Founded in 1978, Kent County Supplies (KCS) is wholly owned by Kent County Council which is the largest Local Authority in England covering an area of 3,500 square kilometres.
Kent County Supplies provides purchasing, warehousing and distribution services to a wide-ranging customer base within local government and associated public bodies in Kent, neighbouring counties and across the UK.
With a combined product inventory of over 15,000 lines, KCS prides itself on being the best value provider in the market.
Recognising a shift in consumer trends KCS embarked on a digital transformation project which saw them re-architect their entire business to provide a best-in-class omnichannel shopping experience.
After conducting an internal review of the existing business systems KCS approached CTI Digital to implement a solution to achieve the following business objectives:
The project began with a comprehensive re-branding exercise conducted by our in-house creative team. The branding phase saw the delivery of a robust set of brand guidelines and living style guide which redefined KCS’s visual identity, ensuring consistency across multiple channels of engagement.
At CTI Digital we place a big emphasis on producing design systems that feature fluid web components as opposed to designing web pages as page compositions in Photoshop.
As a client KCS understood that we live in a multi-device climate and our job as a development partner was to deliver a streamlined user experience across a plethora of mobile, tablet and desktop devices which conformed to the newly created branding conventions.
Using Invision KCS were able to see the design system evolve and provide rapid feedback directly to the creative team so that appropriate adjustments could be made.
“The problem to be solved is complex; solutions are initially unknown, and product requirements will most likely change; the work can be modularized; close collaboration with end users (and rapid feedback from them) is feasible; and creative teams will typically outperform command-and-control groups.”
Havard Business Review
After reviewing the client's requirements over several consultancy sessions. Magento Enterprise was chosen as the E-Commerce framework of choice as it’s strong out of the box commerce functionality matched several of the client's requirements.
As KCS's provide their products and services direct to learning institutions several bespoke features needed to be developed such as account level management and a comprehensive order approvals process.
Operating as a B2B business, it was important for KCS to have granular level account control as multiple users from an organisation or learning institutions will be making purchases on the website.
To ensure this was possible, we replaced Magento’s account system with a bespoke account control system featuring three roles: Administrator, Approver and Purchaser with each role controlling permissions within the system.
Each role is subsequently assigned to an “Account” with an Account existing for each organisation.
With several members from an organisation purchasing from KCS, it was important for each organisation to be able to control which users would be able to raise an invoice for purchase for budgeting purposes.
To provide this functionality we extended Magento’s order placement and invoicing capabilities providing a set list of capabilities for each user role.
For example: Using this functionality “Sarah (Role: Purchaser)” a school teacher at CTI Digital High School can select a series of items she needs to purchase for the Science Department.
After checking out the order online a request for approval will be sent to “Michael (Role: Approver)” for approval, which, once approved the invoice will be created in the system for CTI Digital High School.
|View account users||Y||N||N|
|View orders requiring approval||Y||Y||N|
|View account specific pricing||Y||Y||Y|
|Reject orders awaiting approval||Y||Y||N|
|Reject any order||Y||N||N|
|Edit users associated to an account.||Y||N||N|
|Create orders without approval||Y||Y||N|
|Create orders with approval||n/a||n/a||Y|
|Create new users for an account.||Y||N||N|
|Approve orders waiting for approval||Y||Y||N|
|Approve any order||Y||N||N|
As KCS is a business to business website, orders are often placed in bulk for a series of items in varying quantities. The need for customers to be able to build baskets quickly would be paramount to the customer experience.
To address this point, we developed a quick order form to allow users to build up their basket contents by using a “quick order form”. By entering the SKU of each product the system will auto complete product name and stock information whilst also providing realtime pricing information.
Studies show that site search remains the cornerstone of a profitable e-commerce store. With a product range comprising of over 15,000 SKUS, it was important for users on the KCS website to find the right product, first time, every time.
Starting with Magento Enterprise's out of the box SOLR integration, we created a search feature which provides support for weighting and ranking, synonyms and mis-spelling of product names.
“When used by shoppers intent on finding the right product, search punches above its weight in terms of sales and conversions. Typcially, up to 30% of visitors will use the site search box, and each of these users is showing a possible intent to purchase by entering product names or codes.”
Re-platforming onto Magento offered numerous advantages to the consumer such as quick access to order history, one click re-purchasing and granular account level control.
As an organisation KCS were keen to both reward customers for their loyalty and encourage future customer loyalty in order to increase Lifetime Customer Value.
Using the Magento Enterprise's reward functionality, we were able to integrate a loyalty points scheme which enables customers build up points for purchases which they can then redeem at a later stage.
“An engaged consumer is more likely to stay loyal and buy more products and services. By introducing games, businesses motivate shoppers to indulge their competitive instincts to drive engagement.
In return, your company should notice an increase in lifetime value (LTV). When executed correctly, the LTV of loyal customers should be 15-40% higher than the LTV of your average customer.”
KCS had amassed several back office systems over the years with each system handling different business operations such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
As part of the discovery workshops KCS placed a core emphasis on providing a consolidated view of the customer by means of a single customer view and were keen to implement a centralised system for interfacing with all backend systems.
The middleware layer was developed in conjunction with a new Product Information Management (PIM) system which would be responsible for handling product information within the business.
CTI extended the Magento API to create a series of bespoke methods to handle daily business operations such as:
In order to streamline the communication between Magento and the Middleware System CTI developed a batching system that imports a stream of delta files produced by the middleware system on a daily basis.
“A typical digital commerce site averages more than 15 integration points with ERP, order management systems (OMSs), Web content management (WCM), digital marketing, payment processing, supply chain, logistics and warehousing, analytics systems and other systems.”
The need to have a cloud-based scalable solution which could cope with periods of peak transactions was paramount to the success of the project.