SharePoint

Covs Online Case Study Overview

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Customer Profile

Covs is a major auto parts, tools, equipment and consumables distribution comp​any that has been servicing the automotive, mining and industrial sectors in Western Australia since 1929, as a division of Automotive Holdings Group (AHG). AHG is a diversified automotive retailing and logistics group with operations in every Australian mainland state and in New Zealand.

Business Situation

Covs provides an online catalogue for its staff member and clients, on which users can search, view and order product references, and manage their account online. The catalogue was starting to fail Covs due to the growing user base, and the expanding diversity of references and categories. Moreover, Covs’ catalogue had not yet adapted to the mobile era, and was therefore not responsive on mobile devices.

Solution

Covs chose Connected Systems for the design, development and delivery of their new online catalogue called Covs Online. The aim was to make the online viewing and ordering faster and easier, and accessible from desktop as well as from mobile devices.

Benefits

  • Desktop and Mobile compatible
  • Multiple search options
  • Impersonation option
  • Performance gains
  • Personnel savings
  • Fast and user friendly

“Our digital experience with our own brand has drastically changed since Connected Systems implemented Covs Online. With thousands of references available, we needed something powerful and responsive. For both our clients and our staff, the new portal makes searching, viewing and ordering products a walk in the park!”

– Gordon Howell

Online Services Manager, Covs

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The Situation

The previous system in place consisted of an online catalogue, the fourth developed by Covs. The catalogue was non responsive, which means it could not be viewed properly on mobile devices, which constituted an issue for sales representatives and clients on the move. Moreover, the search system built in the system was long, slow and laborious: unless the user entered the exact words of the references he was looking for, he would have needed to find the reference by clicking through all relevant categories and subcategories until they could find the reference, provided there is one.

Between each of the steps, the user was redirected to a new page, and the results would not be visible until the user clicked on the most precise subcategory possible, which took a long time due to the slowness of the system (several minutes for a simple sear​ch).

The system also didn’t allow its users to have a clear view on their shopping cart. Whilst shopping and adding items to the shopping cart, the cart only displayed reference numbers, and not the name of the product the user had selected to purchase. This meant that if the user needed to operate a change in the order, they were unable to know which product to modify, and would have needed to click on every item separately to identify the order to be withdrawn/modified. Moreover, it was impossible to remove an item from the shopping cart once it had been added; clicking on the item would only redirect the user to the product page, without suggesting to remove the item from the cart.

The system had a function called “Direct Item Entry”, which allowed users to only write down the reference, and automatically import the product into the cart. This system inspired the Order PadConnected Systems designed for Covs. The older version was less ergonomic because it was only available on the tab, and not on the shopping cart page. Furthermore, unlike the order pad, data couldn’t be imported from Excel or a notepad.

“Our clients shopping for their daily essentials online to run their business could take hours – it wasn’t worthy of the Covs brand.”

– Paul Beenham

Business Services Manager, Covs

The Solution

Covs Online is a highly scalable and comprehensive e-Commerce web solution. This core line-of-business application is how Covs transacts with its 1000+ online clients, making it a critical business system.

Covs Online is comprised of a fully featured shopping cart, easy-to-use site administration facility, and a rich product catalogue and search facility that will easily support hundreds of thousands of products.

The Covs Online solution is based on the full Microsoft stack; this is replacing the older solution based-on open-source technologies that was not able to cope with either the size of the product catalogue, nor the volume of sales that Covs needs to successfully sell their products online. Covs Online is integrated with the Covs mainframe, which allows the users to get prices, available quantities and promotional prices on car parts and other related products in real time. The application has been designed and developed for mobile access, before also being designed for desktops.

Users can find products by using different search options such as:

  • Free text: users can enter a search criteria to find products matching the description. It is not necessary to enter the full word; the few first letters will allow the system to load matching suggestions.
  • Part number: All products have a part number; users can search by part numbers staring, containing or exactly matching a search criteria.
  • Make/Model/Series/Year: Users can search parts for a specific car model.
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN): Users can enter a vehicle identification number to search for parts. Covs Online will decode the VIN, extracting the car information (e.g. make, model, year, etc) to perform a vehicle search based on the car specifications.
  • Category or Brand: Users can get products by category or brand; Covs Online provides category and brand lists (clicking on a category or brand will display all its products).

