February 21, 2013, 12:34 PM

A sports drink manufacturer gets a boost from its e-commerce platform

Overall b2b and b2c sales at Nuun and Co. are up 180% since 2009.

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Nuun and Co. makes energy tablets that mountain bikers, hikers and others can carry in their pockets and drop into a bottle of water to make a sports drink on the go. And with an e-commerce platform that supports sales to retailers as well as to consumers, it boosted its sales to $7.3 million last year, up 28% from $5.7 million in 2011, says chief financial officer Casey Otley.

Nuun (pronounced noon) focuses on providing a convenient way for athletes and outdoor enthusiasts to carry a source of minerals and electrolytes without having to lug bottles of a prepared sports drink. Nuun packages its products in small containers of 16 tablets; each tablet is good for a 16-ounce drink designed to replenish minerals like sodium and potassium, which, according to MedlinePlus, an online information service by the U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health, the body processes as electrolytes to improve muscle action, blood chemistry and other processes.

Nuun does most of its business through about 500 retailers, including national retail chains as well as mom-and-pop stores, for a total of some 3,000 individual locations. About 10% of sales are to consumers through its e-commerce site, Shop.Nuun.com.

Managing its b2b sales became more efficient and easier, Otley says, after Nuun launched in 2008 an e-commerce site, integrated with accounting and financial modules, as a single technology platform from NetSuite Inc. The NetSuite SuiteCommerce software-as-a-service platform, which Nuun accesses through the Internet, replaced a stand-alone online shopping cart and Intuit Inc. QuickBooks accounting software.

Under the NetSuite system, Nuun is better able to keep records of sales to its b2b client retailers as well as direct sales to customers on Shop.Nuun.com, and to coordinate orders with its four fulfillment centers, Otley says. Before deploying the NetSuite technology, Nuun would take a full day to pull reports on sales and inventory records; now it can get within minutes reports with more useful information, such as which b2b clients are placing the largest orders for products with the highest profit margins.

“If we see a retailer ordering once a week, we now make sure they get the attention they need and see what we can do to make them even more successful,” Otley says. If a retailer is selling a lot of Nuun All Day Hydration tablets in Grape Raspberry flavor, for example, Nuun would ensure it had sufficient supplies on hand and make merchandising suggestions that could build on the product’s popularity, such as end-cap aisle displays in the retailer’s stores or special sections on the retailer’s own e-commerce site.

While many of Nuun’s larger chain retailer clients transfer purchase orders and invoices with Nuun through an electronic data interchange, or EDI, about 50 of its smaller retailers who don’t use EDI are using its e-commerce site to order products instead of calling or faxing in orders. “We’ll be guiding more of our small retailers to order on the e-commerce site,” Otley says. “It takes up less of our time, because the mom-and-pops can complete their orders on their own.”

He adds that the NetSuite platform makes it easier to take on new retailer clients, because they can order more easily online and get better fulfillment support.

But if customers call Nuun to complain about late or inaccurate orders, he adds, the NetSuite platform enables any authorized person at Nuun to quickly log in to the order and fulfillment system to identify an order’s status, process a replacement order if necessary, and reply to the customer. The NetSuite platform also integrates with Nuun’s shipping carriers to provide updates on order shipping status.

The cost to retailers to deploy SuiteCommerce starts at $1,999 per month for the Mid-market version and $3,999 per month for the Enterprise version, which can handle more product catalogs, NetSuite says.

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