If you’re running a fashion store, you need to keep up with the latest product and service trends in the market. Zara has been one of the most successful (and most copied) brands in the fashion industry, and companies can find both inspiration and business ideas by taking a closer look at how they operate.
Zara is a leading Spanish fashion retail brand owned by the distribution group Inditex. Founded in 1975, Zara works in textile design, manufacturing, and distribution. With over 1,700 stores across 86 countries, Zara’s profitability is still among the highest in the industry.
So, what makes Zara so successful? What operational strategies do they use? And finally, what can other fashion retailers learn from Zara? The answers to these questions can help you as you make your way towards retail success.
Zara capitalizes on fashion trends
For Zara, its competitive advantage is its supply chain. Zara designs fashionable products inspired by trade fairs, catwalks, magazines, and more. Their designs are unique, and they are able to meet the demands of fashion-centric customers from all age groups. Whenever a new style is seen in the market, the talented designers at Zara can move quickly and capitalize while trends are at their peak.
This flexibility means that Zara is associated with new trends in the industry, and that recognition leads to higher demand. So, how do they move so quickly? It’s obvious that Zara’s processes are very efficient. They surely have a great inventory management system that helps them automate and streamline their processes.
Zara has a clear, defined, and consistent system
Zara designs thousands of products every year, and they deliver new products to their stores twice a week. They have a precise inventory management tool that makes it easy for them to determine which products they have in stock, how many of those products are available, and which sizes need to be delivered to what stores.
Looking at Zara, it’s clear that having an inventory optimization model in place is essential. Zara is able to make sure that each store receives only the products they need, and no more. This way, Zara is able to stay efficient and avoid wasteful over-stocking.
Zara can go from idea to shipped product in 15 days
Zara’s stores place two orders per week, and they do it on a scheduled date and time. The shipping carriers are scheduled to leave and deliver shipments at specific times. This level of attention to detail and organization allows Zara’s staff to have clear expectations and processes.
With an organized logistic system in place, Zara also has the ability to go from idea generation, to design, and finally stocked in stores in only 15 days. The industry standard, on the other hand, is 6 months.
Zara’s distribution process is extremely efficient, too.They’re able to deliver products to their European stores within a day, and to their American and Asian outlets in 2 days or less.
Zara’s supply management sets it up for success
Zara’s flexibility, efficiency, and organization make it an outstanding organization, and a great model for fashion retailers around the world. Their cross-functional operations strategy, efficient supply management, and organized distribution methods result in well-managed inventories, lower prices, higher profits, and fantastic brand value.
Want to get organized like Zara? Request a demo here and speak to a specialist who can discuss how Cin7 increases operational efficiency and overall productivity for all kinds of retailers and wholesalers.
Ecommerce, also called electronic commerce or internet commerce, is a business model that lets you buy and sell goods and services over the Internet. So, ecommerce software allows your online store to operate. The transaction of money (funds) is also a part of ecommerce.
ERP systems are a type of software used to manage enterprise data. ERP systems help different organizations in dealing with various departments of an enterprise. It takes care of departments like inventory management, customer order management, production planning, shipping, and accounting.
ERP systems combine all databases across the company into a single database and can be accessed by all employees of the enterprise. It helps you in the automation of the tasks involved to perform a business process.
We will learn about the fundamental differences between the two systems in this article to help you make a better choice.
What is an ERP system?
Running a business is all about juggling things from finance to operations, and sales to marketing. ERP systems aim to consolidate back-office processes into one system. They help you track, share and store information across various departments, and ensure that all the employees rely on the same data.
Popular ERPs like NetSuite, Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft Dynamics are traditional business management systems with accounting at the core. To keep up with the changing tide of retail, there are many integrations for ecommerce solutions like:
ERP monoliths are not tailored to a specific industry or line of business, so the quality of ecommerce integrations often fall short of expectations. ERPs were built based on older technology and have not kept up with the ever-changing marketplace requirements or the level of innovation that ecommerce software regularly delivers.
Most ERPs are built for back-office purposes. They are not meant for customer-facing sites like a web store that require real-time transactions and analysis.
By hinging your whole multi-channel business on an inflexible system like this, you risk non-compliance, listing errors, and other mistakes. It could cost you the right to sell on marketplaces like Amazon.
ERPs require major financial and time investments. Apart from annual subscription fees, you may face up-front and support costs running into hundreds of thousands of dollars. Plus, it may take years to implement an ERP system fully and that could lead to disruptive changes to your business.
What is ecommerce software?
Ecommerce software is the system that allows your online store to operate. Ecommerce software may include business tools like inventory management, accounting, and email marketing.
Put simply, ecommerce software lets you list products for sale and accept payments online. But, most online businesses usually need more than the bare minimum, and ecommerce software adds other business management tools.
The best ecommerce software has all the basic tools you need to get started, with an ecosystem of upgraded tools and platforms that you can use as your business grows.
Types of ecommerce software
There are mainly three types of ecommerce software:
1# Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)
Both of the above offer ecommerce solutions via the Internet. SaaS provides solutions through cloud-based software, and if adding hardware, it becomes a PaaS. These are both straightforward options for those who are not tech-savvy.
Additional design and custom features may require some developer skills. But, patches, updates, and new features are dealt with automatically.
These services charge on a monthly basis and may include transaction fees, but provide full support when required.
2# On-premise platforms
These solutions are hosted locally on servers by the retailer and managed by their IT department. On-site professionals are required to fix any problems as they occur, add new features, and do manual updates.
If you have your own internal IT team, then on-premise may be an excellent option for you. It allows firms to gain more control over their site and create their custom storefront solution.
While researching inventory management software online, you may end up on a site that aggregates a list of providers like Capterra or GetApp that helps you compare features, benefits, and prices.
So, you can usually group your options into two main categories:
All-in-one platforms such as a supply chain management platform or an ERP
Dedicated warehouse and inventory management software
An all-in-one solution may sound enticing as it offers “full stock” in one place and can manage multiple systems and processes using one software solution. A dedicated inventory management software specializes in specific sales and accounting functions and integrates with a wide range of other software.
So, the choice depends on either using software that does everything but doesn’t specialize in a specific area or using a stack of specialized software with integrations to one another.
Businesses often choose to use an all-in-one or ERP as it offers the ability to manage all administrative tasks in one place. But, as all-in-ones are so focused on managing so many things at once, they often lack the level of granularity required to fully handle inventory and warehouse processes like ecommerce software can.
If the idea of a cloud-based SaaS solution for inventory and order management is one that appeals to you over an ERP, schedule a demo of Cin7 here and we’ll show you how it can be your centralized resource for managing sales, inventory, accounting, warehousing and fulfillment.
In today’s market, the supply and demand environment is more volatile than ever before. To make sure that you are not paying more for your stock than necessary, you will have to negotiate with suppliers more effectively.
It is said that the more you negotiate, the better the outcome for your balance sheet – but this suggestion should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, anyone can negotiate, but to successfully do it, it should be understood that the concept of supply and demand is the foundation for any negotiation. Failing to keep this in mind may end up straining or fracturing your relationships with suppliers, diminishing your reputation within the ecommerce community and placing your business in peril.
So how should you negotiate with suppliers for your ecommerce business? There are myriad negotiation hacks that will help you secure the deals you seek and build your reputation as a shrewd business owner. The experts at Cin7 have created a list of five negotiating tactics to help you get better deals with a win-win outcome. Let’s get started!
#1 Research before negotiating with suppliers
Before you begin negotiations with a potential supplier, you must first conduct comprehensive research. Since they are selling you the product(s), they will have a thorough understanding of its market costs, demand, importance in the product value chain, and they know about your competitors. You should have a fair understanding of these factors too so that you bring credibility to the negotiating table and have a productive discussion.
Doing the due diligence in researching a supplier, as well as their competition, will help you get an idea of market prices while keeping the sales goal of the supplier in mind. Based on your research, your proposal could involve promising long-term business, a shorter credit cycle, or changing the frequency of payments. Therefore, it is important to do your homework in order to proffer potential suppliers a fair, tangible, and mutual benefit in doing business with you.
