Optimizing Multi-Channel Ecommerce And Operations With Integration

Running a multi-channel Ecommerce business requires processing a very large number of orders coming through different platforms, and making sure orders are fulfilled in a timely manner without errors. In order to support growth, businesses need to start their digital transformation journey and automate all their order-to-cash business processes, removing errors and backlogs caused by human intervention.

Intelligentsia Coffee, a well-known coffee brand, doing B2B wholesale, DTC sales through online and retail shops, automated all their processes between Shopify, Amazon, NetSuite, and their fulfillment centers optimizing their business operations.

Join us to learn about:

  • Intelligentsia Coffee’s growth journey and their need for digital transformation
  • Why they chose Celigo’s iPaaS for automation
  • How they optimized their Order-to-Cash business processes with integration
Full Webinar Transcript
Hello everyone. This is Ebru and I work at product marketing at Celigo. And I’m here today with one of our customers, Matt Riddle, director of IT and systems strategy at Intelligentsia Coffee. So with the boom in e-commerce– so one of the hot topics, nowadays, is how to scale and keep up with the increasing number of e-commerce orders operationally without having to add in any additional resources. And today, Matt will tell us about how Intelligentsia Coffee has optimized their multichannel e-commerce operations with the help of integration. And now, I’m handing it off to Matt. Oh, wonderful. Thanks, Ebru. Welcome, everyone. Like she said, I’m Matt Riddle. I’m the Director of IT and Systems Strategy, Intelligentsia. And if you’re not familiar with Intelligentsia, I just wanted to give you a brief overview of our company and what we do and our history. So we were founded in 1995 in Chicago. A husband and wife founded us, Doug Zell and Emily Mange. They’re still involved today. They really saw a gap in the availability of high quality and specialty coffee in Chicago, in the mid-90s, and they wanted to bring kind of their expertise to the Midwest. They’re both from the Midwest and did a lot of learning and had some experience out in San Francisco with several companies out there. So they really saw this gap in the Chicago market. We started off as just one location– a coffee bar, just trying to give high-quality coffee to their customers. And it just so happened that one of our early customers– and very enthusiastic customers was a sous chef at Charlie Trotter’s. If you’re not familiar with Charlie Trotter, he was a very influential chef in the Chicago culinary world. And when you have a customer that wants to bring your coffee to a very well-renowned chef, you become a wholesaler. And so, that started our journey into the wholesale world. From there, we definitely entered into the grocery space. Emily had a background from Whole Foods, so we were on the local Whole Food shelves here in Chicago, and it just kind of grew from there. So we started picking up other coffee bars and restaurants and things like that in the Chicago market. Another one of the mainstays of our brand and our company culture is what we call direct trade. We are one of the founding companies to develop this method of sourcing and buying coffee. You may be familiar with fair trade, which is definitely a great model for purchasing, but what we’ve found– the lack of in that model was any emphasis or attention paid to the actual quality of the product. So we developed a system that kind of started on the tenant of fair trade– layered in a quality aspect, and we actually have a kind of base pricing that’s about fair trade– then, we layer in a quality aspect. And the higher quality and better tasting your coffee is the more we pay for it. So it really encourages our partners to really pay attention to how they’re producing their coffee. We are a multichannel business. I’m not a fan of the omnichannel but we do operate in many, many different spaces across the commerce landscape, so we have obviously e-commerce. That’s why we’re here today. That’s B2C e-commerce. We have a brick and mortar retail, direct wholesale, so we provide coffee to everybody from a mom-and-pop single location to a multi location hospitality– the education space education, food service, things like that and then, we have distribution. So we have a distribution segment to our business, obviously, with brick and mortar retail so we’re also in the CPG space. So you’ll find our coffee at Targets nationwide, Whole Foods nationwide, other high-end grocery stores, HEB, Gilsons, things like that. In the last part of our business that’s of interest specifically for this is that we operate kind of what we call a hub and spoke model. So, we’re interested in having a national presence. But the way we go about it is we find a market that we’re interested in, be it in a Chicago, Los Angeles, New York major market, and we enter that market with both a brick and mortar retail location as well as a wholesale sales office that helps us grow our wholesale business. And actually, the two help each other with growth of the company. So our wholesale provides volume and brand presence and a expansion of the brand into the new market, and our retail provides a billboard and an example of how we perceive the best way to present our coffee is and so that to to kind of feed off of each other and fuel each other to help promote our brand. And so we didn’t always start off in the highly– in