American Solutions for Business is proudly celebrating 20 years of their proprietary eCommerce Platform, called ACES – short for American’s Customer-Centric eCommerce Solution.
Back in 2000, the company was ahead of the curve in terms of investing in technology – specifically eCommerce. In a time that predated Facebook and G-Mail, ASB Founder & CEO, Larry Zavadil, and Dion Harste, VP of Information Technology were set out to take advantage of the eCommerce wave they could see coming and brought it to fruition with only 5 developers, 3 graphic artists and 7 coordinators.
“It was obvious by that time that the Internet was going to change the purchasing habits of business customers,” explains Harste. “At that time, we had no concept of what Amazon would one day become, but the team felt that the management of a supply site was still going to need to be overseen and managed by someone who knew the needs of the customer. There were some that felt we rushed into eCommerce a bit early, but I am proud to see that ACES is still a cornerstone for American.”
Initially, ACES started as primarily an office supplies online store for the first year before introducing apparel – a plan that was sketched out on a bar napkin between Harste and Rob Dubow, owner of St. Cloud, MN-based apparel decorator. The program was named “Just in Time” (JIT) and is still one of ASB’s most robust eCommerce features, allowing customers to order branded merchandise in quantities of one (no minimums, no inventory).
After holding his Vice President role for three years, Harste started his own software company, yet still holds a sales number with ASB.
“ACES has been the product of a lot of people; both in the beginning through today,” Harste says. “The key to its success and continued success was and is that the Sales Associate remains a key resource for the customer. That is what sets American’s eCommerce apart from the many options that are in the market.”
Today, the platform hosts over 12,000 customer eCommerce sites. Due to ever-evolving customer needs and advances in technology, 95% of code is updated every two years, ensuring a dependable, state-of-the-art user experience. The platform has countless features that have been added over the years, including: multiple eStore options, allocation dollars, approval rights, split shipping, retail-style graphics, points program, variable templates and more.
Quick Stats (as of December 2019):
- Nearly 12,000 active sites
- Over 270,000 orders placed/month
- Over 360 ASB Sales Associates with active customer sites
Two team members who are essential to the success and growth of ACES are Mike Pfeiffer, VP of Technology and Mike Schmitz, Senior Director of eCommerce. Schmitz, who joined the team back in 2001 during the early days of ACES began as ASB’s eXtensible Markup Language (XML) expert, a necessary role to help facilitate information between vendors and customers. He notes that some of the biggest early struggles were overcoming the challenge handling discrepancies between the setup and management of apparel, office supplies and printed products – each had their own unique factors to consider such as sizing, drop shipping, template setup and variable data.
Pfeiffer plays a crucial role in steering the ship in the right direction, ensuring ASB makes the best decisions to positively impact its customers, sales associates and vendor partners. Not only does he facilitate the advancement of ACES, he’s focused on the increased need for cyber security, a necessary defense in today’s eCommerce landscape.
We dive in deeper with Mike Schmitz and Mike Pfeiffer:
How does your role affect the success of ACES?
Schmitz: Consistent evolution of the product, with monthly code releases to continually add features. Providing vision and direction into how the platform grows without having a negative impact on current features.
What do you feel are the biggest breakthroughs and added features over the years?
Pfeiffer: In my opinion, these are our top three:
- Secure, industry-leading architecture – In 2013, we moved ACES to a highly-available platform that ensures ACES is available 24 hours a day every day of the year. In 2015, we added Disaster Recovery and redundancy to provide our customers with a Recovery Point Objective (RPO) of no more than 15 minutes of data loss and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) of no more than 4 hours to recover our platform in the case of a declared disaster. These metrics are 4 times better than Oracle’s advertised metrics and leading in our industries.
- Integrations – We are linked to 27 vendors/decorators and send electronically to an additional 18 vendors and 28 purchasing networks. This provides our customers with an integrated, end-to-end experience for ease-of-use and automated eCommerce solutions.
- Proprietary code base – This ensures we can customize any component needed on our time scale and are not dependent upon third party vendor shared roadmap development cycles.
How does ACES set us apart from other distributors in the industry?
Schmitz: We developed the solution and continue to enhance it, so our answer is never “the system doesn’t do that”, it’s that “we don’t do that today.” This flexibility allows us to develop the tools and features our customers ask for.
How does ACES support the success of ASB?
Pfeiffer: ACES allows us to scale and grow to 12,000 customer sites even though our team size has less than doubled. Our ACES growth has consistently outpaced or even doubled ASB’s growth in the last seven years. The next adaptation of our platform called ACES Elite as well as Classic ACES innovations will continue to power our steep growth curve for years to come. The evolution of our technology is all to help hundreds of our sales associates automate their business, increasing sales while streamlining operations.
American Solutions for Business is incredibly proud to celebrate this 20-year anniversary and can’t wait to see what opportunities lie ahead. Larry Zavadil says time and time again, that our people are our best asset. The technology we continue to develop will always aim to serve the people who make ASB a success – the customers, salespeople, vendors and team members.
To learn more about American Solutions for Business, visit http://www.americanbus.com.