Helpful Hint: As you research, be sure to note industry-specific terminology. Using it will help enhance your credibility and may be the difference in reducing the chance of suppliers quoting inflated prices.
#2 Calculate your purchasing needs
Once you have a better understanding of the supplier’s business and its needs, your next step is to make sure your proposal fits both their needs and yours.
To construct that proposal, determine the quantity of what you want to purchase, the order frequency, and the total cost of the purchases you would make during a given year. Having this information handy will provide you with more negotiation leverage and give the supplier a better idea as to how much potential you have as a business opportunity for them. The more your proposal meets the needs of the supplier, the more likely they are to offer you the discounts you seek.
Helpful Hint: Ask for bulk discounts. If you have a large order, you are in a great position to negotiate prices. Request to see their discount grids, as most suppliers use them regularly to manage sales. Be sure to refer to data gathered from your inventory management software when finalizing your tentative order size.
#3 Offer partial advance payments and deferred discounts
The next tip is to offer a partial or full advance for the first order. This is one of the best ways to establish trust and help the supplier decide to start working with you. You can always switch to their standard credit cycle down the line.
This also presents an opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to a mutually beneficial business arrangement. Specifically, when offering an advance payment, remember to ask for a discount on a total purchase volume after achieving a milestone, i.e., meeting a certain sales threshold. This is considered a deferred discounting mechanism, and it helps suppliers ensure that they are going to reach their sales goals before activating your agreed-upon discount.
#4 Be honest and transparent
There are all sorts of reasons to seek a better price for products. For example, you might urgently need a product at a lower price to keep up with the competition or to have enough profit margin to meet your own sales goals. You might be a small business owner who needs a discount to remain profitable or a combination of any of these scenarios and yet not have much to offer in terms of value to the supplier. One thing you can offer, however, is full disclosure of your status. This is a gesture of good faith and will lay the foundation for a solid professional relationship.
It is imperative that you do not use any deceitful tactics like negotiating under false pretenses or making hollow promises to get discounts from your potential suppliers. A business is only as good as the word of those who represent it, so make sure you are earnest in your negotiations.
Helpful Hint: Sometimes a negotiation results in a stalemate. Don’t shy away from pausing a negotiation in the event of a failure to reach an agreement. Keep in mind that the number of sellers for the items you need may be limited based on your purchasing capacity and expected price range.
#5 Once an agreement is reached, get it in writing
One of the most important qualities of a good negotiator is to close the deal in writing. All too many businesspeople make the mistake of not signing agreements after they have completed the negotiation simply due to procrastination or lack of operational knowhow. This can lead to a situation where the other party forgets the details of your conversation, and hence, you may have difficulty reminding them. Also, if the decision-makers forget about certain details that you previously negotiated, you may miss out on the deal you thought you had secured. Therefore, it is in your best interest to finalize and ink the deal as quickly as possible.
Helpful Hint: You may use document signing tools available online to expedite the process and then email a copy of the signed agreement to the supplier. Place your first order reflecting the explicitly stated terms and conditions.
With an inventory and order management system like Cin7, you have the option of connecting to your suppliers via a custom EDI connection streamlining future orders by placing them electronically.
Negotiating is a tough skill to master in any industry, but as an ecommerce business owner, you will put that skill into practice quite often, thanks to the shortening life cycles of various SKUs and sudden surges in demand for products. While you will naturally get better at negotiating over time, it is crucial that you apply the five tips to be a successful deal broker. Keep your eyes open for discount opportunities, negotiate your way into the best deals with your suppliers, and watch your ecommerce business thrive.
Enter into supplier negotiations armed with accurate sales data gathered from a robust inventory and order management solution like Cin7 that updates in real time with your accounting software. Request a Cin7 demo today.
The last two years have been very profitable for the online selling industry. The pandemic boosted ecommerce and made online shopping an integral part of all our lives. Most businesses finally made their transition online, and a lot of new online businesses were created, too. In fact, US ecommerce sales passed the $1 trillion mark for the first time in 2021. If you’re an entrepreneur, now’s a fantastic time to start an ecommerce store.
This guide will walk you through building your ecommerce business without paying a penny! Let’s jump right in.
Step #1 – Choose an ecommerce website platform
The first thing you should know is that ecommerce websites are significantly different from typical websites. That means you’ll need to put some extra effort into the setup process and opt for a specialized ecommerce website platform. If you already have a WordPress website, we recommend that you install the WooCommerce plugin to make a smooth, seamless transition.
Setting up your WooCommerce-based online store is pretty simple. You can easily find a step-by-step tutorial on YouTube that will walk you through the entire process. WooCommerce is free to get started and you can run your business for a long time without needing to pay for any plugins or custom development. In just a few hours, you’ll be able to go live.
If you don’t want to use a WordPress-based website, you can go with a dedicated ecommerce website builder like Shopify, which provides you with all the necessary tools you need to build a professional online store. Shopify comes with a 90-day free trial — but you may have to shell out some money for third-party app integrations. Like WordPress, building a Shopify store is fairly simple and you can achieve great results without paying a developer.
Step #2 – Choose a social media tool to market your business
Next, you’ll need to get yourself a dedicated social media management tool for content distribution. A social media presence will help you build your audience and brand, and most platforms are providing new and exciting ways to monetize the attention you get there. A proper social media tool will allow you to save time and automate posting across different social media channels.
To get started, we recommend Hootsuite — which allows you to manage up to 10 channels for free. Hootsuite gives you access to their main features and is the perfect tool for new businesses. It’s easy to use and has tons of free resources — including troubleshooting — in case you face any problems.
While it can be a good practice to customize your marketing communications for each social media platform, there’s no need to worry about that in the beginning of your ecommerce journey.
Step #3 – Select an email marketing platform for high ROI
Email marketing is extremely important for ecommerce sellers. From cart abandonment emails to reactivation and retargeting campaigns, it’s essential to market directly to potential customers. In fact, email marketing delivers an impressive ROI of $42 for every dollar spent! That ROI is much better than any social media or paid marketing method. So, no matter what product you want to sell, or what your personal opinion is of email marketing, the fact is that it’s extremely important to collect as many email addresses as you can.
One great strategy for growing your email list involves offering a freebie or a discount in exchange for an email address. You can also choose to run referral campaigns, which we’ll discuss later in the article. For your email marketing needs, we recommend MailChimp. Not only is it the market leader, but it also has a bunch of free HTML email templates to choose from.
Mailchimp is a “freemium tool” – meaning you won’t have to pay a penny before crossing 2,000 contacts or 10,000 sends per month. It provides great marketing capabilities, an excellent drag-and-drop responsive email builder, and it integrates with your website, too.
Step #4 – Find a CRM tool to manage customer interactions
As your business grows, the challenge of keeping track of all your customers will become more complex. Disorganization will eventually lead to dissatisfied customers. Let’s face it: there’s no way for startup owners to check and respond to every social media comment, direct message, and email. On top of that, customers often reach out on multiple platforms, and keeping track of all the communication can be confusing. That’s exactly why you should be using a CRM tool to help you centralize your customer interactions.
HubSpot is a perfect place to start. It allows you to have a common dashboard to track conversations and automate future interactions. You can use HubSpot’s “free forever” plan to fuel your customer interactions with up to 1,000,000 contacts and no limit on data storage. Although many people find their pricing plans expensive, paying a premium in the future can be a great value add to your efforts. However, you can simply use the free version for now.
HubSpot also publishes a lot of courses on digital marketing and tutorials for getting the most out of the platform. Learning HubSpot is fairly straightforward, and we recommend that you brush up on the basics of your CRM to grow your business and knowledge base.
Step #5 – Get an accounting tool for your online store
Accounting can be a headache. But the worst thing you can do is ignore the need for accounting altogether. Accounting tools help you stay on top of your finances and in compliance, and it’s imperative to have one.
