Behind the E-commerce Engine

Pinehill.co.in, a kids online store, is like any other e-commerce start up in its first year. Although, there are many sites like Flipkart and Snapdeal in India that claim to have gained traction, there are hardly any good business models to replicate and learn from for a start-up e-commerce company. Thus, for Pinehill to take off purely on small domestic models was a risk. In such a situation, its experience of being in apparel manufacturing was an advantage. It chose to target the kids’ market wider and compete with every player in the online and offline space.

 

“Started some 6 months ago, we’re a small company with business spread only in 4 cities right now. Our purpose is to have a stronghold in these cities in the beginning and outperform our offline and online competitors,” says Venkatesh M, managing director, Pinehill.

 

Customer Focus

Despite its size, Pinehill is very competitive and ambitious. Battling both small and big players in the online and offline space, Pinehill is focused on offering quality products, variety, and superior delivery, Venkatesh claims. In addition, use of smart applications in technology and focus on customer retention helped Pinehill to sustain its growth in the initial phase. “To assist quick growth and penetration, bringing the flexibility and convenience of online shopping to young parents, I realized that technology would play a key role. More so, e-commerce is a technology-driven space where adding more convenience for the customer helps in gaining competitive edge,” says Venkatesh.

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“Increasing productivity, increasing customer satisfaction through a system, convenient and simple, was on my mind, when we started the online store. It is because there are several issues related to a website dealing in e-commerce space,” he adds. So the key requirements were to create a website that could automatically generate orders, send the delivery status report, and help the company solve issues.

Venkatesh knew that a CRM application integrated into its website was the best-fit. But given the size of the organization, going in for a CRM application straightaway would have been a huge expense. Though he knew about many solutions that were available on a pay-per-use basis, selecting the right vendor, finding out the best integration technologies, ensuring quick deployment and flexibility were the key challenges faced by the company.

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“The business model we have is centered around customers. We went in for a CRM application, but deciding on the best suit needed a little homework. Cloud computing is the buzz these days and was a best-fit for a company like ours,” says Venkatesh.

 

The Deployment

Pinehill narrowed its search for a vendor and found one in the form of Microsoft. Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 was integrated with the Pinehill shopping portal to deal with customer issues and to make online shopping a pleasant experience for customers. The company claims that it automates campaign management, while giving shoppers a personalized experience, each time they log in. Pinehill is one of the few companies that are using cloud to run their business. In addition, the data stored through this application helps the company generate more revenue streams in intelligent ways. According to the company, the solution stores information on each child including age, sex, size, birthdays, etc, to share latest offerings, especially around occasions. “The solution has helped us create a more personalized experience around shopping. In addition, the marketing team can call down the customers and clear sales forecast,” says Venkatesh.

His job has also become easier in terms of taking the right decisions in favor of future trends and setting sales targets. Based on the customer data Pinehill owns, it tries to pitch products and give them an upper hand over offline players.

The Investment

The company had to make a one time investment of ‘5 lakh on the integration and customization of the Microsoft application and pays a nominal once in three months fee of around ‘2,500. According to Venkatesh, it has rid him of various pains like hiring an IT guy for the company. “I haven’t hired an IT guy which is a big relief and a big advantage of the cloud platform. The website and CRM support is provided by the provider,” he says. He further says that cloud is a good solution for small and medium companies that can be quickly deployed with minimum hassles. He is also sure that as the business grows the company would be able to scale its business on the same application.

Since it is the maiden year for the start-up, it has successfully met its initial targets and is chasing a turnover between ’75 lakh to 1 crore this year. The cloud-based CRM has helped it compete with the large enterprises. Pinehill hopes to adding more modules as the business grows. However it would be wrong to say that all is perfect at Pinehill. Challenges remain in the supply chain and logistics area, which are being addressed. The company endeavours to enhance customer satisfaction so that customers could stick to it. “Customer service is important. Once a customer is lost, it is lost,” says Venkatesh.

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