Bonds of London is an established name in the United Kingdom, selling premium confectionery since 1895. An established company with a traditional sales model, Bonds’ sales reps had long employed a business-to-business strategy where they visited stores to take their orders.
Elements of this legacy sales model still worked well in many respects—sales reps forged connections with shop owners and managers, and they were able to pitch new products—but it also came with its share of problems. For instance, sales reps would occasionally miss visits due to other demands, and stores would sometimes run out of products before a sales rep’s visit.
Bonds’ management wanted to create a new system that retained their outside sales staff, who were key to maintaining customer relationships, while at the same time allowing customers to order new product on their own. That’s when Kevin Widdrington, Chief Digital Officer at IB Group (Bonds’ parent company), reached out to Net Solutions.
Kevin had worked with Net Solutions in the past to build an innovative platform of his own, so he had no doubt that the team understood how to build sales-enabling B2B platforms in the retail space. Based on Kevin’s recommendations, IB Group signed off on the project, and Kevin immediately turned to Net Solutions.
Net Solutions never fails to amaze me. I have worked in development teams most of my career, and no team has met their work ethic and standards!
The management team at Bonds decided their high-tech solution would center around two complementary apps—one mobile eCommerce app for the stores and a separate web-based App for the sales reps. Each would play a pivotal role in creating a seamless, modern sales process.
The Xamarin-based eCommerce App, powered by Magento, gave store managers the ability to browse available products and place orders online whenever inventory was running low. Bonds also serves some larger store estates that are particular in the range they want to be able to order from, making the ordering process more complex. Net Solutions simplified this by integrating Magento into SAP, the Enterprise Resource Planning software (ERP) used by Bonds’, and implemented customer range mapping to ensure that stores would only see the products available to them.
The second app, which was Python based, enabled sales reps to manage their efforts and better serve their customers. This allowed them to import the store’s information into the new system, associating each store with their sales rep.
The end result? The new app gave sales reps a firm handle on store inventory, needs, order history, and more.
The two apps performed well, and the stores readily used the eCommerce app to place orders, so Bonds management decided to invest further in the platform and expand it in ways that benefit both sales reps and their customers.
Net Solutions upgraded the sales rep app to include the following features.
Tools to Evaluate App Adoption by Stores: Sales reps could now see which stores were using the mobile apps and which still needed to be onboarded.
Ability to Highlight Specific Products: The new version of the app allowed sales reps to manage suggested products on the online store, highlighting those they wanted specific stores to consider.
Access to Order History: The new app allowed sales reps to review each store’s product order history, clearly identifying which products stores frequently order and which ones they seldom or never order.
Ability to Add Products to the Store's Cart: This version of the app allowed sales reps to add products to a store's shopping cart—similarly to the traditional model where sales reps placed orders for the store. The system highlights these products so stores can identify them, confirm the products and quantities, and ultimately place the order.
More Granular Control Over Product Offerings: Net Solutions configured the Magento back-end, allowing the admin to create global offers that could be enabled or disabled by individual sales reps for the stores they managed. The system would show specific offers to stores when they browsed the products on the eCommerce app.
The mobile eCommerce app for the stores saw multiple enhancements, including enhanced search capabilities—allowing store owners and managers to narrow down the product listing to show recent orders. This sped up the ordering process.
The new app also gave Bonds management a high-level overview of how the platform was being used by both the stores and sales reps. The system also allowed management to customize reports, adding and modifying criteria to show the exact data they wanted to see.
To build an app of this scale from idea to delivery in 3 months is a huge success!
Bonds initiative turned out to be an overwhelming success, proving that even a century-old company with traditional values could benefit from a little modernization. Maintaining their human touch with live sales reps, Bonds was nevertheless able to augment their sales efforts with a straightforward, highly usable platform that opened the doors to sales enablement, seamless ordering, superior reporting, and happier customers.
Strengthened by the success of the app, the relationship between IB Group and Net Solutions continues with multiple digital transformation initiatives in the pipeline.