Xero is a great pick for ecommerce sellers. Xero offers you a 30-day free trial which is more than enough to test your ecommerce business idea — and it has very affordable prices if you do decide to continue. Integrating accounting software is a no-brainer for any business owner — so the sooner you take care of this, the better.
Step #6 – Use a payment gateway with a large user base
Now comes the best part: getting paid. You’ll need a payment gateway integration for accepting payments on your ecommerce site. There are more than 100 payment gateway providers, but we recommend you choose from those with the biggest reach in the industry: PayPal or Stripe.
Furthermore, you may also want to integrate your web store with Apple Pay and Amazon Pay, too. This will help increase your compatibility with popular payment methods. As a fledgling business, it’s important to make it as easy as possible for your hard-earned customers to pay you.
Step #7 – Add your referral and rewards software
Referrals and rewards are two of the best strategies you can implement to retain your most valuable customers. Not only do these tactics motivate your customers to return and spend more money — it also makes them feel special and valued.
The way it works is quite simple – existing customers invite new users to your store using referral links. When any new user signs up using an existing customer’s referral link, they both get rewarded. These rewards could be a discount promo code or a free voucher that they can redeem to buy an item of their choice from your store. Rewarding your customers for referrals is a great way to bring in new customers and get the existing ones to shop more frequently from your store.
There are plenty of good solutions available for both, but we would recommend starting with Referral Factory. It has a huge library of ready-to-use templates and comes with a trial period of 15 days. For rewards, you can try Marsello, which is one of the best-rated rewards software there is. Marsello also comes with a 30-day free trial, so you can try both without putting any money down.
You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference having these solutions make. They’ll also help your brand reputation and boost its value in your customers’ eyes.
Step #8 – Choose your inventory and order management software
The last, and perhaps most important step, is finding an inventory and order management software solution. If you want to be successful in ecommerce, this is absolutely essential. This software will automate your backend processes and allow you to seamlessly scale your business. When you manage inventory by hand, mistakes are almost inevitable. It’s important to avoid overordering, understocking, and losing track of inventory.
These are the kinds of mistakes that put your business in jeopardy. Frustrating customers ultimately costs you orders. On top of that, it’s important to keep customers updated on shipping status, order time, and operations. When done manually, all of these tasks add up to an unsustainable workload.
That’s where all-in-one solutions like Cin7 come in handy. You’ll be able to seamlessly manage your inventory, process your orders, facilitate your shipping, and more. The ability to automate workflows, integrate with hundreds of platforms, and access cutting-edge analytics is integral to your ecommerce store.
Step #9 – Get started!
Now it’s your turn to put what you’ve learned here to the test. You have most of the tools you’ll need to be successful in building your ecommerce store — with zero investment!
If you have any questions about the exciting journey you’re about to take, feel free to get in touch with the experts at Cin7. They’re more than happy to help you as you make your way towards ecommerce success.
DEAR isn’t just for sorting your inventory or modernizing your business: it helps you keep your approach flexible
You can afford your own, fully-customized, fully-integrated ERP (if it’s DEAR)
Any product business can benefit from DEAR
A great implementation partner will let you outsource the back-office
“We actually started out as a DEAR customer,” says Filipe Nicolau, owner and founder of Pure Commerce. “We were responsible for changing the entire inventory management process for a clothing company and taking the business online — and DEAR was the go-to choice of ERP. We took that knowledge, and started a business around eCommerce inventory management systems and ERPs, and DEAR was a natural fit.”
Pure Commerce is a DEAR implementation partner and digital agency that specialize in solutions for eCommerce businesses. Filipe has been helping businesses both large and small implement DEAR for a long time now, and he’s happy to recommend the software to product businesses of all kinds.
“DEAR is a.) user friendly and b.) well plugged into eCommerce titans like Shopify,” Filipe says. “Compared to competitors, it’s a tenth of the price, and yet it does everything you need it to do.”
No matter how big your company gets, DEAR can scale to meet your needs.
Clients range from blue-chip companies in South Africa that are running giant warehouses and massive eCommerce stores, to mid-market businesses with five or six shops, all the way to people with just one or sometimes no store,” Filipe says. What they all have in common is they need a proper system to function like an ERP and manage inventory for their eCommerce sites.
“Because of DEAR’s price tiers, the smaller businesses can purchase it just as easily as the blue-chip companies. It’s accessible to all our customers. And no matter what we throw at DEAR, it just keeps being able to do it.”
Any product business can benefit from DEAR
The industry you’re in, says Pure Commerce, doesn’t matter too much: so long as your business is moving product, it can benefit from DEAR.
“We’ve got clients in the clothing sector, in manufacturing, in pottery, in health and wellness — all running DEAR.”
The first benefit of DEAR for many customers is simply being able to tell where all their inventory is. But once that’s established, customers find their other requirements or pain points are taken care of as well.
“When we first started, we used DEAR just to run a warehouse — purely ERP, stock management, goods in and goods out. Not even for financials, just to track stock. That was it,” Filipe says. “But with our business expertise and the functionality offered by DEAR, we can create any system a customer requires.”
Customers find DEAR helpful for syncing inventory through to finances, using programs like QuickBooks Online or Xero, and adding inventory capability to eCommerce platforms like Shopify. They use it for manufacturing, retail Point of Sale (POS) and expanding sales channels, making it easy to add a D2C channel to a B2B business, or vice versa.
“DEAR’s B2B portal is, for a lot of our customers, something they find themselves wanting to add, and it’s super easy to implement,” Filipe says.
Pure Commerce tends to stay away from the accounting and bookkeeping side of things. Their job is to make sure the business elements are all connected up, and they make sure their customers are connected with great accounting teams who know how to make inventory systems work well with financial systems of record.
Get an implementation partner that allows you to outsource the back-office
“A lot of our customers come to us saying they don’t know where to start. They’re starting a business from scratch. Well, we’ve done that ourselves! So we give them a full implementation, top to bottom, and in a lot of cases, it’s really saved their bacon. One client was a clothing company — we helped them get online, and they’re now running an online store and just launching their third physical store.”
For these companies, Pure Commerce functions essentially as an outsourced back office.
“We act as their support team for all things, not only eCommerce, but everything related to DEAR, to the operational side of the business. We’re their go-to.”
Pure Commerce have had great successes among their clients, with a number taken from operating entirely using pen-and-paper to DEAR Systems, using a full modern ERP and software app stack.
“We’ve had companies who were in the dark ages. Now they’re walking around with tablets managing production lines and things like that,” Filipe says.
Other success stories include a blue-chip company that started 2019 with barely any online presence and thousands of physical stores — and we all know what happened next. The Covid-19 pandemic hit, the company was forced to close all its stores.
“We had the CEO call and say ‘Listen, you need to save our bacon. We need to be fully online in a minimum of four months,’” Filipe says. “We launched them all online with one DEAR ERP and stock management system. There’s a massive warehouse in Cape Town, five stories high, that’s running all the company’s brands, all on DEAR. DEAR is keeping track of everything and feeding each brand’s website with inventory information.”
The changes Pure Commerce and DEAR have brought have had huge effects on the company. “It’s definitely changed their lives. They’ve never looked back — they’re pumping out products online and they’re growing day by day,” Filipe says.
DEAR offers incredible opportunities for new directions — for both product companies and their advisors
A lot of consulting companies would be thrilled to find themselves in the same position as Pure Commerce. They have a steady business and happy clients, and over the period of turmoil wrought by Covid-19 they’ve found themselves busier than ever. But they’re not stopping there. Their experience with DEAR means they can now branch out in exciting new directions, quite different to what you’d normally expect from a self-described “outsourced back-office.”
“Last year we used DEAR to launch our own Pure Commerce third-party logistics warehouse,” Filipe says. “A lot of clients don’t have warehousing, so we offer the ability to keep their stock in ours. We have our own DEAR account, which plugs into the client’s Shopify sites, and we pull the orders through to the warehouse. We pick, pack and ship on their behalf.”
All this activity is supporting the growth of Pure Commerce’s clients, as well as Pure Commerce itself. In the last three years, they’ve quadrupled their business. “And it’s primarily due to lockdown, to the pandemic. Everyone has realized that they need to be online,” Filipe says.
