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Direct-To-Consumer Focus Motivates IT Upgrade At Tommy Bahama Featured

  • Written by  Adam Blair
Direct-To-Consumer Focus Motivates IT Upgrade At Tommy Bahama

Strategy sessions held back in 2015 had far-reaching impacts for Tommy Bahama. These meetings were the beginning of what has grown into an ambitious program for upgrading many of the apparel brand’s key business solutions, including order management, warehouse management, retail store operations, analytics, merchandising and its entire e-Commerce ecosystem.

The 160-store retailer has a thriving e-Commerce business and also operates restaurants in 18 locations. The IT upgrades, scheduled to take place through summer 2019, will bring an enterprise-wide view in two important strategic areas: order management and analytics. Tommy Bahama anticipates significant benefits, according to Lisa Atwood, EVP of Operations, IT and eCommerce.

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“Just for order management, there are so many angles to it,” said Atwood in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “From the forward-facing guest experience, it will allow them to interact with our product online, in-store and for ship-from-store. We also anticipate labor efficiencies from the fact that store associates will be able to showcase anything, anywhere in a single transaction. Previously the associates might be calling up other stores to look for products a customer wanted, so there are efficiency benefits. Additionally, the ability to utilize all of our inventory everywhere will help us maximize our financial investment,” she noted.

Extending and integrating its analytics capabilities will allow Tommy Bahama executives to “make better decisions based on data, because there will be more data points out there,” said Atwood. “They will be able to see information on store operations, regional performance, even the weather. I foresee tons of efficiencies in the store, but also for our home office people — buyers, allocators and merchandisers — to make data-driven decisions about what inventory needs to be where.”

The multi-solution “Tomni” (Tommy Bahama + omnichannel) project will be keeping Atwood and her team busy for through mid-2019. The projected timeline consists of four key phases:

By March 2018: Upgrades of CRM, sales audit, loss prevention and POS, and the implementation of the first phase of analytics, including customer, sales and promotional analytics;

By July 2018: Upgrades of merchandising, replenishment and allocation systems, and the second phase of analytics to support merchandising data;

By August 2018: Store-based elements of the EOM solution, including the ability to buy an item in one store and pick it up in another; and

By summer 2019: The approximately 20 systems making up the Tommy Bahama e-Commerce ecosystem, including integrating the EOM with its digital operations and its call center. The retailer will use the system to “ship items from a store to a customer even when they are not available from the warehouse,” said Atwood.

Bringing IT In Line With Direct-To-Consumer Focus

While Tommy Bahama is now very much a direct-to-consumer operation, the company had seen itself primarily as a wholesaler since its launch in 1992. For example, Tommy Bahama was a latecomer to selling online, but the 2008 debut of its e-Commerce site quickly changed the company’s direction.

“We were a 75% wholesale/25% direct-to-consumer business at that time,” said CEO Doug Wood, speaking at the SAP Retail event in October. “With the e-Commerce launch, we saw our wholesale business cut in half and the e-Com business explode. We realized we had a guest who wanted to talk to us directly, and it changed our entire journey. Our question became, how do we open up stores and connect with that online business?”

As often happens in retail, the legacy of its wholesale orientation persisted in the form of Tommy Bahama’s IT systems. “Originally, all of our solutions were designed to support a wholesale business,” said Atwood. “In 2015 we asked the question, ‘How do we reinvent our business solutions to support more of the direct side of the business?’ We also saw the need to deal with everything else going on in retail as a whole — the merging of the brick-and-mortar and digital channels.”

In planning the Tomni project, Atwood and her team had to prioritize projects based on the company’s most immediate needs as well as its available resources. “We knew that we needed a retail planning solution and, because we wanted to set up a second warehouse, we also needed a warehouse management system,” said Atwood. “There was very foundational stuff that had to be done before we got to the ‘shiny’ stuff.”

Bridging Physical And Digital

The retailer had been using a suite of Aptos solutions since 2002 that include Aptos Store for Point of Sale, CRM, Merchandising, Sales Audit and Loss Prevention. “One of the things we’re doing is rebuilding and reinventing the brick-and-mortar channel’s foundation with our current Aptos solutions, while at the same time adding solutions that build a bridge between the digital and physical channels,” said Atwood.

Tommy Bahama will implement the Enterprise Order Management (EOM) solution from Aptos. Even though the retailer was already an Aptos customer, Atwood considered multiple providers before choosing them. “We went through a year of assessment on the right approach to take,” she said. “We use Hybris for e-Commerce and had just purchase a Manhattan Associates system for warehouse management, and each of them offers an order management solution. We landed on Aptos because of the tight integration to our retail systems, the store and POS — that’s even more important than the integration to the warehouse system.”

For the analytics/business intelligence solution, the Aptos user experience was a key selling point. “Their solution had a great visual experience to it, and it already had all of our retail and e-Commerce data in it,” said Atwood. “The most important part of any system is its adoptability by business users. They have to want to use the system, and the way that happens is with a system that’s easy to use, easy to understand and very visual.

“We have to do this, because the world is demanding it,” Atwood added. “Consumers want to shop a certain way now, so it’s not an option for us. Expectations are changing out there.”

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