An insider's view into the product development of REALIZe
1. K3 has just announced the release of REALIZe 2.5. To set the scene, can you tell us a little more about REALIZe and what it is?
REALIZe is a digital platform that enables retailers and wholesalers to go beyond ecommerce and connect online, mobile and in-store channels to provide a fantastic omni-channel experience to their customers. They can benefit from an ecommerce web shop with a host of B2B and B2C features that can be easily integrated to Dynamics NAV, pebblestone|fashion and LS Retail. REALIZe is highly adaptable, with a plugin architecture that enables new features and functionality to easily be added. There is also a front-end API that partners and customers can utilize to develop integrations to other customer touchpoints such as in-store kiosks or mobile apps to extend the customer experience.
2. What are the most common pain points or customer challenges that REALIZe addresses?
Providing a consistent experience across channels
The REALIZe head office integration ensures consistency of data across all channels and removes the manual effort and extra costs associated with managing data for different channels separately. This enables businesses to increase customer satisfaction and revenues by providing the consistent omni-channel experiences their customers now expect at a fraction of the cost of developing bespoke integrations.
Ensuring their customers have a great shopping experience regardless of the device they are using
Over 50% of traffic to retail websites now comes from mobile devices, so it’s imperative for businesses to make it easy for site visitors to browse and make purchases on whatever device they want. REALIZe enables this with inbuilt responsive design based on the market leading bootstrap framework, meaning the web store displays perfectly on mobile devices, as the content is optimised for the screen size.
Helping web shoppers to find what they want quickly and easily
Recent market research data highlights that 76% of online customers say that the most important factor in a website’s design is making it easy for them to find what they want. The REALIZe Mega Menu and Azure Search & Navigation help with this by enabling customers to easily view and navigate to any category and to search directly for products, for example by name or item number, and to filter results based on a range of criteria, such as color, size, price and brand. REALIZe Azure Search supports misspellings and partial matches (e.g. where a search term matches part of a product name) and provides relevant suggestions as users type in the search box; all of this helps them to find relevant products quickly.
Enabling wholesalers to engage with B2B buyers
Studies show that 57% of the B2B buying process is now done before engaging with sales and that 80% of companies believe that their customer expectations have changed due to B2C practices. By combining B2C-style functionality such as responsive design, powerful search and navigation, flexible content management and a streamlined checkout with B2B features such as a quick cart, matrix order entry and sales agent customer impersonation, REALIZe enables wholesalers to provide the online experience that B2B buyers are now looking for. Frost & Sullivan predicts that B2B ecommerce revenues will hit $6.7 trillion by 2020, which highlights that ecommerce is a key area that wholesalers need to be focusing on right now!
3. What makes REALIZe different from other solutions out in the market?
A key differentiator is the tight integration to pebblestone|fashion 2016, enabling fashion wholesalers to provide the features their customers need on the web store, such as prepack ordering, matrix order entry and direct and pre-sales order types. Our B2B quick cart design is another differentiator; it enables matrix order entry for product variants and prepack ordering, so it’s perfect for the fashion industry.
4. Does REALIZe work in the cloud? Is it available as an on-prem solution?
REALIZe does work in the cloud and it can be hosted wherever our customers prefer. It’s also available as an Azure Web App, which means it can be provided as a fully managed SaaS solution. One of the big benefits of this is that it can be deployed in Azure alongside pebblestone|fashion 365 by our hosting partner. This makes life much easier for our REALIZe/pebblestone|fashion partners and enables them to get a fully integrated web store up and running for their customers within a few days. For customers that want their web store hosted on-site, REALIZe can be deployed onto local servers at their HQ.
5. Is REALIZe suitable for companies of all sizes?
Yes, definitely. REALIZe is great for small companies, as the out-of-the-box head office integration means there is no need for expensive integration projects. Smaller companies can also take advantage of REALIZe Lite provided as an Azure Web App on a SaaS basis to further reduce upfront software and implementation costs. For larger companies that require a more tailored solution, REALIZe can be customized to suit their requirements, as the plugin architecture makes it really easy to add new functionality.
6. How does K3 take REALIZe to market?
We have a number of companies within the K3 Group that sell to both B2B and B2C customers, so this is a key route to market. We’re also very keen to work closely with our pebblestone|fashion partners, as we see a huge opportunity to help PF customers enhance their customers’ experiences and boost online revenues through REALIZe. We’re also looking for new partners, as the forthcoming API will enable them to integrate REALIZe to their customers’ existing head office systems.
7. What kind of technical knowledge and skills do partners need to be able to implement REALIZe?
Partners will need experience with Internet Information Services (IIS) and SQL to install REALIZe. HTML 5 and CSS expertise will also be required to apply customer branding to the web store. Partners that want to implement REALIZe Lite won’t need IIS and SQL knowledge, as the website will be deployed for them as an Azure Web App.
Partners that are providing REALIZe integrated to Dynamics NAV and pebblestone|fashion will need an understanding of how to configure data in these systems so that they can set everything up for the web integration. Of course, we’ll provide training and guides for partners to ensure they understand how to configure everything correctly to get web stores up and running quickly and efficiently.
8. What are the plans for REALIZe moving forward?
We have three releases planned for 2017. The next release, REALIZe v3.0, will focus on delivering new B2B features and providing a back-end Web API that can be used to integrate to a wide range of external systems, e.g. ERPs, CRM, campaign management and marketing automation systems. In REALIZe v3.5 and v4.0, we’ll further enhance the B2B and B2C feature set as well as looking at new endpoints and apps to extend the product offering.
9. Where can our partners and/or customers find more information on REALIZe?