You can afford your own custom ERP — if it’s DEAR
Pure Commerce says that any product company can benefit from the features DEAR offers, but the features aren’t the only factor that decision-makers weigh up when considering an inventory management system. The price is also hugely important — but here, too, DEAR is beating the competition.
“The value for money you get from DEAR is amazing. You can get a B2B portal, you can run your POS, your sales channels, integrate into Amazon or pretty much anything else, integrate your accounting systems,” Filipe says.
“It’s a cost-effective system, a one-stop shop that gives customers an ERP and that allows Experts to solve pretty much all your customers’ problems with one system. The unique thing about DEAR is it can be for selling anything — from potatoes, to clothing, to pottery. That’s why it appeals to such a wide range of implementation partners and customers.”
Pure Commerce is a DEAR implementation partner and digital agency that specialize in solutions for eCommerce businesses. Here, they explain how product companies can benefit from implementing DEAR — and the right implementation partner.
About Cin7 Experts
Cin7 Experts experienced with DEAR are an essential part of the Cin7 inventory management community. No matter what kind of product business you’re running, where you’re located, or what you’re trying to achieve, there’s a Cin7 Expert on DEAR who can help you achieve your ambition while saving your money and time.
Learn the top five ways product companies and ecommerce specialists can automate their inventory and financials with Catching Clouds: An Acuity Company.
The Top Five Key Lessons for Automating Your Inventory and Financials:
Done right, automation actually makes good people even better
To get financial fundamentals right, give them to someone else
You need an expert who knows tech as well as accounting
Look for an expert with a proven track record
Every product seller needs to be on a cloud inventory solution
Not many people start a business because they dream of doing accounting.
But Acuity is an exception — and it exists because most business owners don’t just want to avoid accounting: they’re also pretty bad at it. Acuity, on the other hand, is really good.
Acuity is a specialist provider of outsourced cloud accounting services to eCommerce businesses in the United States. They work with businesses that are selling on Amazon, Ebay, Shopify, BigCommerce, Commerce House, Wayfair, Magento, and many more platforms.
In addition, Acuity has worked with QuickBooks Online and Xero for years. For a while, their eCommerce practice only worked with Xero, but it is now also adding QBO to the mix.
Scott Scharf is chief technology officer and eCommerce practice lead for Acuity. He co-founded his accounting practice Catching Clouds with his wife Patti Scharf, before merging with Acuity in 2021.
“The thing about what we do is, we’re really consistent,” says Scott. “We provide the daily, weekly, and monthly bookkeeping, accounting and controller-level work for eCommerce sellers.”
Automation and 3PLs are the way of the future — and they help your best people do more
Acuity says increasing the level of automation in your company isn’t about having fewer employees. It’s about giving yourself, and your employees, something better to do.
“When we automate accounting, we’re not doing it to remove the person — employee, spouse, whoever — was doing the bookkeeping,” Scott says. “The idea is that you’ve got a trusted person, so put them in a more trusted position.”
The same logic applies to product companies and 3PLs “Having a 3PL means your people can have higher-level tasks. You want those people who might otherwise be in your warehouse managing stock through a cloud inventory tool, negotiating purchasing, expanding your supply chain,” Scott adds. “They’re good employees. They care. You want them at a higher level.”
There will always be manual processes that need doing, and that software will struggle to automate, Scott says. What’s more, the supply chain crisis has changed the game. Where it might have once made sense to have your own warehouse, for many product sellers, it’s simply not worth it. Instead, smart sellers will automate what humans cannot do well, leaving them free to excel in other areas of the business.
“Don’t make smart humans do data entry. Let smart humans do smart human things, and make decisions based on data,” Scott says. “The more you leverage technology and people in the right places, at higher-level positions, the more profitable you’re going to be.”
Every product seller should implement cloud inventory solutions
The first app that Scott recommends for product sellers is, of course, online inventory management. Depending on the company’s ambitions and requirements, he recommends:
Cin7 for multichannel sellers with complex requirements and high growth ambitions
DEAR Systems for sellers who do their own manufacturing or Bill of Materials product assembly
Cin7 Orderhive for pure eCommerce sellers
“I recommend that every product seller, of any size, implement cloud inventory solutions,” Scott says.
Connecting cloud inventory software to other best-of-breed software — like Shopify for eCommerce selling, ShipBob for third-party logistics, or ShipStation for shipping — lets you set and meet customer expectations in the same way a brand like Amazon does. It means a small brand can have the same capabilities as the biggest eCommerce companies in the world, with the added benefit of the personalized service that only smaller companies can truly provide.
“Amazon has set the expectation that customers can get their package in one to three days,” Scott says. “Now everyone can live up to that new standard.”
To get financial fundamentals right, give them to someone else
Getting the accounting right is vital to any product business’ success. Without good numbers, a business can’t know if it’s profitable. That’s where Scott and his team come in. Acuity makes it possible for smaller businesses to have the same accounting clout as a big player. The solution is simple: they take accounting right out of their clients hands.
“I’ve talked to a couple thousand sellers in the last 10 years, and none of them went into business to do accounting or bookkeeping, or to pay bills, sales tax, or income tax,” Scott says. “They’ve got a bigger ‘why.’ And that’s why financials are one of the first things they look at outsourcing.”
Once Acuity takes over the accounting, things get done properly by a team of experts who know how to navigate the byzantine pathways of international eCommerce selling and U.S. tax compliance requirements. To do this, their outsourced eCommerce offering has a team of specialist CPAs, along with a managed services team who can take care of the technical side.
“We’re able to support clients at all kinds of levels, but the main thing is always the same — we take over the financials, move them into the cloud, and we do it right. We update the chart of accounts, reconcile everything correctly, post income properly, post COGS properly per channel, and make sure everything flows together,” Scott says.
According to Scott, modern eCommerce accounting is as much about getting technology right as it is about compliance, reports, and projections.
“Having an accounting advisor that can translate, provide insight and accurate cash flow projections helps a business manage cash better and be more successful,” Scott says.
But without the right approach to tech, business leaders can find themselves lost in a confusing world of half-implemented, half-working apps.
“What some people do, when they don’t understand tech, is they just load an app and then another app and then another app. None of them connect, and all of a sudden they now have to enter data in three apps to accomplish something instead of putting it together,” Scott says.
This can put business owners right off implementing a modern software stack, but nothing could be worse. All they need to get it right is a good advisor.
“If you’re running an eCommerce business, you want an eCommerce accountant that already understands the space and has worked with dozens, if not hundreds of eCommerce companies. You have to go to the right people for the right tech advice — and then you want to leverage it, so you can expand and enhance and build automations so everything flows well,” Scott says.
Acuity is an outsourced cloud accounting service provider, specializing in eCommerce. They offer accounting with Xero and QuickBooks Online, and support Cin7, DEAR Systems, and leading eCommerce, 3PL, and shipping solutions
About Cin7 Experts
Cin7 Experts experienced with DEAR are an essential part of the Cin7 inventory management community. No matter what kind of product business you’re running, where you’re located, or what you’re trying to achieve, there’s a Cin7 Expert on DEAR who can help you achieve your ambition while saving your money and time.
Ecommerce is fiercely competitive and the competition has only increased due to the pandemic. Retailers must adapt accordingly and keep pace with changing market conditions. As an ecommerce business owner, you are required to handle multiple jobs simultaneously and you are often pulled in many directions. Learn more about inventory software for ecommerce in this article.
Those directions could include stocking the hottest products or fulfilling orders across multiple channels. That does not even take into account the marketing and customer service efforts.
So, how do you build your customer base and keep your current customers happy? The answer is ecommerce automation.
The technology that is available today provides you with lots of ecommerce automation options to address your business requirements. The concept is simple – using software to convert manual operations into automated workflows.
Technology can accomplish a broad set of operational tasks without human intervention. Sending emails to different customers, generating support tickets, and fulfilling orders are examples.