the digital space. So I wanted to let you know a little bit about the history of kind of what we would call our ERP landscape. Like many small businesses, we started off in QuickBooks. Many of you maybe are some QuickBooks, but we quickly outgrew that. We found that we were doing a lot of things manually. It’s mainly an accounting software. So we quickly outgrew that with the adoption of our wholesale business. We moved to another– a little bit more robust platform, but it was still mainly serving our accounting needs and our financial reporting needs. So we had a lot of business growth, and with that came more demands for integration and– the integration of different systems to one another. And we’re still missing that. And over time, our e-commerce segment of our business had some rapid growth. And we were still downloading all of our orders manually, transforming them in [fly?] files or CSP files, and then uploading them into our accounting software. And we still didn’t really have a full– any kind of communication between the two systems. So we had all of these disparate parts of our business. About four years ago we decided that we needed to make a big change in our business. We needed to find a solution that would help us solve all these problems for our business. And that led us to migrate to a full ERP platform and solution. We chose Nets. We looked at many, many systems, and this one fit our business the best. And going into this, we had a number of challenges that we were facing as a business, and these are– some of these are common challenges among all businesses. We had really a true lack of any kind of inventory concept. Again, the systems that we’re operating in were accounting systems and mainly interested in the numbers of the business. But we didn’t really have a true inventory concept as you would think of it in a fully developed system. With the growth of our wholesale and distribution channels of the business, we were bringing on larger and larger customers which means larger and larger volumes. It’s a good problem to have, but it’s a problem that we needed to solve nonetheless. So that increased volume really did put stresses on our existing manufacturing processes, our ability to kind of aggregate daily production, and provide a timely and accurate way for our production teams to operate. We needed to still manufacture at scale to meet these manufacturing demands. But one of the things that really brought customers to us was our ability to semi-customize products to help our individual customers promote their businesses. So we have privately named coffees or custom named coffees. We support private labeling and custom packaging for some of our customers if the volume is there for that. And so we really needed to solve both of these problems at the same time. And many systems are set up for one or the other. And lastly, we had a severe lack of internal and external reporting capabilities on a lot of the data that we were trying to get after was kind of held tight and gate-kept by our finance team. And so it really inhibited the ability for many of the segments of our business to operate and get the data that they needed to make smart business decisions. And so we migrated to a true ERP platform. And along with that, not only were we getting enhanced system capabilities but there’s process change that goes along with that. And with the process change becomes behavior change. And so that’s in addition to all of these other business challenges that we had, we had behavioral and personnel challenges that we needed to face. So this is something that we really needed to take into account and figure out a way to overcome these challenges. And, obviously, we had reporting enhancements that we were really excited to have. And so we made this decision, we started on the journey to migrate over to NetSuite. And we really wanted to address this process change because we have all these new capabilities but we still don’t have systems that talk to one another. So the next logical part of this migration was automation and integration between our e-commerce platform and all of the other systems that we were utilizing and the great technologies that we had at our business. None of them were talking to one another yet. So we really wanted to capitalize on that. So we had a few goals that we wanted to accomplish. One of them was we wanted to eliminate all these manual processes. We had people taking orders over the phone, listening to voicemail, and writing down the order only to then put it into the system afterwards. We had a lot of kind of manual aggregation of orders. The way we roast and package our coffee, we need to aggregate a lot of single, small orders together to get a batch of coffee to roast. So we had all these manual processes that we wanted to try to at least reduce, if not eliminate entirely. And another challenge we really wanted to solve was we really wanted to elevate the role of our workforce. We had a lot of folks in customer support and operations support that were really kind of data entry folks. They were processing a lot of manual data entry and manual file manipulation. And we really needed to automate that and take that off of their plate to not only improve their skill sets and their quality of work, but really move them from this data entry position to really more of a value-add position at our company. And a lot of– when people hear the words integration and automation, they really kind of start fearing for their jobs and maybe rightfully