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Ecommerce Case Study

Background

FreshTrends is a body jewelry manufacturer and ecommerce retailer. They use on a multi-channel strategy selling across their own ecommerce properties plus Amazon, eBay, and others. It is a family run company first incorporated in 2001. They have two primary locations, one in California that does the manufacturing, and one in Florida that handles design and e-commerce marketing.

As their product line has evolved over time they have managed between 10,000 and 80,000 SKUs with a complex mix of stocked, special order, drop ship, and manufacture-to-order items. Complicating factors include a fast-moving, fashion-based industry and volatile input costs (e.g. gold, platinum, precious stones) that necessitate frequent re-costing and price changes.

Paul Cowan has spent his entire career in e-commerce. He has extensive experience with multiple e-commerce systems and all the major e-commerce channels. Over the years FreshTrends has invested extensively in custom software development using a variety of companies, platforms and tools. This gives Paul a good understanding of the costs and trade-offs of using various tools & approaches.

PAUL COWAN
CEO
FRESHTRENDS

Industry: Ecommerce, Manufacturing (Jewelry)

Locations: 2 (CA & FL)

ParaSQL Applications In Production: 10+

Size of Development Team: 0 (outsourced)

Integration Use Case:

Mobile Use Cases: Tablet app for warehouse pick-n-ship

Est Reduction In Development Costs: 90%+

Typical Time From App Conception To Deployment: 1-2 weeks

The Evaluation Process

Before ParaSQL, FreshTrends' core operations were running on a combination of the ecommerce software, a few packaged applications (primarily marketing related). Numerous core business processes were running in complex spreadsheets. For example, there were a staff of two whose entire job was downloading inventory levels from the ecommerce system, computing restock requirements and generating the necessary paperwork to process special orders, manufacturing requests, and inventory replenishment. Numerous other business processes were handled in a similar fashion, including warehouse operations and bills of materials needed for manufacturing. The spreadsheets were not only very labor intensive but also frequently contained errors.

Paul had tried to solve many of these problems before by purchasing packaged software. No single packaged solution could address his full range of needs. Purchasing multiple packaged applications didn't work either, as the integration between the packages was either impossible to get right or too expensive and cumbersome to even attempt. He had also tried traditional custom development with limited success.

The initial application chosen for the proof-of-concept phase was "automated inventory replenishment." The system needed to interface with the ecommerce system to obtain current inventory levels, provide a new system of vendor management with mapping of inventory items to supplier SKUs (along with restock thresholds, MOQs, reorder quantities, etc.), automatically generate purchase orders and email them to the vendors once approved. Development time for this system with ParaSQL was approximately 1 week from conception to deployment. A previous vendor had spent 6 months and failed to delivered a working solution.

When I asked Paul what he thought about ParaSQL he said "It's a game changer!" ParaSQL went on to develop many additional applications for FreshTrends.

Pros: ParaSQL is amazing. We have built multiple cloud-based applications that integrate with our e-commerce platform API. These include our WMS / Pick and ship app which handles over 100,000 orders per year, purchase order app that maintains stock levels and assess demand on over 20,000 SKUs across 50+ vendors, bill of materials app for our manufacturing division, front end catalog merchandising app for our sites to market the right products to the right customers, and many others.

The thing makes ParaSQL special is that you can build solutions that are tailored to your specific business needs, for a fraction of the cost of paying licensing and implementation on out of the box solutions. ParaSQL applications have automated processes that were handled in spreadsheets, saved me a ton on payroll, and eliminated human error in business-critical processes. It is an affordable, powerful application platform. It is a game changer for anyone that applies it to their business.

Cons: I have had no issues with the platform, or the applications that we have built. The level of support has been outstanding.

Overall: 11/10. ParaSQL is a remarkable solution for a multitude of business problems and challenges. In 15 years of business I have never found a solution as complete and as adaptable as this. I cannot speak highly enough about Customer support and the team. I would highly recommend ParaSQL.

Applications Developed

FreshTrends started by automating its restocking process. This lead to automating many additional aspects of the business as outlined below. Each step in the automation process produced immediate, easily measurable results.

Applications implemented so far:

It is important to note that as each application was developed it became easier and easier to build the next one, because each new application could leverage all of the existing data and business logic of the others. This is not usually the case; typically as more applications are developed the application-to-application (A2A) integration challenges become increasingly difficult and development slows. Because FreshTrends' systems are built with a "data-centric" architecture they avoid this challenge by design.

Maintainability

FreshTrends' system has all the attributes that are far too often missing in deployments of this type, including ease of understanding and ease of change. You can consider changes in two categories:

Paul said a routine changes typically takes a few minutes or at most an hour or two, and can be deployed immediately into production. A larger change like a new application module might take anywhere from a couple of days to a week or two at most. All these changes are done "hot" meaning there is no shutting the system down and the user will get the change in the next refresh.

When asked to compare that with his experience with other custom development he laughed. Even the simplest change starts a work flow of specing, quoting, scheduling, development, QA, etc., etc., with the entire process taking months and often wrong upon delivery. He said that turnaround time of hours or days (instead of months) changes how you think about problems, not just the cost of the solution.

Team Size

FreshTrends has relied exclusively on ParaSQL's implementation services to build their applications for them; there is no in-house development team.