Customers expect the ability to browse, buy, collect and return items on any mix of Eileen Fisher's channels — but time-consuming and costly manual processes behind the scenes put the brakes on growth.
Eileen Fisher is building a central inventory, order promising and fulfillment hub based on IBM Sterling Order Management — enabling true omni-channel retail capabilities and differentiated customer experiences.
Boostsaccuracy and trust in inventory data, helping associates serve customers faster
Supportsfulfillment models such as ship from store, reducing operational costs
Delightscustomers, driving incremental sales and reducing customer acquisition cost
Business challenge story
Tailoring services to new demands
Consumers have more options than ever when it comes to where, when and how they shop. To keep pace with these growing expectations, retailers must deliver seamless experiences across a diverse range of channels. However, many enterprises face the challenge of bringing together disparate, siloed systems behind the scenes.
This was the situation for Eileen Fisher, a sustainable fashion retail brand headquartered in Irvington, New York that operates approximately 50 retail stores and an e-commerce site. The company knew that offering consistent, high-quality customer experiences would be vital to achieve its revenue goals — but the manual, time-consuming processes required to deliver them limited its ability to scale.
Keir McIntyre, Director of Direct to Consumer Technology at Eileen Fisher, explains: “Our objective is to delight our customers by empowering them to shop however they want, and make it as easy as possible to fix things if something goes wrong. We believe it’s essential to infuse this philosophy into everything that we do — and the digital channel is a key opportunity to bring it to life.”
In the past, Eileen Fisher managed its online, retail and wholesale businesses as separate financial entities, each with their own inventory management systems. As inventory levels were only updated periodically, in-store associates had low trust in the inventory data. If a customer’s preferred item wasn’t available, associates had to call other stores in the area to confirm they were carrying it — adding significant time to the customer journey. And because the company was unable to use inventory from all channels to fulfill orders, it risked missing out on sales opportunities when trends took off.
Product returns also depended heavily on manual processes, which created challenges when inventory purchased online was returned to a retail store. Receiving, processing and shipping an online order back to the warehouse increased the cost and complexity of the reconciliation process. Crucially, it consumed valuable time that in-store associates could otherwise use to serve customers.
“We knew our manual processes simply wouldn’t scale any further, which was putting the brakes on revenue growth,” comments McIntyre. “We set out on an omni-channel retail transformation. As a first step, we wanted the ability to manage all inventory across the business as a single pool — and we started our search for a world-class order management system.”
Embracing omni-channel retail
To create a centralized inventory, order promising and fulfillment hub, Eileen Fisher selected IBM Sterling Store Engagement and IBM Sterling Call Center, part of the IBM Sterling Order Management solution. As well as supporting popular models such as ship from store (SFS) and buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS), IBM Sterling Store Engagement offers in-store associates an accurate, near-real-time view of inventory levels at multiple locations. Combined with IBM Sterling Call Center, the solution enables Eileen Fisher’s customers to modify their orders over the phone, regardless of the channel the order was placed on.
“Our key criteria for the solution were flexibility, user-friendliness, ease of maintenance and cost-effectiveness,” recalls McIntyre. “Before we started evaluating IBM Sterling Order Management, we had the impression that IBM solutions were only designed for far larger retailers than us, but all our experiences since then have shown us that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“In practically every area, IBM Sterling Order Management outperformed all of the other platforms we considered. It was IBM’s demonstration of the solution that really convinced us we’d made the right choice. Many of our in-store associates aren’t tech-savvy, so it was crucial that the solution was intuitive. When we tried IBM Sterling Store Engagement, we realized right away how easy it would be to train our people — ensuring we could hit the ground running when the solution went live.”
To accelerate its omni-channel transformation, Eileen Fisher engaged IBM Business Partner Publicis Sapient.
“From the outset, we were clear that we wanted an expert partner to support us on our transformation journey, and Publicis Sapient offered us the end-to-end service we were looking for,” McIntyre continues. “Publicis Sapient has been with us every step of the way — from the pre-study and roadmap-building to implementation and technical support.”
Working with Publicis Sapient, Eileen Fisher successfully transitioned to a single, central order management hub powered by IBM Sterling Order Management, and integrated with the retailer’s Magento e-commerce platform. Because Eileen Fisher had not made significant technology investments in the past, it required a larger IBM Sterling Order Management footprint than other retailers of a similar size.
“Within just six months, we successfully completed the first phase of our IBM Sterling Order Management deployment, which gave us a single view of all inventory in our retail and online businesses for the first time,” explains McIntyre. “We can now offer in-store associates an accurate, fine-grained view of inventory levels across all our retail stores. Because we now manage all our inventory in a single platform, we’ve significantly reduced the manual effort involved in our cross-channel product returns process. Most importantly, our associates can find stock faster, which enables higher-quality customer services.”
Delighting customers and driving sales
With IBM Sterling Order Management driving its omni-channel retail transformation, Eileen Fisher is reducing the cost and complexity of delivering outstanding customer services. As it begins to automate its fulfillment processes, the company is building the solid foundation it needs to drive growth.
“Thanks to IBM Sterling Order Management, our in-store associates have far greater trust in our inventory data,” says McIntyre. “Although our work with the platform is just beginning, feedback from the business has been extremely positive. Because our people rely less on time-consuming phone calls to find inventory information, we’re confident that we will see an improvement in productivity and an increase in customer satisfaction.”
Eileen Fisher is now working with Publicis Sapient on the next phase of its project, which will introduce SFS, BOPIS capabilities and a new call center application.
“We believe that adding fulfillment models such as SFS will be a game-changer for Eileen Fisher,” continues McIntyre. “By using stock from our retail stores and warehouses to fulfill orders placed on either of those channels, we can help ensure we capture every sales opportunity and at the same time reduce the risk of large amounts of unsold inventory building up in parts of the business where demand is lower. When SFS goes live, we predict we’ll see a substantial lift in online sales. We’re also confident that the improved logistics efficiency of the SFS model will help us reduce our average shipping costs.”
Eileen Fisher is already planning innovative ways to enhance its omni-channel order management platform. As well as exposing its wholesale inventory to shoppers on other channels, the company sees potential to use AI-powered insights to further enhance the efficiency of its inventory management processes.
McIntyre concludes: “More than ever, fashion retailers need to adapt to how customers want to shop—and with IBM Sterling Order Management, we’re on the way to becoming a true omni-channel enterprise.”
About Eileen Fisher
Founded in 1984 and headquartered in Irvington, New York, Eileen Fisher is a fashion retail brand. With more than 65 standalone stores and 1,000 department and specialty locations worldwide, Eileen Fisher makes ethical clothes designed to work together, wear effortlessly and be part of a responsible lifecycle.
Take the next step
Find out why IDC has ranked IBM as a leader in distributed order orchestration: ibm.com/account/reg/us-en/signup?formid=urx-33850. To learn more about the IBM Sterling Order Management, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: https://www.ibm.com/products/order-management
Publicis Sapient, the digital business transformation hub of Publicis Groupe, helps clients drive growth and efficiency and evolve the ways they work. With 19,000 people and over 100 offices around the globe, Publicis Sapient’s expertise spans technology, data sciences, consulting and creative—enabling it to deliver on complex transformation initiatives.
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