Retail chain Chinese Laundry, which sells women’s shoes, had relied on disparate systems, which caused confusion and inefficiency.
Keep it simple and singular—that’s the e-commerce technology lesson offered by Chinese Laundry, a retail chain that makes and sells women’s shoes.
Until about five or six years ago, the e-retailer used a lot of homegrown technology for its e-commerce operations, says Scott Cohn, Chinese Laundry’s vice president of e-commerce. As online and general sales continued to grow at the privately held firm, Chinese Laundry started buying other, separate systems, including new point-of-sale technology for its stores. The retailer also hired a company to manage its technology systems, he adds.
Problems didn’t take long to surface. “Things were constantly out of sync and had to be jerry-rigged to work with the back end,” says Cohn, who will further describe his experiences at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition in June in a session entitled “The Grass is Never Greener on the Other Side of a Technology Integration.” Checking inventory via the disparate systems made “inventory visibility very cloudy,” he says, and payments were tracked in one system, with the rest of an order’s information stored in another. “We did that for 18 months,” he said.
When the technology contracts expired, Chinese Laundry sought bids for a new, single, integrated e-commerce platform system and decided to hire Celerant Technology Corp., which had provided some of the previous technology to the retailer, Cohn says. “The old Celerant website was resurrected and turned on,” making the switch that much easier, he says.
The latest version of the Chinese Laundry platform, launched in August 2014, ties together order and inventory information from different sources and has a customer relationship management system that gives the retailer a “single view” of shoppers, he says—for instance, a customer who goes into one of the Chinese Laundry stores in Las Vegas and gives her email address can be segmented and marketed to under a single account, no matter if she makes another store purchase or goes home and shops the Chinese Laundry e-commerce site.