Data, decision-making and customer delight 

Data is empowering. Enterprises that enjoy the benefits of a unified system, with relevant data at their employees’ fingertips, are more efficient and enjoy quicker sales conversion.

This was the message of a session titled “Browser-based enterprise resource planning (ERP): Managing the jewellery ecosystem” at the SGL Retail Jeweller India Forum 2019. The panel included Vivek Das, MD, Synergics Solutions; GurukeerthiGurunathan, co-founder, CaratLane; and Siddhartha Sawansukha, CEO, SawansukhaJewellers.

In his opening presentation, Das said that innovation in retail is synonymous with smart automation. The great value of automation, he said, is that it helps a jewellery business to manage its ecosystem. Saving time and improving efficiency are a retailer’s two biggest concerns, and the only way to achieve them is by automation. The first step, he advised, is to make good use of a Google spreadsheet for example, so that a retailer can see information in a sequential manner.

Das explained how a well-run, automated ERP system works, using a common example: a purchase order. “First, the back office has to raise a foolproof vendor purchase order. The seamless flow of information should reflect on the vendor portal, which also collates information on design and materials, for each product. To make the vendors’ job easier,”he continued, “the automated system also provides a dashboard for the vendor and procurer to check the status of shipped and unshipped materials, and the design requirements.”

In the case of CaratLane, the renowned online jewellery retailer, several vendors feed data to into the company’s system. CaratLane is interacting with these vendors constantly and individually, but not at the physical level.

Gurukeerthi of CaratLane explained how this is done. “Synergics has played a very crucial role in this. Today, vendors are able to interact with our system through a standardised interface that is jointly agreed-to. Even with multiple vendors, the scaleability aspect is very easy,” he said, “because there won’t be more than 10–20 vendors at a given time in a B2B setup. We were able to do this with the new system and not the earlier one, which was very clumsy.”

He flags another benefit. “A problem we used to face was comparing the gold rate at the time a customer placed an order to the rate at the time we received the product. The new system helped us solve that problem, too.”

Equipping a salesperson with apposite data, said Das, enables them to engage effectively with each customer and provide a good shopping experience. Doing that is what makes conversions happen. “Thirty-nine per cent of customer frustration,” said Das, “is due to the long time taken during billing — but there are multiple ways in which you can reduce the time taken and give a more engaging experience to your customers.”

Customer relationship management (CRM) should encompass more than wishing customers on birthdays and anniversaries. “An ERP system should be intelligent enough to analyse and predict what the customer wants,” Das said. Further, “Approvals and controls must happen on the go, because growth is deterred wherever the physical presence of the owner is required.” Owners, Das explained, should focus their time and attention on growing the company, not on being physically present to exercise control.

Retailers need standardised data and seamless operations, said Gurukeerthi. “CaratLane was born a digital company, but at first our data were in non-integrated silos. Today, we have grown from an online to an omni-channel business. This helps our customers to see our products anywhere and buy them anywhere, so that we can ship them anywhere. We do not depend on individuals for our data, only on systems.”

Das turned, next, to ERP’s potential in ironing out what he called the biggest challenge faced by retailers. “Discounts are an integral part of every retail business,” he said. “People ask for discounts, and only the owner is empowered to take such decisions. The system should be able to get the threshold value (the base value below which said product can’t be sold), whether or not the owner is on the premises. This leads to faster conversion and there is no lag.”

On how ERP helps in managing discounts, Sawansukha said, “An ERP system can inform your sales staff, managers and you as the owner about the rock-bottom price for each piece, below which no discount should be allowed. When the prices are clearly defined and justified, this helps clients appreciate your uncompromising brand value. It helps you multiply sales instead of multiplying discounts.”

Yet another of ERP’s many potential advantages was highlighted by Gurukeerthi. CaratLane, he said, has an inventory-light business model. Rather than invest heavily on the inventory side, the retailer concentrates on the design offering and on accurate cataloguing.

“We can’t operate in the traditional way of looking at the stock price at the end of the day,” said Gurukeerthi. “For us, it’s more important to look at the valuation of the inventory and ensure that it doesn’t go beyond the threshold value. The ERP does this very well for us.”

“Roughly 70 per cent of the customers who walk into our stores,” he added, “have already browsed our online platform More than half the battle is won already. The rest is very easily wrapped up with the help of person-to-person conversations inside the store.”

Finally, a crucial point about security. If the enterprise is managed through data, securing against data leakage and misuse are not optional. “We encrypt data and have an OTP system in place. Our ratio of backup is 1:3 always.”

In short, retail jewellers cannot afford to ignore ERP. And if they do have it, they cannot afford to take it lightly.