Easily design your home online
BY NADINE PELZER
A professional website forms the foundation stone for the successful future presence of stationary furniture stores. In addition to the opportunity to present goods in interiors stores, sooner or later there must also be the possibility to order goods online. The internet offers the way of showcasing products and is today the first port of call for potential customers.
‘Make yourself at home’ is the philosophy of Bavarian family business WEKO, a sentiment that is experienced both internally and externally. Superlative consultation paired with friendliness and a polite approach give customers the feeling that they can quite literally make themselves at home.
The origins of the company go back to Kohlstorf in 1948, and Alois Weber – the grandfather of today’s majority shareholder Bernhard Weber. His son, Helmut Weber, continued the tradition from 1963 onwards, starting with erecting and selling furniture in a garage, initially within the context of a carpentry business. After a rapid increase in the demand for furniture, the first WEKO furniture store was opened in Linden near Hebertsfelden in 1972, with the opening of the interiors store in Pfarrkirchen just under 20 years later, an emporium that currently comprises around 33,000 square metres. Between 2002 and 2003, the family set a further milestone, building and opening a new furniture store in Rosenheim with approximately 27,000 square metres of retail space. In addition to the large-scale interiors stores, the portfolio includes two special item stores in Linden and Rosenheim, a kitchenalia shop in Eching and a majority share in an e-commerce company.
Even old-school companies such as WEKO are meeting the challenges of digital change and are not shying away from the necessary change processes. On the contrary: WEKO is currently working full-speed at exploiting new digital technologies and providing the corresponding infrastructure, the omnipresent question being how to best reach out to customers. A positive, synergetic link between stationary retail and online trade forms the basis for the future success of furniture stores.
We spoke with Benjamin Steinbach, Senior Project Manager/Consultant at apollon, about the joint digitalisation project with WEKO.
Mr Steinbach, you are accompanying WEKO on its digitalisation journey. What do you particularly appreciate about this collaboration?
I’m really enjoying the collaboration with WEKO – both from a personal and a business point of view. Despite various technical challenges, it has always been possible to find mutually agreeable solutions through regular, open and personal communication. I am particularly delighted with the long-standing, friendly relationship with our two main contact partners and the regular personal meetings in Bavaria. This permits even better definition of customer wishes and requirements and discussion of solution options. At an organisational level, project collaboration is supported by various tools provided by apollon aimed at defining and releasing requirements in the form of tickets, with a central platform for protocols, budget management and documentation, along with a graphic, agile weekly overview.
What is the focus of the joint project and what is the objective?
With this joint project, we are creating a central and cross-channel product and media data management platform with WEKO and our own Online Media Net (OMN) software suite. With this, ‘WEKO Media Net’ will in future be one of the central components of the WEKO system landscape. In addition to managing all product data and augmenting said data with all the relevant marketing information, the next step will see the system carrying out the partially automated creation of print advertising materials and the automated outputting of all required information in various web shops. At the same time, the dishes, beverages and menus of the furniture store restaurants will be managed using our PIM system and, in a follow-on project phase, be automatically output to various channels in the form of a ‘menu’.
It is interesting that OMN is WEKO’s leading system for article data. The AX merchandise management is supplied with sales-relevant product information by OMN virtually in real time using an interface. This information is then augmented to include logistical and price data.
What are the primary arguments in favour of OMN?
With its various main modules, OMN offers media data management (MDM), product data management (PIM), project management (PM) and workflow management (WFM) from a single source. As a result, a user interface can – centrally and redundancy-free – be used for managing marketing information for various output channels, hence ensuring that all employees at the various sites always access the correct respective and up-to-date product picture data without inadvertently using old versions. The system is completely and entirely hosted by the customer in its own data centre. It uses an MS SQL database and works with Microsoft AX. This dispenses with local installation, and all employees can access OMN using a browser from any computer within the company network, and optionally also from anywhere in the world by means of VPN or secure connection.
What are the benefits of switching to PIM2?
The advantage of PIM2 is that customers are able to create and manage new attributes for products themselves, allowing them to autonomously edit and control the classification structure of their product range, which attributes are available for which classification nodes and which are to be maintained by the product manager. PIM2 offers a new ‘Admin View’ for this. At the same time, the familiar, flexibly configurable interface from the ‘classic’ PIM can continue to be used. The new PIM solution offers considerably more possibilities for customer admin and end users, something that swayed WEKO in favour of switching over.
What are the next steps with this project?
We are currently embarking on phase 3 of the project, which focuses on the print solution. Here, we initially expanded the PM module, allowing it to cope with the preparation and management of future catalogues and other print advertising materials. Linking articles to brochure pages earmarks them for print. Subsequently, the graphic artist can complete the page layout directly in InDesign. Almost like a box of building blocks, they can drag the articles and elements relevant to the page into the document and hence build the document with all the pictures. In addition to this, the ‘Patch+Brief’ whiteboard tool is to be further expanded and used for graphic page planning directly in OMN including outputting. Here, the graphic artist can prepare the brochure pages – including all articles, pictures, text flags and price adjusters – directly in OMN. In the second step, the pages are automatically created in InDesign in accordance with preliminary planning using the ‘Xactuell’ 1:1 plug-in.
In parallel, various picture workflows are being implemented that enable, for instance, the automated provision of employee pictures, company logos and article images in predefined formats in the WEKO intranet. The respectively most up-to-date assets are always stored centrally in the OMN Media Asset Management system, ensuring that there is no inadvertent use of obsolete pictures. Further sites will be connected to Microsoft AX and PIM2 in 2018, hence migrating them to the new OMN-LIVE environment. The project therefore continues to remain interesting and exciting.
apollon GmbH + Co. KG offers integrated and holistic solutions for product data management, cross-media publishing and omnichannel commerce.
apollon GmbH + Co. KG
WEKO Wohnen GmbH
This article was published in The Produktkulturmagazin, issue Q1 2018. Picture credit © Westend61/Getty Images