July 27, 2006, 12:00 AM

Crossing Channels

(Page 3 of 3)

With the integrated system, customers now view real-time inventory, Zucker says, adding that K&L; displays notices throughout KLWines.com that inventory is constantly updated. “So when they place an online order for a rare bottle of wine, they know the inventory is accurate. And when a store customer walks up to the counter with the last bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet 1997, the second they buy it we know the inventory status across all stores and warehouses, web and call center.”

The new database also supports several new initiatives. A new “Coming Soon” feature on KLWines.com, for instance, lets customers see what new wines have been ordered and sign up to receive an e-mail alert when they arrive. As a K&L; buyer places orders for new wine with suppliers, he enters the purchase order and product attributes into a Visual Basic application within the SQL Server software. When the new wine arrives at a K&L; warehouse, a receiving worker scans it into the SQL system, making the product information and availability instantly viewable in the online Coming Soon feature.

Multi-channel CRM

K&L; is also planning to implement a new multi-channel CRM system and it’s looking into offering online auctions of extremely rare wines. Both new services will be supported by the SQL Server database, Zucker says.

A centralized, integrated database platform can present other opportunities as well, experts say. One technique growing in popularity, for instance, is text-mining of notes taken by customer service agents during conversations with customers, says Colin Shearer, vice president of market strategy for SPSS Inc., a provider of data analysis technology.

In the past, he says, text-mining was focused mostly on recording and analyzing books and other large documents, but now it’s being used to analyze smaller texts, such as customer service agents’ notes, and integrating them in real time with back-end databases of such information as customer buying patterns, inventory records, and promotional campaigns.

When a text-mining application recognizes particular words that indicate how a customer feels about a particular product or service, the system can instantly pull from back-end data to flash on the agent’s computer screen an offer tailored to that customer’s interests. Making this all possible, Shearer says, is the service-oriented architecture that uses web-enabled technology for real-time data flow among applications.

For Zucker, an integrated database platform has let him get back to the fundamentals his father used to launch K&L; Wine Merchants. “The biggest part of this for me is that I can concentrate on marketing wine, which is where my strengths are,” he says. “Now we can really grow the business. We can compete with anyone in the niche of specialty wine retailing.”

paul@verticalwebmedia.com

 

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