On-demand ERP vendor NetSuite targets retailers

New suite for multi-channel businesses has features for creating Web stores that connect with retail locations, providing a unified view of inventory and customer info

On-demand ERP (enterprise resource planning) vendor NetSuite is gunning for business among North American retailers with a new software suite for multi-channel businesses, the company announced Wednesday.

The Multi-Channel Retail Management Suite has features for creating Web stores that connect with retail locations, providing a unified view of inventory, accounting, and customer information; package tracking information for customers; and support for multiple currencies and languages. NetSuite is also integrated with eBay.

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Other capabilities include marketing campaign tools, such as a "shopping cart abandonment" feature that can be used to send customers coupons for items they initially placed in their online shopping cart but subsequently failed to buy.

Pricing for the suite varies based on specific customer configuration requirements, the company said.

NetSuite is also hyping the suite's tight integration with the point-of-sale system made by OnSite, a software vendor that also makes a number of other products that integrate with NetSuite. OnSite's POS features include electronic signature capture and the ability to create gift cards.

While NetSuite has aligned forces with OnSite, customers will still be able to integrate NetSuite's software with other point-of-sale systems, a spokesman said.

NetSuite customer Distribution Video & Audio, of Palm Harbor, Florida, is using the OnSite POS, said CEO Brad Kugler.

DVA is primarily a wholesale and online business, but each December it opens up its warehouse for a sale that draws thousands, he said. "We were in dire need of some type of point-of-sale add-on to NetSuite."

The company went with OnSite due to its tight integration with NetSuite, he said. "Downloading inventory [information] to a POS and then back? I didn't want to deal with that."

DVA is only using the OnSite system four or five days a year. "I was able to get it very cheaply because of that," he said.

Overall, NetSuite and the on-demand model have worked out well for DVA, according to Kugler.

Before NetSuite, DVA had been using a range of software, including spreadsheets to track inventory and Intuit's QuickBooks product. As revenue climbed toward $20 million, the company began looking for a unified system, he said.

There are "definitely fewer headaches" with the on-demand model compared with on-premise systems he has used from SAP and Microsoft, he said: "It's not possible to have a system like that without a full IT staffer [on site], and there's $80,000 [a year] right there. I'm not into cutting jobs, but I don't need it."

NetSuite has proved to be reliable, according to Kugler. So far he has had only one unscheduled service outage, which lasted about an hour.

Although he is not sure whether the on-demand model has proved to be less expensive, dollar for dollar, it offers him greater day-to-day flexibility, Kugler said: "I can travel more, my sales guys can, and I can do orders on the spot at trade shows. We were never able to do that before."

While ERP vendor Epicor has launched a SaaS product for retailers, many other vendors in the retail ERP space -- which includes giants such as SAP and Oracle, as well as a range of specialists including Island Pacific and Retalix -- have not yet followed suit, said Janet Suleski, research director, retail, at AMR Research.

Suleski praised the multi-channel focus in the new NetSuite offering. Other vendors "haven't cracked the code on multi-channel retailing yet," she said. "[But] the key word is 'yet.'"

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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