Unlike with the previous system, users don’t need to navigate away from the search results to visualise a product’s full specifications; by simply clicking on a product, the full product details appear on a panel on the right of the screen.

Depending on the criteria entered, the search results could come back with thousands of products; Covs Online provides filters to narrow the search results further.

The new systems also provides improved individual shopping carts for each user on which they can add/remove products and update product quantities from the search results, product details panel and shopping lists, which they can create, edit and remove.

A newly added and unique feature to the system is the impersonation; users can authorise other users to order and purchase items on their behalf. For instance, this feature is generally used between a client (for example a car dealer) and a sales representative at Covs; the sales representative can impersonate the client to manage his account on his behalf, simply by entering the client’s account number.

“Our new e-commerce platform is a lot more efficient than it was before. This time, we’re really up to par. We expect our online sales to double within 5 years.”

– Gordon Howell

Online Services Manager, Covs

Another star feature of Covs Online are the Order Pads that have been mentioned above. Covs required a component that could cleanse data and import parts, straight into the shopping cart so that customers can generate an order straight from a variety of format, including Excel or notepad documents. Connected Systems developed the CovsOrder Pad using MVC and Json for data entry and cleansing, with SQL being used for the update. Covs had requested a component that would import 200 parts within 20 seconds. We utilised Table-Valued Functions and Stored Procedures, along with the standard SQL processing power, to validate and import one thousand parts into the Covs shopping cart in 2 seconds.

The order pad also skips the description of the product, the branch, prices and other details, only to keep the essentials to process a quick order: part number and quantities. For users who repeatedly purchase the same items, and therefore know exactly what the numbers refer to, the order pad is a much faster way to process an order.

Benefits

The solution brings a new level of performance to Covs Online Services. Firstly in terms of accessibility of information: clients and staff members are now able to access Covs Online from a mobile device as well, which makes it easier for salespeople in particular, who are constantly on the move.

Secondly, in terms of information scope, users can easily find what they are looking for using categories and filters, and display all the information related to a product in a single place.

Thirdly, Covs will make significant savings on administration personnel. Thanks to the new automated online e-commerce platform, Covs will receive less phone orders, which will enable staff members to allocate more time and effort on their other responsibilities.

Fourthly, the solution adds value to Covse-commerce thanks to its easy to use interface. It has been designed to make searches as fast and easy as possible to adapt to all levels of technology comfort and knowledge. The user experience being improved, the search, order and purchase processes have also been made easier and faster. Covs not only saves time internally, but also facilitates the clients’ processes. All these benefits directly impact Covs’ reputation and add value to the company.

The biggest contrast between before and after scenarios is definitely to be found in the timing. The system is now so much faster and easier to use that the clients/users will be able to place orders, purchase items and keep track of their stocks without requiring any assistance from Covs employees and/or sales representatives. Everyone from both sides can now focus on other responsibilities, and grant more time on their core businesses. Before the new system, sales representatives and customer service managers needed to be constantly on their guard and expect clients’ calls to place orders or to enquire about products’ availabilities. Today, all this information is available online.

Currently, the online sales represent 8.5% of the total sales of Covs. With the new system, Covs’ sales directors expect their online sales to grow to 12% in the short term and 20% in the long term.

Partnering with Connected Systems

This is what Covs has said about partnering with Connected Systems for the delivery of both their e-commerce platforms:

Connected Systems has been introduced to us by our colleagues at AHG, with whom the team has been working for years now. They knew all about our industry, our vision and our people: from day one, Connected Systems delivered the necessary expertise and knowledge to truly understand our requirements, and provide the best scenarios. The team is efficient, understanding and reliable; we know we can count on them to address our needs and not only to execute, but to contribute. We also deeply appreciate the team’s ability to work autonomously, independently and discreetly.”

– Paul Beenham

Business Services Manager, Covs​​​