Not only does ecommerce automation save time, it also saves money. Automation gives your business team back time to focus on customer service, innovation, and creativity.
Now, let’s have a look at how technology can help your ecommerce business run more smoothly and profitably:
1. Automated and centralized inventory management for multichannel ecommerce
A cloud-based, multichannel inventory management system (IMS) lets brands optimize the supply chain and avoid losses due to stock-outs. AN IMS helps manage business inventory flow through a single dashboard with real-time access to sales and stock movement data.
An inventory management system enables you to list your products across multiple ecommerce platforms and brick-and-mortar locations and process orders through a centralized hub that updates your accounting software.
Take out the manual factors from inventory management, and minimize the possibility of human error.
Here are some key value-adds that an IMS would bring:
2. Zero effort sales recognition and accounting automation
One of the big benefits of digital businesses is not needing the large sales team of yesteryear. A small sales team can make operations effective through automated procedures and assessment tools like a CRM.
CRMs help manage tasks like adding new leads, call scheduling, contact information, and users can allocate follow-ups transparently and quickly. CRMs also help prevent two people approaching the same lead.
Most importantly, sales teams can keep records of call specifics and outcomes, which can be useful in future follow-ups. Hubspot, Zoho, and Salesforce are some of the most popular CRMs to try out.
Accounting and sales must coexist harmoniously and share inputs to bookkeeping. There are several accounting solutions to choose from, just make sure it will integrate with your inventory and order management software.
3. AI-enabled customer service desk increases brand loyalty
Customer service is a critical aspect of your business and directly impacts customer loyalty and brand image. There are several customer service platforms to choose from that should allow you to automate repetitive tasks. Chatbots, for instance, are still the most common way to do so.
Chatbots are programs that help to automate customer interactions by responding to a set of specified conditions, events, and question triggers. Product-focused chatbot interactions are increasing in popularity.
As per a Facebook poll, more than half of customers said they were more likely to shop with a company that allows them to communicate via chat.
Customers want to find the information they need in a matter of seconds with a click. Chatbots solve for that. Plus, various solutions can be used to integrate chatbots into ecommerce websites and social media accounts with minimum development expenditures.
Chatbots are an integral part of a company’s customer service strategy – Octane, MobileMonkey, and Bostify are some of the most common chatbots for ecommerce. Chatfuel is another shareware option and is one of the finest ecommerce chatbot services.
4. Technology driven and seamless payment options
Customers want personalization and seamless ecommerce experiences. According to Business Insider, global customers will make 1.1 trillion cashless payments by 2024 by acquiring products and services using a mix of mobile, web, and linked devices.
Passive authentication like face and touch ID has become more popular as technology advances because your credentials are already loaded into your ewallet and ready to pay. This is made possible by services like AmazonPay, ApplePay, GooglePay, Paytm, PhonePe, PayPal, and similar services.
5. Transition to a multichannel experience
Your customers expect your products to be available across the spectrum of selling channels they have to choose from. Web stores, physical stores, social media, and online marketplaces are all part of multichannel retailing. Today, single-click buy on ecommerce sites, a social media presence, brand awareness, and overall lifestyle affinity all play a role in purchasing behavior.
The main objective of multichannel selling is to make sure that marketing techniques enable clients to convert via each type of sales channel. With the proper automation technology at hand and a multichannel strategy, your brand can offer a seamless customer experience.
Walmart’s “order-by-text and chat services” was one example of how brands can leverage technology as part of their multichannel strategy. The service let customers place orders with a text message and offered same-day delivery.
The service is no longer offered, but it paved the way for other ecommerce brands to provide something exceptional to their customers.
6. Integrate social commerce into ecommerce strategy
Most businesses use social media platforms for advertising. It helps customers purchase by leveraging social media’s convenience, usability, and reach.
Facebook Marketplace was mainly created in 2018 to compete with Amazon, Google Shopping, and Etsy. Instagram adopted product tags in 2016 to help users recognize the products and prices they see in adverts.
With the integration of BigCommerce and Shopify in 2017, customers would go to a web page to make a purchase.
Pinterest has a similar appearance to Instagram, added buyable pins to select brands in 2015, and their user numbers rose in 2016. A shopping cart was also introduced to help buy from multiple merchants simultaneously.
Conclusion on inventory software for ecommerce
Working in the ecommerce space requires dealing with competitors and meeting customer expectations and demands. Current technology solutions can automate mundane tasks and streamline operations.
Choosing an Inventory Management Software (IMS) like Cin7 increases operational efficiency and overall productivity for all kinds of retailers and wholesalers. Get your inventory software for ecommerce today!
Inventory control is a massive organizational function and its complexity multiplies as your business grows. This is especially true for ecommerce businesses due to the number of SKUs, competitive landscape and inherent volatility. The pandemic only added to the speed of ecommerce adoption, leaving online sellers compelled to streamline and optimize their business processes.
Using a software solution that organizes inventory control for a successful ecommerce business is necessary, but choosing the right one can be complicated. On the one hand, you have comprehensive solutions that come with the “best-in-class” tag and then there are solutions that offer “functional value.”
While there’s a huge price difference between the two types of inventory solutions, you should not give up on either of their qualities. Therefore, you need to go for the right package that helps your business realize its true potential.
In this article, we will go through various areas where the right ecommerce solution can help online sellers grow their businesses. Let’s begin:
Why Do ecommerce Stores Need Inventory Control Software?
Online selling is easy to get started with, but as time passes, business owners realize that they need to take care of many priorities. These may come in the form of business opportunities, expansion hazards, employee management, marketing plans, target platforms and audience and product life cycles..
With growth, the management of inventory control can become a complex challenge. Most online sellers begin with manual processes to keep inventory in check and then later switch to Excel or Google Spreadsheets.
Spreadsheets provide the required utility in the beginning, but as your operations grow, they become unreliable. Inventory errors start becoming common due to potential duplicate entries, false entries, lack of coordination and collaboration. In order to keep manual systems running, you need to implement stringent working policies and rely on how well your employees comply with them.
The chances of making errors multiply depending on your selling volume, headcount, number of selling channels and SKUs. These errors lead to underselling, overselling and order fulfillment problems.
Inventory Control Challenges Faced By ecommerce Businesses
Here’s an example to illustrate the issues faced by online stores when selling across multiple platforms and relying on manual processes. Consider the case of a pet products store called Mandy’s.
Mandy’s is a fresh startup that has grown rapidly in the last few years. They recently started selling on multiple platforms and bought a second warehouse. Their expansion has contributed to their overall presence. Despite high demand from the market, their business is suffering due to internal setbacks. Upon analysis, Mandy’s found that inventory related troubles were at the root.
Here’s a list of management factors that Mandy’s needs to adopt to be in full control of their inventory:
#1 Know Order Fulfillment Status Across Multiple Platforms and Warehouses
It is critical to know whether your order fulfillment operations are on schedule or not. Processes like order pickup, packing and preparing for shipment turn out to be challenging if you don’t have a clear visibility into your operations. This gets especially challenging when selling on multiple online storefronts, because each of them need to be updated in real time.
Mandy’s found it quite difficult to navigate through multiple platforms like Amazon, eBay and Etsy. Add to that the challenge of managing stock across both of their warehouses. Accurate management of order fulfillment requires constant updates to stock after each order is placed.
Mandy’s started to either undersell or oversell their products due to lack of visibility. It was caused due to mistakes like improper bookkeeping, not performing timely inventory audits, work duplication and data entry errors.
Understocking and overstocking are caused by the same errors and demonstrate that businesses like Mandy’s need proper inventory control through automated software solutions that integrate physical operations with digital record keeping and automated information processing.
#3 Demand Forecasting
Demand forecasting is another area where most growing businesses like Mandy’s struggle. It is nearly impossible to devise insights using spreadsheets since they require you to use formulas every time you want to make sense of data. This leaves no way to be sure of tracking past sales trends and correlating them with current indicators.
#4 Managing Product Pricing And Sales
Mandy’s found that they needed product bundling capabilities which required them to make complex calculations. Marketplaces like Amazon also require sellers to change pricing dynamically depending on their competitor’s activity.
