SuiteWorld 2014: Omni-channel goes beyond retail, says Zach Nelson

NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson told delegates at the SuiteWorld 2014 conference in San Jose, California, that omni-channel transcends retail

NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson used his opening keynote at SuiteWorld 2014 to tell delegates omni-channel transcends retail and the lines between products and services companies are more blurred than ever.

He spoke as the cloud applications suite company announced a "B2B Customer Center", built on NetSuite’s SuiteCommerce platform. The centre enables business-to-business merchants to deliver a B2C-like online shopping experience, the company said.

“Order management has always been at the heart of our system,” said Nelson. “We are just recasting what we have built.”

Nelson re-iterated his long-held view that customer relationship management (CRM) – typified by Salesforce – has been misconstrued in the industry, and is sales force automation by another name. Good and bad customer experiences tend to be related to an order, whether that be such aspects as getting the bill right or order fulfilment.

And this only intensifies as omni-channel becomes an imperative, which, he said, is true of all organisations – not just retail companies. “All of us have an omni-channel problem engaging with customers directly, in a callcentre or online. And there is doing all that worldwide,” he said.

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The company said its distribution and manufacturing customers are using SuiteCommerce to reach new markets, drive site traffic and improve operational efficiency by eliminating manual steps in phone, email and fax orders.

Among customers Nelson invited on stage were Vijay George, chief technology officer, Comptroller’s Office, for the state of Texas. The department has built an Amazon-like procurement portal, TxSmartBuy, using NetSuite technology. This connects Texas state government staff with 1,000 suppliers and has 2.4 million items available to order – from pencils, through cars, to road aggregate materials used for road repairs.

YouGov on products and services

Alan Newman, CFO of YouGov, a NetSuite customer since 2007, addressed the blurring lines between products and services that Nelson adverted to. “Products companies are becoming services companies, and services companies are becoming products companies,” Nelson said.

The market research agency that pioneered political polling on the internet in the UK offers both specific tailored research and more generic products for purchase.

YouGov has a mix of services that use its online panels of some three million survey takers. Its revenue sources include BrandIndex, a subscription-based brand intelligence product, a research service, and a range of project- based custom research services. It has to recognise revenue and track its sales pipeline and financial performance across three distinct business types. With NetSuite’s technology, the firm can track projects and monitor how resources and time are being used across the business. “It gives one version of the truth,” said Newman.

Newman added that, as an international “but relatively small business”, NetSuite’s cloud-based software means the company can get a new country subsidiary up and running in a matter of weeks. It has used NetSuite’s cloud-based system and OneWorld international capabilities to support global expansion and control back-office costs, including setting up an office in France with its accounting supported by the London office, and bringing a recent Hong Kong acquisition onto the corporate system in just four weeks.

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