Buying for babies should be fun. From smooth strollers to adorable clothes, consumers want choice—but also help finding their perfect products. AKIDS d.o.o., which owns the BabyCenter brand that operates in Slovenia and the surrounding region, aims to offer a one-stop-shop for everything caregivers need to nurture a child from birth through their early years. To thrive in a challenging retail landscape, AKIDS decided to invest in improving the shopping experience while streamlining its back-office processes.
Janez Breskvar Tiller, Head of Logistics at AKIDS, takes up the story: “Our biggest challenge is that we serve people at a very distinct stage of their lives: when they or a person close to them becomes a parent. Although thousands of babies are born every year, the population growth rate is declining in Slovenia and in central Europe as a whole. Because our potential market is contracting, it’s more important than ever for us to attract first-time shoppers and inspire them to return to us again and again.”
AKIDS relies on digital solutions to drive its operations—including an ERP system to help manage key processes such as finance, sales and distribution. To help foster customer loyalty and drive incremental sales, the company aimed to get to build a more accurate view of customer preferences, both in-store and online.
Egi Žaberl, CIO at AKIDS, explains: “Our previous ERP system was holding us back from achieving our omnichannel ambitions. The system offered limited visibility into customer preferences and purchase histories, which made it difficult to provide tailored offers and services. The old ERP system also lacked scalability, which put up roadblocks as we started to expand the business into Croatia and North Macedonia.”
To solve these challenges, AKIDS looked for a modern ERP solution that could support omnichannel retail across an international footprint. With a Europe-wide labor shortage to contend with, the company targeted a solution that enable it to onboard new employees quickly and ensure all staff could work as productively as possible. As Žaberl put it: “We set out to find the right partner and technology platform to kick off the next era for AKIDS.”
while scaling seamlessly
while increasing on-time deliveries to 100%
To realize its vision for omnichannel retail, AKIDS engaged IBM Business Partner BiLumina to deploy its unique ERP offering based on IBM® Db2® software.
“We quickly identified BiLumina ERP as the only option that makes sense for our business,” says Žaberl. “It is both competitively priced and flexible enough to tailor to our precise requirements. As soon as we met with the BiLumina team, we recognized that their way of working aligns with ours. Their main strengths are their ability to listen and how proactive they are about coming up with new features and modifications that deliver value. Since making our decision, we haven’t regretted it once.”
AKIDS teamed up with BiLumina to bring over 500 business processes onto the BiLumina platform, enabling unprecedented levels of automation and integration. Today, the company has opened physical stores and e-commerce sites serving Slovenia, Croatia, and North Macedonia, and has tailored the BiLumina ERP solution to enable standardized processes customized where necessary for international markets. All BiLumina business logic was developed within IBM Db2, which ensures consistently short response times, even during peak retail periods.
“Working with BiLumina, we’re connecting and automating all parts of our business,” explains Breskvar Tiller. “It’s hard to overstate the scale of the transformation. Take our warehouses, for example. Before, everything was manual. Now, warehouse management is 100 percent automated, from order through to delivery except for the physical picking of the goods. They’re so advanced that we regularly get requests to see them in action.”
With help from BiLumina, AKIDS gained real-time visibility of critical business insights, including stock levels. Using this information, the company can avoid stock-out situations both in store and online.
Equipped with the new digital capabilities, AKIDS is now moving towards an omnichannel delivery model. Žaberl elaborates: “We’re empowering customers to switch between online and in-store channels at any point on their shopping journey. For example, they can add items to their online basket, confirm whether they’re available in the store closest to them, and complete the purchase in person. Once in the store, they have the option of checking out their shopping basket on their mobile device or using the in-store POS [point-of-sales system], which offers a variety of payment options.”
AKIDS is taking advantage of its powerful new ERP capabilities to transform how it markets and sells to customers. Through its membership program, the company gives loyal shoppers the chance to access exclusive sales and promotions. Using segmentation tools within BiLumina ERP connected to Facebook and Google Analytics, AKIDS is targeting its marketing activities based on recency, frequency and value. The retailer is also deploying IBM Cognos® Analytics to dive deeper into its data and unlock new insights.
“If a customer buys a stroller from us, we want to make sure we don’t recommend they buy another one the next month,” says Breskvar Tiller. “We also want to make our recommendations even more sophisticated: for example, providing targeted, age-appropriate offers for every loyalty-program member. The result is happier, more loyal customers and higher sales—a win-win. We can do all this and more in BiLumina. Now, we’re harnessing Cognos Analytics to delve even deeper into what our customers want.”
Working with BiLumina, AKIDS integrates its systems directly with suppliers and delivery providers. BiLumina is building a B2B supplier portal to the company’s specifications, which will help AKIDS to grow its presence in Italy, Ukraine and further afield. Breskvar Tiller adds: “The B2B supplier portal will help us capitalize on opportunities for expansion. And the beauty of working with BiLumina and their mastery of IBM Db2 means we know we’ll have a working solution within just a few months.”
AKIDS is seeing rapid returns from its investments in BiLumina and IBM technology, which are helping the company win customers in its domestic and international markets. By combining omnichannel experiences with tailored promotions, AKIDS is enticing shoppers to return to the company’s physical and online stores again and again.
“Since we implemented BiLumina ERP based on IBM Db2, we’ve seen our sales rise by 1000 percent,” comments Breskvar Tiller. “Online, we’ve grown exponentially. Even our brick-and-mortar stores in Slovenia, which is our most mature marketplace, are growing by 5 to 10 percent, which shows our strategy is working. Our new ERP capabilities help us adapt to the changing needs of our marketplace faster and more effectively.”
Designed to scale seamlessly, the BiLumina and IBM solution enables AKIDS to accommodate a huge surge in customer demand with zero growing pains. Even during the pandemic, when its sales shifted to 100 percent online and increased sharply, the company sustained an exceptional level of customer service.
“Through automation and the efficiencies we’ve gained from BiLumina and IBM, we’ve cut delivery times from 8 days to 48 hours and increased on-time deliveries to 100 percent,” states Breskvar Tiller. “We have an incredibly extensive product range that spans more than 100,000 SKUs—and we’re adding new collections of 10,000 SKUs every season. IBM Db2 handles everything that we throw at it, providing the real-time insights we need to ensure our customers always find what they’re looking for.”
When AKIDS merged with another large retailer in Slovenia, the BiLumina and IBM solution helped simplify the process. As the company looks to the future, it’s positive about what it can bring to existing and new customers.
Breskvar Tiller concludes: “Mergers are complicated, but bringing an entire company onto BiLumina ERP based on IBM Db2 was surprisingly straightforward—the whole process only took six months. We didn’t even lose any market share in the process! Now we’re excited to extend our reporting capabilities with IBM Cognos, which will help us build an even more compelling market proposition for our customers. BiLumina and IBM are more than just partners—they’re the foundation of our business.”
AKIDS is a retailer headquartered in Slovenia that offers a wide range of products for babies and young children and owns the BabyCenter brand. Through bricks-and-mortar stores in Slovenia, Croatia, and North Macedonia, plus e-commerce sites and B2B services in all three countries, AKIDS aims to provide everything for a baby or child’s firsts, from first tooth, to crawling, walking, first day of daycare or school, and beyond.
BiLumina aims to help businesses grow brighter through innovative ERP solutions and consultancy. Its bespoke ERP offering is based on IBM Db2 software and provides exceptional performance and simplicity, and is aimed at transforming retail and wholesale companies.
To learn more about the IBM solutions featured in this story, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner.
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