For instance, if a competitor is out of stock, you can increase your selling price without fearing the loss of sales. Conversely, you would need to lower your prices if your inventory has been sitting for long and is nearing its expiration date. This is where dedicated inventory tools come in handy.
#5 Coordinating With Logistics Partners
Logistics play an important role in determining a brand’s success. Logistics operators work under tight deadlines and you need to be ready with sales insights and be ready to ship products at the right time to ensure smooth order fulfillment.
Mandy’s found that returns processing and order tracking requests were consuming a huge chunk of its customer service staff’s time.
Having an inventory management and control system along with API-based integrations with third-party logistics partners can help solve this problem as your customers can track and return orders by themselves through a self-service portal.
Benefits Of Using An Inventory Management and Control Software For Online Sellers
An ecommerce inventory control solution can help address these concerns and help scale your business with the help of automation, standardization and the streamlining of your operations. To get a better understanding of the benefits offered by these solutions, have a look at the below section:
#1 Improved Productivity
Inventory software helps collect data, process information, delegate work and provide reporting. Inventory software can automate order processing, order pickup and packaging, returns processing and reporting analysis.
Your staff members only need to focus on their core work without worrying about documentation or other administrative formalities.
#2 Simplified Inventory Handling And Record Keeping
When using automated solutions, you no longer need to note down each and every transaction manually. You can turn the entire recordkeeping process digital by integrating a barcoding solution with your inventory software. This helps in tracking the exact location of stock within your storage facilities, order pickup and packaging, along with report building.
#3 Minimize Inventory Wastage
These solutions help order the right quantity of each SKU depending on historical demand and current trends. You no longer have to manually track how long inventory has been sitting in your storage facility and if you need to sell it due to expiration.
It will prompt you to clear aging inventory by creating a stock clearance sale, offering discounts or through product bundling. Thus, you can expect minimal inventory wastage as it helps order the right products and clear your stock at the right time in appropriate quantities at the right time.
#4 Improve Customer Experience
Without a dedicated solution, you can often miss delivery deadlines, send out expired products, fail to provide order shipping data and make returns a headache for your customers.
Without software, you aren’t able to confirm orders, may oversell items and wind up dealing with product backorders. With an ecommerce inventory management and control system, you can solve all of these problems and improve the customer experience by offering consumers transparency and control.
For instance, you can track a customer’s order history to identify repeated purchases over fixed intervals. You can send them order confirmations thereby streamlining operations on your end while improving the customer experience.
#5 Offer Visibility To Management
With the digitalization of all processes, insights and resource data, you get a clear picture of how your ecommerce business is performing and if it is facing any bottlenecks.
You can exercise greater control over your sales strategy, order fulfillment, warehousing, cash flow, sales trends, demand forecasting, inventory handling and marketing. Using an ecommerce suite helps unify all teams and orchestrate their efforts in concert to support your company’s growth.
#6 Improve Finances
Last but not least, you gain significant control over financial aspects such as total sales for a given period, taxes, compliance-related filings and all accounting recordkeeping. Software facilitates inventory audits and plans out your expenses based on historical data. These solutions take the guesswork out of the equation offering a better understanding of your business finances.
How To Find The Right ecommerce Inventory Management and Control Software
Here’s a simple step-by-step overview to finding the right ecommerce inventory management software for your business:
Understand your priorities and the areas where you are currently struggling
Conduct a detailed market survey to get a hands-on understanding of available options
Scrutinize the available solutions and determine the customizations your specific business requires
Analyze the learning curve for your staff members
List third party integrations required and check their compatibility
Check out user reviews to weigh pros and cons
Involve stakeholders and prepare for onboarding
It is evident that ecommerce inventory management software provides you with the ability to manage and scale your operations methodically. In the absence of such solutions, it becomes extremely difficult to operate since you have little to zero visibility of your organization, its expenses and technical difficulties. Meanwhile, your staff continues to struggle with productivity issues due to errors and manual data entry.
The right ecommerce inventory management and control software helps streamline all aspects of your online selling business and increases your bottom line. If you need further guidance on ecommerce inventory management solutions for your business, get in touch with Cin7 now!
Growing a wholesaling business is both challenging and rewarding despite high competition. The world recently experienced a massive socio-economic setback in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic and the wholesale industry has since begun to show a strong recovery. It is clear that you need to be precise about both planning and operations if you want to be successful in the emerging landscape.
Like other sectors, wholesalers have to navigate through many push and pull factors in order to keep their business thriving. Right from managing inventory to coordinating with suppliers, everything needs to be foolproof for sales success and a healthy bottom line.
We have curated a list of 12 steps that will help you secure success in wholesale business management. It is aimed at providing actionable insights into approaches that lead to success in wholesaling regardless of the products or region. Let’s begin:
#1 Improve Your Business Model
We find that many wholesalers skip making a deep assessment of their wholesaling business model. This causes the organization and team members to operate in ignorance, increasing their dependence on workarounds and makeshift practices. At the end of the day, this results in yet another wholesale business that lacks direction and understanding of how to grow.
You should determine your business model and identify the exact reasons why you are in the industry. How will the industry change in the next 2 to 5 years? What market segments should you target? What is special about your operating model? What differentiates you from a lot of other similar wholesale businesses and is it enough to build a loyal customer base?
The answers to such questions will help you sharpen your business model and guide you through many complex questions like determining your target market segment and selecting the right products. In 2022, the global market for wholesale is expected to grow to $44 trillion, and thus, it is necessary to identify your unique positioning to tap into all available opportunities.
Once you have an idea of why and how your business will function, you can run a competitive analysis and an industry evaluation to discover your business objectives and unique selling propositions (USPs).
Ecommerce is fast becoming the prime avenue for wholesalers due to a number of factors. Studies show that the B2B customer experience makes a significant impact on millennials, who account for 73% of the decision-making population. Thus, they are the most influential group for B2B marketers and this is one of the reasons that has propelled the shift to online in the B2B sectors.
Wholesalers need to be present on B2B platforms to stay relevant to the market and ensure the long-term viability of their business. The Covid-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst for the online transition of B2B players and thus, you must position yourself on the right platforms.
It is no secret that B2B buyers can have a complicated purchasing journey and that requires you to understand the sector and region-specific dynamics. The below infographic rightly shows the intricacies faced by B2B buyers that wholesalers can solve to gain a competitive edge.
#3 Keep Your Business Plan Centered On Healthy Cash Flow
As a player in the wholesaling industry, inventory absorbs a huge chunk of your capital and you will inevitably need to be good at managing your cash flow. Maintaining a healthy, positive cash flow requires you to undertake the following processes:
Forecast Your Cash Flow: This is a basic calculation of your revenue vs. expenditure for the given remaining period of the financial year or beyond. It helps determine how much cash you will hold at different periods in the future and allow you to plan accordingly.
Demand Forecasting: Here, market intelligence and your wholesale inventory management software can be leveraged to forecast demand and ensure that your business is fit to meet periods of high demand proactively. This helps you manage and optimize your organization’s functions like procurement, stocking, sales and marketing, human resources management, and more.
Invoicing: To enhance customer service and by default, the customer experience, it is important to automate invoicing. This will streamline your cash flow management and ensure compliance with your sales policies which in turn become the basis of your cash flow forecasting.
Cash Reserve Management: Cash is important for all core and non-core organizational activities that require payment on an immediate basis. This includes salary disbursement, petty cash and cases where you have to cover unpaid customer debt to fulfill your commitment to other parties.
Here is a chart that will help you to understand the importance of cash flow management amidst uncertainties in the non durables segment:
#4 Develop An Efficient and Comprehensive Marketing Plan
It is equally important for wholesalers to promote their business to attract new customers, remarket their products to existing buyers and to increase the lifetime value of their client base. This has become increasingly evident, especially after the pandemic. B2B organizations like wholesalers need to be visible online and undertake digital marketing efforts just like any D2C organization.
