Web-Based Business Processes Combined with Traditional Hi-Fi

Feature Article | April 9, 2008 by Joris Spuesens

“We invite customers to visit us in our hi-fi Palazzo, where they can listen to and compare selected sound systems. Backed by years of experience, we know that the purchase of hi-fi equipment is a highly personal process,” says Marcel Stassen, general manager of Stassen HiFi, based in Tegelen in the Netherlands. “We therefore recommend that people bring their own favorite music.” The demonstrations are free of charge and obligation. “We not only deliver hi-fi equipment, but also fulfill audio and video dreams,” says Stassen.

With its classical hi-fi Palazzo and a glitzy Web site, Stassen HiFi attracts customers from all over the world. Stassen combines more than half a century of acoustic research with traditional, analog hi-fi experience (audio and video) and electronic innovations.

In 1962, founder Math Stassen decided to buy the classical Palazzo to test, modify, and fine-tune hi-fi equipment and to support sales. “We also own apartments in several European coastal cities. We have installed electronics to control home equipment in the apartments, something we call domotica. As a sideline to our business, we optimize acoustics in apartments. We also test and improve the acoustics of concert halls all over the world,” says Math Stassen, who handed the business over to his son Marcel.

Hi-fi experience in true-to-life surroundings

“We want visitors to watch movies and listen to music in quite the same ambience they have at home. That helps prevent any disappointments when they come home and discover that their music doesn’t sound as good as it did in the shop,” says Stassen to explain the concept of the Palazzo. Like his father, Marcel still personally welcomes customers in his hi-fi Palazzo, offering them coffee and cookies.

He or one of his 13 advisors calculates the sound effects created by the typical design and furnishings of a customer’s living room. They then select one of 21 listening rooms in the hi-fi Palazzo that best matches a visitor’s own living room. Customers can then experience their own music or favorite movie in true-to-life surroundings. The result? Tailored acoustic advice for specific needs and wishes.

“Most customers are not only hi-fi freaks, but also interested in computers and modern technology at an above-average level,” adds Marcel Stassen. “A lot of them have a home server on which they gather and manage music and video collections. I’m not a computer geek myself, but I understand that my target audience has opted for a digital future. My passion for old-school acoustic principles goes surprisingly well with their modern requirements.” But no Web shops or virtual communities can copy this direct experience, and Stassen doesn’t expect there will be any time in the near future.

Computerization combined with personal contact

“Striving for perfection and service is a full-time job, but nowadays a lot of people don’t realize that it takes time to deliver quality,” Stassen says. “When my parents started the company more than fifty years ago, they focused on personal contact and advice. To me, that principle still holds. But to remain competitive, I decided to invest in software that can take over a lot of manual operations.”

Stassen HiFi wanted an advanced solution for business process management that streamlines, integrates, and automates processes. “Of course, we used to have accounting software. But it was quite primitive. And what’s more, we weren’t very happy about the collaboration with our former IT partners,” says Stassen. “For example, we had to pay for every update and faced lots of limitations. After we entered 32,000 customers into the system, we found out that we couldn’t recover old data.”

Luc van Alphen, a friend of Stassen, who once did an apprenticeship at Stassen HiFi, convinced him to have a look at SAP Business One. Van Alphen from Alpha One, an SAP gold channel partner in the Netherlands implementing retail solutions, knows what he is talking about. “Because we have been friends for such a long time, I was sure he wouldn’t advise me to buy things I didn’t really need. And because of my digital ‘innocence,’ I wanted to rely on my friend’s advice. I didn’t want this important IT investment to become a disappointment.”

POS overview at one glance

Van Alphen implemented more than SAP Business One. He also urged Stassen to work with XV-Retail POS, a Web based point-of-sale (POS) solution from Alpha One’s XV-Retail Suite that features integration with SAP software. Stassen is still impressed by the new possibilities. He enthusiastically demonstrates his new POS gadget.

“Computers had always been an unknown quantity for me. But now I wish I had known about some of the advantages they offer earlier. At a glance, I have an overview of all business processes that are relevant to my company: purchasing, stock control, accounting, repairs, and sales. All functions are manageable through one intuitive interface. And the best? SAP Business One enables me to spend as much time with my customers as I used to, while still remaining competitive. I can quickly calculate average profit margins for combinations of brands and components. That makes it easier to give customers discounts without loosing overall profitability.”

Stassen adds, “If we had to locate repaired equipment in the past, we needed a lot of paper files to find out whether the equipment was stored at our supplier, in our warehouse, or had been returned to the customer. Today we can retrieve all information with one click.”

In the future, Stassen wants to automate goods receipt processes even further with scanners to minimize paper flows. His wish list also includes complete integration of e-mail, telephony, calendar, and scheduling with the accounting software. With SAP Business One, Stassen can even integrate real estate activities, because the application is generic and standardized. “Our Palazzo will soon be renovated, and that’s a good opportunity to introduce other innovations,” says Stassen.

No price war

Although Marcel Stassen now uses the Internet as a marketing channel, he doesn’t want to start an online price war or become a victim of one. “What we need to survive on the modern retail battleground is a flexible, future-proof infrastructure,” Stassen concludes. By using a Web-based solution, Stassen can settle bills at any location, even if connections with headquarters are disabled. In case of downtime at one location, sales must go on. XV-Retail and SAP Business One synchronize automatically all information as soon as the connection is restored, so Stassen is always up-to-date without extra manual input.

“Now that we have tasted the delights of modern Web-based business processes, we want more. That’s why I have purchased a new Internet domain, www.Stassen.tv (currently in Dutch and German only), on which we will narrowcast our own interviews and programs for hi-fi friends all over the world. YouTube, here we come!”

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