How Online Sports Retailer Wiggle Competes With The ‘Big Kids’

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When Wiggle, a UK-based online purveyor of athletic gear for triathletes, doubled its revenue from £200 to £400 million in an 18-month period beginning in 2014, its IT systems couldn’t keep pace.

That expansion, the result of deft attention to customer satisfaction and the acquisition of rival Chain Reaction Cycles, left Wiggle with some 200 home-grown and acquired financial and procurement systems, most of which didn’t talk with one another or scale to accommodate growth.

Rather than cobble them together, Wiggle worked with strategic systems integrator Hitachi Consulting to add modern applications to run its back-office and retail operations. It moved its core financial activities to Oracle ERP Cloud.

The cloud puts large and small retailers on equal technology footing, notes Wiggle CIO Jeff Wollen, because they all have access to the same regular updates without the expense of maintaining an elaborate infrastructure.

“Because Wiggle is nimble, we can jump straight to world-class products and systems that are available in the Oracle Cloud that we never could have had access to before,” he says. “Now we can compete with the big kids.”

Oracle ERP Cloud allows Wiggle’s finance team around-the-clock access, from anywhere in the world, to up-to-the-minute information about ledgers, payables and receivables; fixed assets and cash management; supplier balances, invoices, and payments; cash positions and forecasts; regulatory and management reporting; and integration with the company’s banks.

Wiggle’s finance team particularly values the cloud software’s built-in data analytics capabilities and data dashboards, which let them easily see how the business is performing at any moment in time, and predict how it will perform moving forward. They also like the software’s automation of routine tasks, such as “invoice matching,” whereby the software validates that Wiggle receives the correct inventory from suppliers, helping the team finish the monthly close in two days rather than two weeks.

Based on his experience with ERP implementations at other companies, Wollen initially thought the Oracle implementation would take at least three years, but it was up and running in less than six months, within budget. Wiggle conducted a comprehensive change-management program to ensure a smooth transition with users.

“For every penny you spend on a piece of technology, spend an equal amount on the softer side of business change,” Wollen advises.

Little Is the New Big

Wiggle became the first European retailer to go live on Oracle ERP Cloud, in February 2016. Then, on October 31 of last year, just in time for the holiday shopping season, the company went live with its new retail platform, combining Oracle Retail Merchandising System with Oracle Retail Merchandise Financial Planning.

Wiggle can now better manage its buying and merchandising programs. For example, it can tell, hour by hour, which products are selling and need to be replenished, and which are not. The shorter the time the company has to store unsold inventory in its warehouse, the better.

The retail software also helps Wiggle manage its product pricing more efficiently, as it can project sales volumes and resulting profits for products that are selling swiftly, and works out discounts for products that aren’t as popular.

“With the Oracle Retail Merchandising System feeding ERP cloud we can carry out the science of supply and demand, inbound and outbound cost analysis, discounting, promotions, and yield management in a very sophisticated way,” Wollen says.

The rising popularity of triathlons—in part due to a wider variety of events, from “baby” sprint competitions all the way up to the Ironman competitions —bodes well for Wiggle’s continued growth. Meantime, cycling continues to grow in popularity, as TV coverage of the Tour de France and the Olympics draws attention to that sport.

As Wiggle capitalizes on those trends with its variety of cycling, running, and swimming gear fueling revenue growth now at about 15% to 20% a year, Wollen and team will continue to take advantage of IT innovations delivered in the cloud, he says.

“Little is the new big. Even though we’re a bit of an upstart company, we’ve got the same world-class applications delivered through the cloud as the UK’s John Lewis stores,” he says. “Who would have thought that was possible a few years ago?”

Wollen paraphrases Charles Darwin: “It’s not the strongest or the fittest or the fastest who will survive, but the most adaptable to change.”

Linda Currey Post covers science and technology advances as a senior writer at Oracle.

 

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