Thus, you will need a comprehensive marketing plan for your wholesale business that covers all possible touchpoints and prospect sources. You then need to curate marketing materials and run a full-fledged marketing campaign across relevant channels to gain leads. Automation comes in handy in scaling an error-free process while also allowing you to benefit from features like lead grading and lifecycle management.
The current market requires integrated marketing campaigns. We recommend a holistic approach that includes collaboration with your sales team and other stakeholders.
Currently, there are significant opportunities available for wholesalers since many players may have exited recently while fresh demand continues to triumph.
#5 Hire The Right Talent
As a wholesaler, it is necessary to hire the right talent to take care of your large volume business. Like any other business sector, you need to choose them on the basis of your business case, short-term and long-term goals, succession planning and other criteria that will impact your growth capabilities.
To begin with, weigh your existing staff’s strengths and weaknesses, skills and the probability of an increase in output with additional resources and skill sets. This will help you identify the right candidates for your wholesale business with a clear understanding of what you expect out of them once they join. The below chart displays the stagnant condition of the current wholesaling industry employment market.
Regardless of what product you are selling, issues of scale remain common across businesses. Hiring proficient and talented people should be the main recruitment drivers for most job roles.
You may also want to ensure that they will be able to use the tools required to complete their daily tasks. It is natural that they will need training and on-the-job experience in using these tools, but it is necessary that they have prior knowledge of working with software packages and basic computer skills.
#6 Master Your Pricing Strategy And Get A Tool For It
Pricing plays a crucial role in determining your success as a wholesaler, but it doesn’t mean that you need to be priced as low as possible. It’s a fact that there’s plenty of competition in the market but trying to be the cheapest option is not going to provide you with any significant results.
Instead, you should keep your pricing strategy based on market dynamics and your unique value propositions. Thus, you should compete on the grounds of the value you deliver to your customers as opposed to competing on the basis of price. This will ensure that your bottom line stays healthy and you don’t lose sales simply because another player offered to sell at lower prices than you.
With this being said, it is necessary to buy a tool for pricing purposes if you are willing to sell on online B2B marketplaces. In fact, this becomes necessary since you may have many products to offer and setting their prices manually is not feasible or sustainable in the long term.
An automation tool helps you manage pricing based on multiple factors to maximize profitability. For example, if you are selling on Amazon, you can increase your prices when your competitors are facing stock outages without the fear of lost sales. There are numerous such scenarios where you need to adjust your prices in real-time.
#7 Invest In A Decent Ecommerce Automation Tool
Here’s the most important part of upscaling your wholesale business through online sales: getting a robust ecommerce automation tool that also acts as a wholesale sales management system. Most platforms require you to perform huge chunks of data entry work under tight time constraints. For instance, if your product is sold on one channel, it is necessary to update the information on the rest of your sales channels.
This volume of time-sensitive documentation is neither feasible nor sustainable for any wholesaler. Ecommerce automation software allows you to manage multiple channels, backend processes, documentation and all selling-related tasks on a centralized platform.
You should also expect benefits like optimization of your organizational culture as these software solutions help define and streamline various processes. Choose a solution that fosters collaboration and provides multiple types of reports that help your staff work in a unified manner regardless of the number of internal and external stakeholders.
The right platform should also provide efficiencies in accounting and finance, workflow management, integrated marketing, customer service and insights, data collection and analytics.
#8 Continuously Optimize Your Order Fulfillment Strategy
Order fulfillment remains one of the key areas which can emerge as a differentiating factor for your wholesale business since the shift to agile fulfillment is yet to happen in this particular sector. Lack of transparency is another issue that you can address with the help of 3PL partners. In most regions, shipping is entirely within the scope of the supplier.
Allow your customers to choose their preferred 3PL shipper so that they can also be in control of the costs and of processes like shipment tracking and returns processing. This also reduces your staff’s workload.
You will also need to integrate your organizational functions like warehousing, inventory management, material handling, receiving, picking and packaging. Thus, your order fulfillment will require a centralized approach to all concurrent activities in order to provide you with a competitive advantage over other wholesalers.
#9 Foster Good Relationships With Stakeholders
Every participant in your wholesale business’s success should get their due share of acknowledgement and appreciation alongside the expected cooperation. The account based approach is often overlooked because business owners are often focused on their stock and recurring orders as the two major business drivers.
We provide this tip as a reminder that, like any business, success in the wholesale sector relies on your ability to harness the full range of every stakeholder’s capabilities. This includes your suppliers, staff members, partner organizations, customers and consultants since their respective participation helps to sustain and grow your business.
You will need to set an effective communication strategy that includes both your internal and external stakeholders while effectively serving their interests. This includes self-service portals, tracking windows and automated emails as they enable seamless communication for transactional queries.
Also, consider dedicating a relationship management strategy so that you can manage your brand image proactively through time-tested methods like well wishes on personal occasions. Building a rapport with your stakeholders will also aid in boosting your brand image since many wholesale players still rely on the old-school methods. Account based marketing helps to build demand and eases customers into upsell offers.
#10 Operate On A Customer-First Operating Model
As we begin to wrap up, we want to reiterate the value of operating under a customer-centric model.
One of the ways to ensure that your efforts as an organization are directed towards customer experience is including value add to each process including demand forecasting, marketing, product lifecycle management and client support. It may require you to democratize insights within and beyond the organization so as to facilitate transparency.
Linking organizational culture to the customer experience is another approach that helps build a customer-focused environment, but it is necessary to check if you are overdoing it. Maintaining a fine balance between your customer’s expectations vs. your organizational and employee interests is the key to building a sustainable customer-first operating model.
If required, you can also opt for boosting employee-customer relationships through meetings, internal surveys and reports. You can also provide your employees with an opportunity to collaborate with different verticals, including the client-facing side of your organization.
#11 Constantly Monitor How Your Wholesale Business Performs
Despite the measures described above, it is important to keep an eye on your business through various metrics made available by software solutions and partner channels. This is due to the fact that market volatility, customer behavior augmentation, supply chain bottlenecks and change in government regulations are some of the factors that continuously impact your wholesale business.
On top of that, internal factors such as attrition and work culture also impact the results you get in the long run. Therefore, make it a point to include reporting and analysis as a core management function to keep your organization on the right track.
#12 Start A Couple of Experiments to Test Selling Directly to Consumers
Direct to consumer marketing (D2C) refers to manufacturers/wholesalers selling their products directly to the end-user which increases control over brand reputation and provides autonomy over sales and customer experience. Naturally, the D2C business model will prove more profitable and scalable than other indirect selling methods if approached correctly.
You can experiment with D2C selling but keep in mind that you need to take your staff into confidence and train them, build your presence on relevant D2C platforms and prompt your partners regarding the D2C transition. Remember, your approach should be customer-centric and focus on building a steady pipeline of leads.
It is clear that wholesaling organizations have ample opportunities at their disposal for improving their chances of success. But you may find it tricky to navigate through multiple growth drivers, so using centralized, automated solutions is a must.
Wholesaling continues to be an attractive avenue and despite the pandemic, it has shown great resilience. With these 12 steps, most wholesalers will find it easy to create and maintain mechanisms that will help them achieve success in 2022 and beyond. If you have any doubts or require suggestions, feel free to get in touch with experts at Cin7 to take your wholesaling business to the next level.
The global pandemic has changed our way of living, shopping and socializing. We are compelled to shop digitally for most things and mobile phones have made that much easier. Some online sellers have benefited from the global pandemic.
Existing eCommerce businesses are looking forward to infusing their sites with the latest technologies and tools. Startups are eager for the latest technologies and trends to begin their game.
#1. Payment Gateway Technology or Online Transaction Processing (OLTP)
OLTP is an information system that facilitates and manages transaction-oriented applications. With some of the latest and most secure online transaction processing technologies, OLTP creates secure payment gateways and a myriad of money transfer methods for boosting eCommerce.
Digital wallets are the best and most often used example of advanced OLTP technologies.
Digital wallets make payment transactions quick, simple and secure for everyone regardless of Internet connection (wired, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, mobile).
