vastly faster processing speeds required to facilitate modern eCommerce functionality, as the US Supply ERP is a legacy system that would be prohibitively slow to use directly for this purpose.

The Virtual Counter’s credit management system is also highly customized. Each customer has their own payment terms and credit limit, including different payment penalties for late payments. Invoices are broken down into individual line items, and customers can choose to pay invoices in full or in part by selecting specific line items for payment. Customers may also indicate that they wish to dispute a line item in the event there is any disagreement. Companies may create employee logins so that their employees can take advantage of company credit or pay invoices. Another feature allows employees to use company credit in store without the need for a login for those less tech savvy.

Other unique Virtual Counter features include the ability to create Order Pad Templates that save typical combinations of products which can be updated for easier reordering in the future, product comparisons, instant reordering of previous orders, applying for credit, updating product amounts in the shopping cart before submission, and receiving updates on the order via email and/or text message. DDA created a whiteboard animation to introduce the Virtual Counter to customers and emphasize that the new eCommerce portal augments rather than replaces personal customer service. DDA also built a Virtual Vault that lets customers enter for a chance to win a prize every day they visit the site, incentivizing adoption by new and existing customers. DDA continues to work with US Supply to find new ways to improve usability and expand functioning to best serve US Supply's diverse customer base.

 

Results

The final US Supply Virtual Counter represents the peak of customer eCommerce portal development. With its complex management of the legacy ERP system governing inventory and invoicing, along with its powerful per-customer pricing, item search, and invoice management and payment features, it is serving as a powerful example of how even the most hesitant customers can learn the benefits of moving towards online eCommerce solutions to meet their business needs.