Custom Ordering Application on Windows Azure Reduces Costs While Improving Customer Experience and Order Process
Project at a Glance
RDA worked with our client to create a custom application for requesting fireplace mantels that is easy to use and provides a real-time price quote. The solution is hosted in the cloud via Windows Azure, which eliminates on-site hardware costs and allows the system to scale up or down as needed.
About Our Client
American Forest Products (AFP) offers custom mantels through its Foster division.
Prior to this initiative, in order to request a custom mantel, customers had to fill out a plain vanilla online form that was submitted to AFP. Once received, an AFP customer service rep needed to re-enter all of the customer’s specifications into a separate system in order for a price quote to be generated, which was then emailed to the customer. This was not a very user-friendly interface, and did not provide a real-time estimate. It was also a highly inefficient process for AFP.
In order to generate more custom fireplace mantel business and improve the customer experience, AFP decided to create a new web-based quotation/ordering application that would be available to consumers through the Home Depot web site.
RDA developed a customized application for AFP that enables their customers to request a quote using a friendly and intuitive order “wizard” that steps them through the process with helpful graphics. They select their specifications, finalize their request, and immediately receive a certificate with the price quote which they can then present to Home Depot to pay for and submit the order. See it for yourself.
The new system also includes an administrative application that allows AFP to manage their product catalog and update data such as price, colors, styles, etc.
RDA built the application and is providing it to AFP through a “software as a service” (SaaS) arrangement. AFP pays a monthly fee to license the application which enables them to realize immediate return on investment and pay for the solution through increased sales revenue over time.
The application is hosted in the cloud on the Microsoft Azure platform. Leveraging Azure eliminates the initial cost of buying servers and the cost of maintaining the servers over time. The cost of the Azure hosting is covered in the monthly usage fee. Learn more about the advantages of cloud computing and Windows Azure here.
There are two main benefits of the new system. First, the new system provides a far more efficient process for AFP. They no longer waste time re-keying the specs into a separate system to generate a quote and then send it via email. Second, and more significantly, the new system provides the customer with immediate information while they are in the purchasing mode. The customer can choose different styles, woods, and finishes to craft a mantel that fits in their budget. This is expected to result in increased sales.
Below is a graphic depiction of the Business Model and Solution Model for the application.
The business model provides context for the business processes independent of any systems.
The basic scenario is simple. When a customer wants to purchase a custom mantle from Foster, there are four main steps:
- First the customer provides information about what style of mantel they want, along with details about the dimensions of their fireplace, and any options they desire.
- Based on this information, Foster provides a quote for how much the mantel will cost.
- If the customer is happy with the quote, then the customer places an order through Home Depot.
- Foster builds the custom mantel based on the specs from the quote, and fulfills the order.
The solution model describes the systems and processes used to implement the steps outlined in the business model.
The first step in the process is the generation of a quote (price) for the custom mantel:
- The customer visits a website where they provide the details about the mantel (type, materials, size, etc).
- The mantel quote cloud application calculates the price and final dimensions based on the customer’s specification, and provides the customer with a quote certificate.
After the customer receives the quote certificate, it is up to them if they would like to place an order:
- The customer visits their local Home Depot and presents the quote certificate.
- The Home Depot employee enters the order into the Home Depot ordering system and the order is transmitted into Foster’s systems using an existing process. One key piece of information that is included with the order is the quote number from the quote application.
- Since the order does not contain all of the specifications, Foster uses the quote number provided with the order to retrieve the specifications from the quote application.