E-FILES: Wrightson marries old with new

Rural supplier Wrightson has had extensive experience in e-commerce but is just starting to do some 'planning and thinking' about e-business.

www.wrightson.co.nz

Rural supplier Wrightson has had extensive experience in e-commerce but is just starting to do some "planning and thinking" about e-business, says Colin Young, the company's consultant project manager for e-commerce.

Young says just how open a company wants to be depends on how "aggressive they want to be with suppliers. You can create partnerships or closer alliances with B2B or you can do the totally open side of things, with certain products, and tender for them."

With the tendering process, says Young, certain parameters can be introduced and companies are ranked in terms of their abilities to meet those requirements.

Young says Wrightson is potentially looking at doing it both ways - a ranking system and alliance partners. The difference will be between trusted brands, such as a popular wool pack, to more generic products such as nails.

Any scrutiny the other way - from farmer customer to rural supply company - is based on building personalised relationships and supplying the right product, says Young.

Wrightson has taken a "keeping the best of the old and marrying with the best of the new" approach to its e-commerce venture. It has implemented a clicks and mortar approach to e-commerce, after farmers told them they wanted to retain physical stores as well as shopping online.

Asked if introducing e-business has been a daunting task for the company, Young says a change in thinking is required and that's not always easy.

Wrightson itself has also done some evolving during its over 150 years in New Zealand. The company was founded in 1841 and has now become 11 different businesses.

Last year it had revenues of more than $564 million. The size of the company, and the diversity of its operations means it has a huge customer base with a plethora of requirements. The solution in e-commerce terms was to start small and grow rapidly, says Young.

From initial work, the company found its customers wanted two things in an e-commerce system - information and convenience. The Web meets the two requirements. Information comes in the form of supplies and disseminating knowledge and news for farmers to digest - while services are tailored to the farming community, such as being able to choose which store a customer can pick up goods from. This provides the convenience.

The system is known as Wisard - Wrightson information system and rural database - and it contains the company's point of sale and other core systems.

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