so. But really, what we found is that we were able to repurpose the folks that had kind of these data entry and very entry-level menial jobs and move them into more of a customer support. Instead of being a reactionary customer support team we had a proactive customer support team, as a result of this piece of automations, just as one example. And so now we also wanted to have these disparate systems talk to one another. So we looked at several solutions and what we finally settled on was the Celigo product and I wanted to go through this. We have a number of integrations as you can see on this slide, a number of systems. In addition, we have others in addition to these. These are the main ones that we utilize. But we definitely wanted to find one kind of platform that we can bring all of these systems up into our NetSuite system which we hold as kind of our source of truth for the company. Everything flows through into NetSuite. So the first one I wanted to talk about was our Shopify and NetSuite integration. And Celigo has a prebuilt module or connector that they have provided for Shopify and NetSuite in particular. And there’s other ones out there. But I want to talk about this one in particular because this is probably the most complex integration that we have in our company, and there’s a lot of things going on. So obviously, we have all of our data housed in NetSuite here in the middle. We have set up an integration where we are able to push data such as our item, our catalog, our inventory for all those items and multiple warehouses up into Shopify. And when a customer goes onto our site and places an order, we will then pull that order down in addition to the customer payment for credit card and any customer data that we need to fulfill that order. That’s then transformed and manufactured. It goes to the manufacturing process within NetSuite. And on the backside of it, we end up with a fulfillment and a shipment and tracking data that needs to get out to the customer. So we send that back to Shopify along with synchronizing our inventory and any customer data that may have changed along the way. So you can see there’s integration on both sides of the order to cash process which is important, and all of it lives within NetSuite and then is synchronized out to Shopify. So this is obviously a very simplistic way of looking at it. And here’s what’s actually going on. This is a diagram of all of the integration points that we utilize within the Shopify, Celigo, and NetSuite connection. For example, just one of these, if you look at the product and item section up here, we have– in many of our products because we utilize this direct trade model, we have a lot of information about the products that we carry. We have pharma name and the variety and cultivar and elevation of the product and all kinds of things. So we want to make sure that we pass that knowledge onto our customers. So we have in some cases, up to 50 attributes that we take from NetSuite. We’ve mapped them through Celigo and pushed them up to a Shopify instance. And then that’s synced back and forth along with inventory and attributes and images and things like that. So I won’t go through every single one of these but obviously, there’s a lot going on with this connector. And what was great about this is that out of the box, you’re probably about 85 to 90 percent of the way there and then you simply just need to customize the installation for your particular business. So obviously, we had custom attributes that we wanted to synchronize back and forth in our custom data fields that live within NetSuite. Yet another way of looking at it, obviously, you’ve got all of the records and transaction records over in Shopify, they go through Celigo. They’re mapped to the appropriate records in NetSuite. So this is obviously a very complex example. There’s a lot going on. On the other end of the spectrum, we also have a very simple but very productive and effective integrations that we set up. And one of those is our employee and payroll data. So prior to NetSuite, we had somebody who’s– part of their job was to download information from ADP, process it, and then input that manually into our software. But with Celigo we’ve been able to generate lists. Our employee roster, our payroll summary, our– all of our employee benefit election, the dollar values associated with that. ADP generates a file and sends it to our hosted cloud document solution, which we just call Box and the integration that we set up was [inaudible] was– we look for a new file in Box in a specific directory, once that– once we see if there’s a new file, it then pulls that down and enters that data either into the employee record or it creates a journal entry in– for our payroll summary, as an example. And this is done on a regular basis, so we no longer have to worry about whether we have a current employee roster or if there’s separations or onboarding. Those are automatically taken care of and we can– we always have a current employee roster. Likewise, we have another integration with our point of sale for our brick-and-mortar called Toast. That’s the point of sale that we use all of our coffee bar locations and we– prior to this integration, we had, at each location, at the end of the day, they would– the manager, or the shift leader, or whoever it was would have to tally all the day’s sales, and payments, and credit card, and cash, and all that stuff and generate an end-of-the-day report. We had a formatted Excel file. It was very