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WebSphere Boosts E-tailer's Presence in Japan

By Erika Morphy
Jul 19, 2002 12:19 PM PT

In launching an online retail presence in Japan, L.L. Bean is relying on the latest WebSphere Commerce application to help integrate inventory and order-management systems -- and to connect directly to third-party suppliers.

WebSphere Boosts E-tailer's Presence in Japan

One feature that could help L.L Bean in this venture is the ability to let third-party order-fulfillment partners process Web orders.

Normally, a company's inventory is distributed over multiple fulfillment centers, which can be internal or extended to support the notion of distribution partners, according to Errol Denger, WebSphere product manager at IBM.

The new version of WebSphere incorporates the notion of a fulfillment center into its design, Denger said.

Fulfillment Central

In WebSphere, line-of-business interfaces are prepackaged for fulfillment-center roles. Every role has a line-of-business interface, and specific roles are divided up so that the third party cannot access the whole storefront -- only the fulfillment-center functionality.

Thus, a third-party logistics or distribution provider can log in to L.L. Bean's fulfillment center through a VPN (virtual private network) or a private port. That distribution partner would be considered part of the organization. But it would only be able to control and see orders that come in through its own fulfillment center.

Best Practice

Adding a new level of integration into a retailer's back-end systems and into its distribution partner's systems is becoming a best practice for the industry, according to Giga vice president Erin Kinikin.

"The customer shouldn't have to know that the company has five different divisions and three manufacturing plants -- just that their order is on schedule for delivery on Friday," Kinikin told CRM Buyer Magazine.

"Products like WebSphere are working to deliver improved enterprise integration, more sophisticated personalization and analysis, and flexible business process and workflow engines to serve customer requests in a manner transparent to the underlying company infrastructure," she said.

The Cultural Factor

L.L. Bean has also taken pains to ensure its Japan Web site has been localized for the Japan market, Leslie Givens, program director, WebSphere Commerce, told CRM Buyer.

"[The L.L. Bean site] provides multicultural support in currency, tax and shipping," she said.

Another feature is a pronunciation database to help customer service representatives properly pronounce names. "Pronunciation in Japanese can be difficult, varying from region to region," she said.

"L.L. Bean felt that its customer service staff should have a database to serve as a guide."

Expanding Presence

The new Japanese site represents the U.S. retailer's ongoing commitment to the e-commerce space. According to IDC, e-commerce in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to grow from US$37 billion in 2001 to $894 billion in the upcoming years.

Zane Shatzer, managing director for the retailer's Japanese branch Office said that the company's expansion in Japan is a move from retail and catalogs only to the creation of a Web presence.

Shatzer said the new Japanese Web site will include the same features of L.L. Bean's popular U.S. site.

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