Byline: Brad Barth

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. — When it comes to fulfilling customer orders, pure-play Internet company eBags.com, which sells handbags, backpacks and computer cases, has drastically picked up the pace.
The improvement is due to electronic data that facilitates order management and improved communications with the e-tailer’s suppliers.
Mike Frazzini, vice president of technology at eBags, said the EDI, supplied by RNetEC, Sacramento, Calif., “gives us greater control of our integration with suppliers and it gives us a lower-cost approach, so we can invest in other areas of enhanced technology.”
He spoke at the Retail Systems 2000 conference and exposition, held last month in Chicago.
Customer orders filled directly by suppliers are now delivered in 24 to 72 hours, as opposed to a week or longer before the technology was put in place.
The system also “freed up valuable internal resources,” said Frazzini, allowing the retailer to focus on other technological endeavors, including an ambitious personalization initiative currently under way.
Frazzini explained that EDI was necessary to produce a more uniform purchase order and fulfillment process between eBags and its suppliers — 70 percent of them deliver directly to consumers. Frazzini said eBags’ suppliers vary greatly in size and capability. Though many are well established and technology-savvy, eBags also uses smaller suppliers, including some craftsmen working out of garages in Italy, he said.
Regardless of the supplier’s size, eBags wants to be sure that these companies process and deliver orders as quickly and smoothly as possible and that customers always receive the latest information on the status of their deliveries. So far, 40 of eBags’ approximately 200 suppliers have agreed to take part in this initiative.
EBags’ EDI system consists of a virtual area network that features a standard interface through which the e-tailer can communicate with suppliers, sending purchase orders and shipping information as electronic documents.
Frazzini said that eBags first considered using Web-based Extensible Mark-up Language (XML) to integrate order management among its suppliers, but decided to pass on this newer technology in favor of traditional EDI.
Frazzini said eBags.com would wait for XML to enter the retail mainstream before reconsidering the technology.
The e-tailer also decided on a service integration hybrid model for its EDI model, meaning that eBags and RNetEC would share responsibilities in running it. The company concluded that managing the entire operation by itself would be too expensive, but that entering into an application service provider relationship would mean giving up too much control of its front-end operations.
EBags, which was launched in March 1999, can be accessed on the Web at ebags.com.