Fact Check: How our new "Frontstage" Will Change the Digital Sales Game

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We know from practical experience that digitizing sales is easier said than coded.

Now we introduce Frontstage, a solution which smoothly feeds even staggeringly complex product ranges into highly performant, attractive presentation logics. Albert Ortig, CEO, and Stephan Lechner, CTO, have the details.

Netural introduces Frontstage, an innovative sales solution for extensive product ranges. Why?

Stephan: It´s a logical next step in our company history. Over many years, we have supported B2B and B2B2C programs of numerous large brands and companies, creating a wide variety of individual sales support solutions. Along this road, we have identified common patterns. Certain key demands kept coming back in every new project. We therefore decided to create da general solution, an affordable product that covers the demands of pretty much everyone.

Progressive sales digitization has been going on for years. What have businesses achieved by now, and what are the most frequent `painpoints´?

Albert: We have found that many businesses lack the organizational flexibility to take further digitization leaps, and very we often find extremely heterogeneous IT system landscapes that massively complicate the speedy introduction of clever digital services. Which is where we come in: With Frontstage we have defined an architecture that is able to link variable front ends with all the current or future back ends to support a wide variety of processes.

Stephan: Many systems are long established, think for instance of merchandise management software. But most of those systems provide limited support, or none at all, in those all-important direct customer contacts. They are typical back end systems, optimized for back offices. Which begs the question how we can process the available substantial databases, so they become useful in one-on-one sales talks.

Can you describe future digitally supported sales talks? Do you think that digital services will bring fundamental changes of communication patterns and settings?

Albert: I really don´t think that this is the end of sales as we know it. Rather, digital services will make many things a lot quicker and easier. End-to-end processes will raise back office efficiency. They also facilitate target-oriented sales – a most important issue. But face-to-face talks and presentations will remain highly relevant. I do not see a contradiction in customers going online after a sales talk to compile their orders or to configure custom products. The important point is to make sure that they find the recommended items, on their favorite channels, and precisely as described in the one-on-one talks.

Stephan: I think the point is more transparency before, during and after a sales talk.

Let´s talk about Frontstage. What makes Netural´s solution so special?

Stephan: It answers the frequent demand that sales persons should have all relevant data at hand during a sales talk, and without having to rummage around in binders or catalogues. We aggregate all the information necessary to give solid advice, and we make it available in packages, individualized for the customer and the sales person. We have designed this software architecture to adapt its interface to the structure of a sales talk, using various peripheral systems, ERP, PIM, CRM, DAM and the likes, as sources.

How does Frontstage differ from other sales digitization software?

Stephan: Adaptability is the key. Most solutions are either custom coded, with all the tricky bits that are inherent in such projects, or they are off-the-shelf, take-it-as-it-is, fiendishly difficult to configure, and with sometimes brutal limitations when it comes to integration into existing system environments. At the core, Frontstage is also standard software, but we designed it from the start to act as middleware, to complement existing logics while keeping full customization abilities. The starting point is a digital product catalogue, permanently updated and enriched with a plethora of information and assets.

Albert: With Frontstage, you can fully adapt interfaces to meet the needs of sales in typical situations, as much as they may vary, no matter if the output happens on notebooks, smartphones, tablets or digital signage.

Can you extend such a product catalogue by adding other functions? Are there off-the-shelf modules available? Or will expansions take individual custom coding?

Stephan: Both apply. Off-the-shelf modules are available, especially for recurring application scenarios like trade fairs, digitizing showrooms or tasks typically related to customer meetings. Individual custom coding is possible and sometimes necessary to adapt to the differences between, say, presenting Swarovski crystals or Adidas sporting goods. We therefore designed the platform to integrate every thinkable custom coding…

Albert: … thanks to API. This makes for real efficiency leaps in development and operation.

Innovation projects that affect running systems often carry inherent risks. Can Frontstage help to keep projects on time/budget/scope?

Stephan: This is a challenge, yes, and we tackle it from two angles. One is the long experience of our consultants. They will point out projects risks and potentials from day 1 of the planning phase. The other is Frontstage´s proprietary prototyping language. It is designed to quickly deliver a minimal viable product, offering the chance to safely test ideas that touch sensitive processes, and in early project stages. We even let customers use our prototyping environment.

What is your recommendation for people considering digital sales transformation in companies? What are the first questions they should ask themselves?

Albert: Frequent early questions are: Will sales need various digital services sharing the same, or similar, data? Will I start a B2B shop in the foreseeable future? A sales app? A B2B catalogue for my retailer? Where do I get the necessary data? And, last, not least: Do I prefer a sustainable investment to patching another off-the-shelf software into my system?

Stephan: Best start by asking: How important is optimal product presentation for my business? Can I find a competitive edge in faster, more elegant, data-enriched product presentations in my digital shopping window? Can we even live with the drawbacks of taking the next digitization step too late? There are of course plenty good reasons not to touch running systems. But painless innovation is indeed possible, carried out neither hurting organizations nor their finances - which is really the purpose of Frontstage.

Article: 02.07.2018


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