beautiful and complex. The fields for them to enter, and formulas, and all this stuff to format things correctly. And then they would email that off to our finance team, who then had to take that and manually upload it or enter it into our accounting software. Well, we decided that that wasn’t efficient and it wasn’t accurate because there were always discrepancies and things like that. So we decided to generate files automatically from Toast, again upload them into Box, and it’s a very similar process. We look for a new file and process it automatically, send it into NetSuite through Celigo. And we found that we are far more current. We have the sales daily instead of being multiple days behind. For reporting purposes, it’s 100% accurate, it’s 100 percent reliable, and it’s alleviated the labor hours that we need to pay for both our accounting team and our retail teams, which–savings all around and it’s infinitely scalable. So we were able to really scale our operations, increase efficiency, gain a lot of automation, and really free up the– our staff from these kind of low-level processes that they were really tied to and inhibited from expanding their data sets. So we’re always looking forward to new integrations and new systems that we can collaborate on and integrate at the company. And lastly, whenever you have one of these integration projects or migration projects, there’s always things that you learn from them and so I just wanted to share quickly a few tips that I would take away from this that really helped me look at future projects. So the first one is that the data is the key to everything. Really, whenever you’re migrating data from one system to another, really make sure that you know what data you need and you can get it out of the system in an accurate way. It’s never too early to validate that data. Run tests, run imports, and everything to really validate. I mean, you can really start validating your data on day one or two of any project. Don’t wait until the end. Document your processes. We heavily relied on institutional knowledge and, “Oh, Billy is the only guy that can do this one thing for us and if he wants to go on vacation, then it’s a whole ordeal.” Really have all your employees document what they do. They should be able to write down step-by-step every task that they do, and they should be able to hand that to any employee at your company, and they should be able to perform that task. You often really don’t know what’s best for your company. It’s really smart for the middle and upper management, who’s usually the person involved in this process, to talk to– it’s really important for them to talk to the frontline people and find out how they do their job, and how we can design the system to really accommodate that. And make sure you have a single source of truth. I mentioned earlier, NetSuite is our single source of truth. Really try to stick to that and make sure that that’s the thing that you really can trust. And lastly, this is a tenant that we follow at our company. We hold this as one of our pillars at the company, is that great ideas can come from anyone at any time. I really believe that. We act on that, we believe that at the company, and it’s really served us well over the years. So thank you very much for listening and I’ll turn it back over to Ebru. Thank you very much, Matt. Yes. So now I would like to provide some information on Celigo so we’re an iPass integration platform as a service company. And on our platform, basically any application can be connected with any other application and key business processes can be automated. And so what makes our platform unique is that it is really easy for business users to use the platform but then, on the other hand, it is sophisticated enough to be used by also advanced technical users who want to build their own complex integrations. And so we have thousands of e-commerce customers using our platform today and they automate things like order processing, accounting, fulfillment, and return management. And as you see here, anything from storefronts, marketplaces such as Shopify, Amazon, can be connected with leading ERP systems such as [inaudible] or NetSuite, or returns management software like Returnly, or POS systems like Square. And even your [inaudible] can be integrated and all of your e-commerce processes can be basically automated. If you would like to learn more about Celigo, you can contact us at [email protected] or just visit our website at Celigo dot com and– yeah. We are looking forward to hearing from you and about your integration challenges. So thank you so much for attending our session today.

About the speakers

Matt Riddle

Matt Riddle is the Director of IT & Systems Strategy for Intelligentsia Coffee, a specialty coffee roaster, headquartered in Chicago. Intelligentsia owns and operates 15 coffeebars, and a large DTC and wholesale business. Matt is a 20-year veteran of the coffee industry. Starting out as a Barista at Intelligentsia’s flagship store in 2002, he grew right alongside the company holding positions ranging from Design to IT, eCommerce and more. He was the 2006 United States Barista Champion, is an avid cyclist, proud husband and father.

Ebru Saglam

Ebru has a diverse background with over a decade of combined experience in marketing, technical sales and customer services roles across startups and enterprises. She also has hands-on experience in the e-commerce landscape, she has spent more than 5 years running her DTC multi-channel e-commerce business.