Business to Consumer Website with ERP Integration

Project Summary and Client Background

After a successful launch of the Magnolia Brand website for Standard Furniture, Bit-Wizards also built a complete consumer-facing website for the corporate brand: Standard Furniture. The purpose of this site is to showcase Standard products and provide graphical and informational data on designs and finished products that consumers might find in retail stores. It also serves as a base platform for the future functionality of business to business order entry, tracking, fulfillment, marketing collateral distribution, and sales rep pricing and quoting.

Founded in 1946, Standard Furniture is a leading case goods manufacturer and is family-owned and American-based. Standard Furniture operates manufacturing and distribution facilities in Bay Minette, Alabama. Combined, Standard Furniture has nearly a thousand employees both domestically and overseas. With more than 80% of their workforce based in the US, they have 1.4 million square feet of manufacturing space, 1.5 million square feet of warehouse space and a fleet of 40+ trucks which enable Standard to provide delivery options to meet their retailer’s needs. To service the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s customers, Standard Furniture is currently undergoing a renaissance, providing a new experience with their website and order processing systems.

The Challenge

After working closely with the Standard Furniture IT and Marketing teams on the Magnolia Home Brand website, to find the right technologies to meet their goals, Bit-Wizards knew that the goals for this site would be similar with a need for scalability.

The Standard Furniture marketing team needed to build content, publish and run campaigns without continual assistance from the IT department. Due to their B2C audience needs, the site also had to be responsive for optimal user experience when browsing on mobile devices. Along with marketing functionality, the Standard required the website to integrate with their backend custom ERP System residing on an IBM AS400 hardware and IBM DB2 Relational Database system. This provided the ability to sync near real-time with their product catalog and facilitate future e-commerce and integration needs.
 

Project Goals

As part of the initial phase of a multi-phased project, the Bit-Wizards team built a consumer-facing website for the Standard Furniture Corporate brand. The high-level business goals are outlined below:

  • The site had to be able to integrate with Standard Furniture’s custom developed ERP system, Supply Chain Management, and Order system. This system, deployed on IBMs AS400 hardware will integrate with the future B2B ecommerce website launching shortly after the consumer site and to sync products and attributes.

  • The solution had to serve two very different customers (once the ecommerce site is launched), both a business to consumer (B2C) and business to business (B2B) audiences.

  • Reflect the Standard Furniture Brand with a new and fresh modern look.

  • Solve the needs of the marketing team to build and publish content, marketing collateral, and nurture their audience without the continual need of IT support

  • Provide an optimal user experience across all devices.

The Solution

Business Solution

Microsoft Azure Cloud provides the global hardware and web platform hosting the Kentico Online Marketing Solution allowing seamless scalability and an SLA of 99.995%. Kentico provides robust content management, integration, and enterprise marketing functionality. The website is fully responsive and optimized for mobile browsing.

Standard Furniture’s business model centers on furniture “suites” or “collections”. The website’s search functionality supports delivering results centered on those collections. Along with the marketing functionality of the Kentico platform, Bit-Wizards expanded the website’s power by building custom integration for Standard Furniture’s future B2B order fulfillment needs from their Lawson BB2 Database.

This integration required a team effort and was performed in partnership with Standard Furniture’s internal AS400 systems programmers and information technology department engineers.
 

Technical Solution

Hosted in Microsoft Azure, this Kentico website utilizes the Bootstrap 4 framework on the front-end along with CSS and JavaScript for interactive elements. The Bit-Wizards Solution Delivery Team also had to consider Standard’s need to access the data stored in Standard’s Lawson ERP System’s database, which is replicated to Microsoft Azure. This was done to ensure a smooth and effective user experience. Bit-Wizards uses SQL stored procedures to query data from Standard’s databases and run it through the Kentico API using scheduled tasks, which in turn, create objects and perform actions required in Kentico.

Standard Furniture required the Kentico Smart Search functionality to work uniquely to accommodate their need to display suites (a collection of products with similar design) and virtual SKU groups (a single product in a range of colors, sizes, finishes, and other attributes.) Both suites and virtual SKU groups needed to display a collection of products that belonged to the suite or virtual SKU group, and both had different requirements for what to display in the search results. To handle the virtual SKU groups, Bit-Wizards built a custom page type to drive the content of the search result. Thus allowing Standard Furniture to show their full range of products without creating duplicate results. These custom page types enable Standard Furniture to select the best product image to initially display on the search results and to edit the product description at the group-level while providing the very best performance and user experience from the underlying Lucene search engine on which the Kentico Search is built.

Next, Bit-Wizards used custom code to build unique search fields on suites and virtual SKU groups that would allow users to search by a product attribute or term (such as “chair”) and have the correct collections return in the results, along with the other available options for the product. These search fields had to be built using data from all the related products to ensure accurate search results. Bit-Wizards also added an option for the Standard Furniture team to mark products as “featured” so that they will display at the top of returned search results. This way, they can market specific products over others as needed for inventory purposes.

To ensure the very best modern user experience and flexibility for Standard customers, Bit-Wizards modified a lazy load custom web part from the Kentico marketplace to display the results of the Kentico smart search seamlessly, allowing consumers to browse their products filtered in a variety of ways. These modifications included rebinding of JavaScript events on each page load to ensure a smooth user experience, and to handle the different sorting options required by the client.

Accurate availability of Standard products and services need to be communicated to customers on the website. To achieve this, Bit-Wizards created a custom scheduled Kentico task to update these virtual SKU groups throughout the day. As the availability of the products can change at any time, the virtual SKUs needed to be managed depending on the number of products currently available to show to the consumer. This task looks at items that have been recently updated and ensures the virtual SKU groups don’t show up if any of their associated products aren’t enabled.

Other integration and custom functionality:

  • Google Maps API along with location services to provide dealer location information for B2C site users.
  • Kentico’s smart search functionality was modified to bring the collections and suits of products together for the user.
  • Custom roles and permissions logic that works to support the Standard Furniture business processes.
  • Custom web service that uses jQuery to call from the front-end via AJAX to do an auto look-up when a user searches for products.
  • Integration for email sending using Sendgrid custom API
  • Development, QA, and Production sites within Kentico and Microsoft Azure

The Result

This site is another step in the unification of the Standard Furniture brands and it allows them to streamline ordering across their business units while also using the new design and experience of their website to showcase their products in a visually appealing way.

Client Name: Standard Furniture
Year: 2017
Industry: Consumer Goods
Founded in 1946, Standard Furniture is a leading case goods manufacturer and is family-owned and American-based. Standard Furniture operates manufacturing and distribution facilities in Bay Minette, Alabama. Combined, Standard Furniture has nearly a thousand employees both domestically and overseas. With more than 80% of their workforce based in the US, they have 1.4 million square feet of manufacturing space, 1.5 million square feet of warehouse space and a fleet of 40+ trucks which enable Standard to provide delivery options to meet their retailer’s needs.
  • ADO.NET
  • AJAX
  • AS400 Integration
  • ASP.NET
  • C#
  • CSS3
  • Geo-location Services
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Maps
  • Infragistics.NET
  • JSON Web Services
  • Microsoft Azure Active Directory
  • Microsoft Azure REDIS Cache Service
  • Microsoft Azure SQL Database
  • Responsive Design
  • Scribe

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