Levi’s overhauled its backend system for better inventory visibility. This gives its call center employees more functionality and helps them resolve issues faster. The new system also lays the groundwork for in-store inventory visibility for online shoppers.

Black Friday is serious business at apparel manufacturer and retailer Levi Strauss & Co.

The IT employees come into their San Francisco office in the wee hours wearing all black for the serious task ahead of making sure its systems can handle the increased traffic, Varun Bhambri, Levi’s senior manager for IT e-commerce, told attendees at the Manhattan Associates Momentum conference in Florida in May.

“Peak season is huge,” Bhambri said.

And the pressure is only higher when the brand is overhauling its backend systems. Levi’s is in year two of a five-year omnichannel overhaul project that includes changing its order management system to Manhattan’s. The goal is to have a platform that can scale globally, integrate with multiple fulfillment third-party logistic companies, be stable during peak season, alleviate payment reconciliation issues, such as exchanges, and set a foundation to expand omnichannel capabilities, such as in-store inventory and splitting orders across distribution centers. Levi’s started the project in February 2016 and is rolling out elements in different geographic regions for its Levis.com and Dockers.com brands.

Previously, Levi’s had its former SAP Hybris e-commerce platform handle order management; however, that platform wasn’t built for all of the functionality Levi’s was making it do, Bhambri said. For example, once a customer placed an online order, Levi’s could not view the order in its system until it shipped. That meant if a shopper placed an order, forgot to enter a coupon code and called its customer service center, Levi’s could not pull up that shopper’s order and could not help the shopper with putting in the coupon code until the order shipped.

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Levi’s also had challenges managing exchanges. For example, if a shopper returned a pair of jeans and the warehouse sent her a replacement, she could do that countless times. The system wasn’t tracking the number of times a shopper did this, so the customer could keep exchanging products with no limits, he said.

Levi’s selected the Manhattan Order Management system to resolve these issues because the vendor could integrate with Levi’s quickly, plus all of the features it wanted were bundled together in the system, Bhambri said.

As of March 2018, the Levis.com and Dockers.com brands in the U.S. have had positive results, Bhambri said.

Because the Hybris system is no longer handling order management, Levi’s reduced the platform’s backend architecture by 15%. The website’s performance improved and its front-end servers no longer go down, he said.

For its call center, these changes are huge, Levi’s says. The time it takes agents to resolve an issue decreased by 20% in the first week of implementation. Plus, the system the agents use is faster. In particular, the search function that enables an agent has to find a shopper’s order is speedier. Better functionality decreased the average time of a customer service call by 90 seconds per call, which is a 20% reduction. Levi’s also was able to reduce the headcount of its support team, Bhambri said without revealing specifics.

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During peak season, Levi’s has to ensure that even though the systems are new, it is still fully functional and can handle the high volumes of shoppers on its site.

For Q4 2017, Levi’s ran into an unexpected problem that its order management system helped it solve. Over the past two holiday seasons, traffic and sales from European shoppers have increased on Black Friday, even though this shopping day is associated with the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and is not a traditional shopping day in Europe. However, by 4 a.m. Pacific on Black Friday, European traffic “was going nuts,” and by the end of the day, its hot SKUs were selling out, Bhambri said.

The retailer didn’t know what it would sell for Cyber Monday as it’s distribution centers were running low on inventory. Levi’s decided that it would turn on backorders, so that the retailer would still sell the same products and offer the same promotion, but alert the shopper that it would take longer to ship. While this sounds like an easy fix, it was an impressive new feature for Levi’s.

“This is flexibility we didn’t have two years ago,” Bhambri said.

Next up, Levi’s wants to launch find-in-store inventory, he said.

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