Posted by Steve Brooks, Guest Blogger

Transforming a division of a financial services company into a modern, omnichannel retailer isn’t easy, but it can be done.

Matt Main, the Managing Director of Retail at Simplyhealth, explained how his company did it with the help of NetSuite during the recent SuiteConnect EMEA conference. Part of the Unlimited Company, the UK’s leading health cash plan provider, in recent years Simplyhealth had grown through acquisitions, including the ‘Care & Mobility’ and ‘Independent Living’ shops.

Transforming the business into a modern retail operation, required three key steps, according to Main. There was a cultural shift, a complete transformation of the store experience and the installation of new IT systems to support it all.

Other companies who have grown through acquisitions have faced similar challenges, left with a hairball of disconnected systems.

“We had two versions of Sage, ‘Care & Mobility’ had Sage 50 and ‘Independent Living’ had Sage 200,” Main said. “It was clear that we weren’t going to get the depth of data analysis from Sage to be able to grow the business successfully and sustainably.”

Identifying what they needed was the first challenge.

“We needed to find a solution that we could use in store and online,” Main said. “It also had to allow our customers to interact with us seamlessly.”

Simplyhealth looked at several solutions, including one specific to the healthcare market. Yet, none were cloud based. Some didn’t even have a general ledger, according to Main. This led to the realisation that they needed a retail solution not a healthcare solution. Simplyhealth discovered that NetSuite could provide with the back office and front office system it needed. NetSuite also provided a flexible and powerful development platform that allowed Simplyhealth to customize the system as it needed as well as a healthy ecosystem of partner applications.

“It was not just about the software though,” Main said. “It was really important to us to engage with a business who understood us. The NetSuite team understand that and really got under the skin of our company. It helped us to build one version of the truth and more importantly build one set of the data. We can now analyse the data very quickly and make the right decision for our customers.”

The speed of implementation was impressive, Main explained, “we began at the start of December and launched in the first store on the third of March 2016.”

For the next few months, Simplyhealth perfected the solution dealing with cultural and business process changes. It also prepared the online store for launch along with six stores on July 1st. The remaining stores went live in August 2016. Those later stores needed additional training as they were paper and carbon copy based rather than electronic systems.

They were three key benefits the Unlimited Company achieved, according to Main.

Visibility into Financials

“I knew how much money we were collecting. I know that sounds odd but we didn’t know from Sage,” he said. “Now I can tell you exactly what has been taken from each location.”

For example, the Andover store, is achieving double digit like-for-like gains following the shop refit that coincided with the NetSuite implementation.

Inventory Management

“I have a real handle on my inventory in terms of knowing what is where,” Main said. “So looking at web fulfilment we can manage our inventory file better because we can fulfil from overstock in stores.”

Faster Close

“We are able to procure the month end process a lot quicker, at least a day quicker,” Main said.

The month end process timescale is likely improve again. With NetSuite API, Simplyhealth is hoping to integrate the solution with the other third party systems that it relies on for month end. The next stage is to enable the in-store touch screens with SuiteCommerce. The company is also working with an Occupational Therapist to deliver specific digital content to assist customers.

Intelligent order management, a key focus of NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson in his keynote at SuiteConnect EMEA, is a priority moving forward for Simplyhealth, which faces some challenges with distribution.

“The next stage for us is to look at a central distribution model because we are starting to transact on the web in high volumes,” Main said. In order to fulfil orders we will need to have some kind of distribution capability.”

The overall objective, Main said, is to “personalise the experience to the customer.”

And so far it’s working. The initial feedback from customers, colleagues and the wider public has been immensely positive, Main said. NetSuite is delivering an omnichannel experience that is personalised for customers in an industry that demands it. NetSuite is helping to deliver something better than mere profits. It is also helping to make a real difference to people, allowing them to make the most of life.