“The reaction from the team has just been phenomenal. They are beyond excited that they don’t have to lug all of these binders around, and that they have everything in one simple, easy-to-use tool. Not only does the product look fashion forward, but we do as well.”
Heather Eidenmiller, Director of Brand Development Bernhardt Inc.
High Point Market
The biannual trade show features more than 2,000 exhibitors in 180 buildings encompassing more than 11.5 million square feet of exhibition space. Twice yearly, more than 75,000 attendees - commercial buyers for retail establishments, the hospitality and hotel industry, commercial developers, architects, and interior designers - descend on High Point, North Carolina, dubbed “The Furniture Capital of the World,” to view and purchase the latest offerings in home furnishings for their enterprises.
Bernhardt’s traditional, paper-based process involved flipping through binders filled with product information, and then completing paper forms to document orders which were later manually entered into the company’s ordering system. In order to ensure that sellers had the latest information during its largest, international, wholesale buyers’ event, up to six Bernhardt employees were dedicated exclusively to manually changing, printing and distributing reams of new product information to sales representatives across its 75,000 square foot showroom. Despite the company’s best efforts, this manual process left room for risk, errors and time-consuming confusion.
Retailers would request more information and/or place orders for furnishings requiring the staff to manually track the entire process via spreadsheets. This was time-consuming and required the staff to focus more on the order management process and less on the client-interaction as it related to the furniture. In an industry driven by design, Bernhardt offers products that are stylish and cutting edge. The manual processes previously used did not accurately portray the image of the company and its products.
The backend ordering system was cumbersome as they were required to redistribute the paper catalogs on a daily basis in response to the market demand and product availability. This labor-intensive paper-based process also resulted in version-control risks and market fluctuation issues.
Bernhardt Virtual Showroom
Using Bluemix, IBM’s cloud Platform-as-a-Service built on SoftLayer’s global cloud infrastructure, the Bernhardt IT team and IBM designed such a virtual showroom app for iPad devices, which provide Bernhardt’s sellers with immediate access to the latest product information. Both Bluemix’s design and data analytics capabilities proved invaluable to achieving Bernhardt’s goals and objectives for its platform, as well as catapulted Bernhardt into a fashion and technology leader within the furniture industry through elevating its sales experiences to new levels of sophistication.
The Bernhardt Virtual Showroom application is deployed on BlueMix and leverages a Cloudant data store. Cloudant, a NO SQL, data store had the cloud features and device replication which is a cornerstone to the Bernhard solution. In addition to the BlueMix Platform as a Service, the jStart team developed an Ipad IOS native application which gave a rich user experience and intuitive UI for Ipad users.
iBeacons in the Showroom
Bernhardt’s biannual participation in the High Point Market, presented the IBM jStart Team with an opportunity to take the Berhardt Mobile Showroom App to the next level using iBeacons. By understanding product trends and traffic patterns of those utilizing the cloud-based, mobile solution, Bernhardt would be enabled to make rapid adjustments in product placement, pricing and availability status.
iBeacons were deployed throughout the 100,000 square foot Bernhardt showroom. As the showroom came alive with sales representatives using the Bernhardt Virtual Showroom App, over 2.9 million data points were collected during the 7-day market. A Machine-learning algorithm was used to create a model that would determine user location. This algorithm was instrumental in the build out of a virtual map of the showroom rather than tediously mapping it out by hand. Utilizing IBM’s Cloud Data Services (Apache Spark) and Cloudant storage the algorithm was tuned rapidly over much iteration and finely tuned to 90% accuracy. Bernhardt gained critical insights into their sales processes and showroom configurations with the resulting location point data within minutes.
Visualization of Sales Productivity in Real-Time
Taking full advantage of Apache Spark Analytics, the jStart team moved the Bernhardt Mobile Showroom App to its next logical phase: real-time analytics of their sales during market. The visualization of physical activity, recorded sales and product inquiry data for the showroom floor during the biannual event is tracked via heatmap. Bernhardt can more readily respond to receptivity among their clients to new releases of product design, make quicker adjustments to inventory and back orders and finely tune their sales approach mid-campaign. The visualization dashboard displays revenue, quantity sold, time spent per showroom vignette and furniture selection.
Microservices at Work
The Bernhardt Furniture Virtual Showroom app began as a Proof of Concept mobile application built on Bluemix by IBM's jStart Emerging Technologies team. Originally scoped with a finite set of required features, a monolithic architecture made sense. The success of the app led to rapidly growing possibilities on both the scale and function of the application, and the architecture was quickly at capacity. To easily expand the architecture to make room for Spark-based analytics and Internet of Things features, the team deployed microservices on Bluemix.
Start Small, Grow Fast
Learn how the jStart Team can help your business get started using our "start small, grow fast" engagement process. Today's business challenges aren't just about huge amounts of information, rather it is leveraging the valuable insights and opportunities living within that data. jStart is a highly skilled team focused on providing fast, smart, and valuable business solutions leveraging the latest technologies. The team typically focuses on emerging technologies which have commercial potential within 12-18 months. This allows the team to keep ahead of the adoption curve, while being prepared for client engagements and partnerships. The team’s focus includes: predictive and prescriptive analytics, cognitive computing, cloud technologies, big data, social data and mobile platforms.
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