When we talk about mCommerce, it means mobile commerce. mCommerce shopping happens VIA smart devices and is becoming one of the most lucrative eCommerce niches.
Advanced technologies that redefine eCommerce include mobile marketing. Most customers prefer to use their mobile devices for online business.
Competitors may take advantage of mCommerce to acquire more customers who prefer the mobile eCommerce niche. As this niche expands, poor mobile execution or no mobile at all will cause companies to lose out in the market.
Big or small, you can use mobile apps to advance the course of your business. You can provide a seamless experience to your customers by making use of excellent apps. Always use apps that make their shopping easier and fun-loving.
#3. Supply Chain Management (SCM)
SCM has developed over time to support manufacturing and globalization. Today, we live in a specialization era where SCM is available as-a-service.
The role of supply chain management technology is more evident in eCommerce and has given birth to various online portals for B2B, B2C, C2C, and C2B like-business models. SCM influences both pre-production and post-production to ease stressed supply chains.
Manufacturing and blockchain technologies are also emerging as revolutionary new technologies in SCM for eCommerce.
The booming eCommerce industry, even post-pandemic, has led to warehouse and labor shortages nationwide, making it difficult to secure staff and space. As a result, warehousing costs are on the rise, including the prices of 4PL services.
Investing in integrated technologies in the form of cloud-native warehouse management may be helpful. Third and fourth party logistics providers (3PL, 4PL) are highly adaptable and allow you to scale and pivot operations quickly.
Investing in warehouse-as-a-service from an outsourced logistics provider gains access to both employees and state-of-the-art warehouse technology costing a fraction of what it would cost to develop your own warehouse.
#4. Artificial Intelligence
AI or Artificial Intelligence is everywhere, and eCommerce is no exception as sellers strive to give their shoppers personalized experiences. Personalization technologies are highly dependent on AI.
Also, real-time and automated chatbots are a craze in the eCommerce industry. Chat software relies on AI technologies to respond intelligently to consumer inquiries.
#5. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
Electronic data interchange technology allows eCommerce businesses to exchange information that was historically shared on paper.
For example, eCommerce shoppers and merchants enjoy automatically placing orders, generating invoices and tracking the entire shipping process.
EDI’s high standards have made the order-making process and receiving goods VIA online shopping stress-free. Now, customers can place orders, receive invoices and goods automatically and hassle-free.
#6. Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)
EFT technology has seen recent improvements like encryption-like technologies that enhance its security. EFTs have reduced our over reliance on physical banks.
Direct debit, withdrawals and deposits for payments, e-bill payments and instant payments are some e-payment options. They determine our concurrent financial activities.
The annual report of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) supports the visible growth of EFT technology in the economy and its positive impact on eCommerce.
There is a lot of controversy around blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. Blockchain technology is gaining trust as a method for online payments and for its concept of a distributed genuine ledger of all digital transactions.
Blockchain ensures transparency, security and decentralization making it an attractive option for accepting online payments. Payments and exchanges with fiat currencies take more time and are costlier; hence cryptocurrencies are becoming popular. You can make shipping ‘smarter’ by providing encryption in deliveries using blockchain.
The future of the eCommerce marketplace will be blockchain-driven and it will transform the industry.
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Amazon took significant steps recently to get up and running in Australia. Now, word on the street is the eCommerce giant has set its sights on New Zealand.
It may not be a question of if but when the company launches Amazon New Zealand.
Amazon Activates in Australia
Amazon has now leased a distribution center in Melbourne. It is also close to leasing a fulfillment center in Sydney.
The Australian Financial Review reported Amazon’s Melbourne location is a 24,000 square meter site that Bunnings once used as a distribution center. Amazon could potentially double the size of that facility. (Bunnings left that site for a larger facility in 2014).
Another report indicates Amazon is close to a deal on a Sydney facility, a roughly 50 drive west of the central business district. Amazon has worked with Goodman Group, which owns the site, to develop fulfillment and distribution centers in the US and Europe.
Amazon will likely spend the next few months preparing the warehouses (reportedly with automation and robotics) for an Australia launch next year.
News over the past 12 months suggested Amazon would be up and running this year. However, later reporting points to a 2018 launch date for Amazon prime and an Australia Marketplace.
So is an Amazon New Zealand next?
So with Amazon starting up in Australia, could an Amazon New Zealand be far behind?
It would make sense. This week, a financial firm made headlines by making that very case. Sort of.
As reported in the New Zealand Herald, a Forsyth Barr research report stated that “Once Australia is bedded-in, New Zealand presents a logical extension to Amazon’s investment in the region.”
While the report sees an increased likelihood of an Amazon New Zealand, it hedges on how that may look. Amazon may launch a separate New Zealand marketplace, establish a fulfillment center in New Zealand, or simply ship from Australia.
How Will Kiwi Businesses React?
Even if Amazon stays in Australia, its regional presence will impact Kiwi brands and retailers. At the very least, Amazon Australia makes shipping more affordable. Consequently, kiwi consumers will likely purchase more than they once did when buying on Amazon’s US or UK marketplaces.
Inventory is a delicate balancing act, and eCommerce doesn’t make things any easier.
Carrying too much stock drives up your costs in warehousing and expiration of goods. Carrying too little loses you sales.
Getting inventory just right is the Goldilocks tale of commerce, which is why so many strategies have emerged over the last 50 years (especially from the manufacturing sector) including Agile, Lean and Just in Time processes. Companies most certainly employ a combination of these various approaches depending on what they sell, what customer service levels they’ve set, and what sales channels to which they are applying a strategy.
The nature of online sales, whether that is direct to customers or B2B eCommerce, may benefit to some degree from the pull inventory strategy.
(Bear in mind that the terms used in this article are generalized. Supply chain management as an academic discipline encompasses a much more technical and nuanced comprehension of push, pull, agile, etc.)
What is Pull Strategy?
Pull strategy is inventory management that responds to actual customer demand in realtime. It is often contrasted with push strategy, which builds inventory in advance of anticipated customer demand based on forecasts, seasonal demand planning and historic trends.
Pull begins with the customer’s order, which is why it is sometimes referred to as “demand-driven inventory planning”. A company using a pull system maintains inventory based on what is happening right now, which means they don’t keep a lot of that item in stock, if any at all. It will maintain inventory at that level by procuring or manufacturing the item only after it has been sold, or by replenishing a sold item with only one more item.
A pull strategy works for products you can manufacture/replenish quickly, products with an uncertain demand, or products that do not benefit from economies of scale (ie, making a lot of it doesn’t reduce the cost of selling it).
While a pull strategy does not require the comprehensive historic data that a push strategy calls for, it is still essential to track sales of that item on a daily basis across all sales channels.
Does Pull Benefit eCommerce?
The first advantage to pull strategy is the ability to sell without the associated cost of carrying inventory. If you can deliver on promise without that cost, you lower the cost of goods sold and increase your profit margin. The margin increases when taking into account the low cost of eCommerce versus the high overhead of running a retail store.
The benefit of pull to eCommerce goes beyond that, particularly if you’re not selling complicated products (electronics or machinery) or if you are selling and managing inventory (fashion, for instance) that is subject to quickly changing tastes.
eCommerce gives you have the potential to attract a wide, global customer base. A pull strategy can work when you’re selling a highly specialized or individualized product that may not move in volume in a small market, but may attract appreciable interest worldwide.
The pull strategy here requires more lead time to gather components from your suppliers (such as a particular pattern or fabric, for example), so it is important for you to emphasize to customers that their order may take longer to fulfill.
The pull strategy may also come in handy for smaller organizations that have low inventory budgets but that want to provide more options to far reaching customers through their website.
The truth is, however, eCommerce will most likely require a company to adopt a combination of strategies: a push strategy for high volume SKUs that you know have sold well based on forecasting; and a pull strategy for special items that you can’t afford to keep in stock, but that you have reason to believe will appeal to your customers.
Regardless of your strategy, you will need an inventory management solution that can track and report your sales.