Our Full-time MBA includes 900 hours of consultancy projects with live clients who are looking to solve a real business problem. A team of MBA recently worked with global textile company, Vision Support Services. Here, the company tells us how the MBAs helped the company explore e-commerce opportunities.
What was the business issue?
As a global textile company, Vision Support Services had a remote e-commerce platform which performed reasonably well but wasn’t integrated into the core business. Our aim was to discover if we could grow the e-commerce platform faster and we endeavoured to look at an existing business model which had achieved this.
How was the project carried out?
The project began with several initial meetings with the board of directors and the head of marketing for the AMBS team to fully understand the project and the objective.
Once this had been established, the team was fastidious in conducting research interviews with a range of our customers to establish the different customer types and market sectors we serve. Once they had identified our customers’ buying patterns, they were able to analyse the current sales process (ranging from the initial point of enquiry through to order dispatch) in order to identify potential areas of improvement. Online digital surveys were also conducted to quantify buyer preferences by demographical detail.
What were the findings?
There were three clear objectives:
- Increasing online sales by migrating existing customers to an online platform to achieve Vision’s own objective of increasing online sales from £1 million to £10 million in the next 3 years.
- Attracting segment ‘C’ customers – B&Bs, guesthouses, private and holiday lets etc. This is where Vision can achieve UK growth at a higher margin, online
- ERP system and/or e-procurement systems and their suitability for implementation as Vision work to offer their clients an improved customer experience; by reducing manual order processing, reducing errors and improving competitive advantage
What were the recommendations and what implications will they have for business?
A number of recommendations were made by AMBS; the team initially recommended converting the existing Vision segment ‘C’ customers to shop online which would increase our overall online sales and also leverage the operating profits by £260,000 over the next three years.
This was always a driving factor in Vision’s plans to create a unified digital platform for all customers regardless of the divisions of the business. Once our customers were segmented and badged correctly we would be able to convert more of our ‘C’ customers to the web platform in order to fulfil their textile requirements. The AMBS team chose three main avenues in which to attract segment ‘C’ customers:
- Diversification of sales channels
- Increase brand visibility through influential online forums/websites
- Focus on brand marketing
As a global textile supplier and distributor, Vision powers three leading product brands and already successfully operated a separate e-commerce platform for one of these brands. Because of this existing e-commerce platform, Vision had much experience and existing knowledge, however, the team at AMBS reiterated and outlined the fundamentals of what we know. Their solution was to remain with the customer trading grounds and to enhance the community, regardless that our community was now a global one. The AMBS team also spoke about the benefits of implementing an ERP system:
- Time and resource effectiveness
- Inventory management effectiveness
Although it’s clear to see the benefits of an ERP system, it was quickly realised that many of our top, key customers who may require the use of an ERP would not yet be ready to implement this.
What was the biggest challenge?
Undoubtedly, the biggest challenge for the Vision Group was to understand, fully, who our customer base are and, once this was understood, to segment these customers into the four main customer categories in order to successfully identify what they required from a digital platform. Another key challenge was to determine how to integrate this digital strategy into our core business and plan the technical requirements in order to support each individual customer requirement.
How did you apply your MBA learnings to this project?
The findings from the project reassured the members of the board that their initial thought processes and business decisions were accurate and ensured the business was going down the right track to achieve success whilst the thorough analysis from the MBA findings gave the company real-time, factual customer insight.
How has taking part in this project benefited you/your approach to business?
The process was highly beneficial to individuals and the team collectively. It was great to see them work together to begin to understand our business model and provide an authoritative outside perspective whilst narrowing down the route to take to achieve success.
What was original about your project?
Neither the board nor the AMBS team could find any other business or company that utilised a business model quite like ours and has subsequently gone on to achieve what we strived to. This in itself is quite unlike any other company or project out there and certainly proves we have a unique offering.
Did your supervisor add value and how?
The Vision Support Services board valued the coordination conducted by the AMBS supervisor and the opportunity after completion of the AMBS team’s final, comprehensive presentation to relay our appreciation of the individual skills brought from each member of the AMBS team.
How would you sum up your MBA experience?
The MBA experience, for Vision, was highly insightful and rewarding. The directors were hugely impressed with the outstanding professionalism, business acumen and knowledge that the AMBS team brought to the table. They were able to get beneath the very surface of the business with ease, understand our customer base and they brought an exhaustive, methodical and objective approach to their analysis.