Sell more with unified commerce

Product sellers who have reached a high level of success and are still bogged down by manual processes need to adopt a unified commerce software solution that allows them to interconnect each critical aspect of their operation. Many of the 8,000 product sellers we work with here at Cin7 have experienced explosive growth since the start of the pandemic made online shopping a necessity.

Often, these companies find their reliance on manual stock counts and data entry has become unsustainable and increasingly prone to human error. We find that when a company begins searching for IT help to modernize their software stack to keep up with their growth, they’re ready for the power of unified commerce.

Cin7 provides a unified commerce solution like no other on the market today. Cin7’s all-in-one unified commerce solution automates all your workflows – how and where you sell, how you manage all your inventory, how you fulfill orders and how you manage your finances.

Bring critical business functions together

Adopting and paying for disparate software programs to manage individual business needs is certainly one approach to consider, but leads to the “swivel chair” approach of having to toggle between accounting programs, spreadsheets, ecommerce backends and shipping applications. It may seem like progress, but this approach is costly in both monthly fees and staffing resources.

By bringing all of your business functions together, across sales and operations in a unified and automated workflow, Cin7 helps sell to more customers through more sales channels and process more orders – more efficiently and faster than ever before.

How unified commerce creates a top sales operation

Here’s a scenario that illustrates the concept of unified commerce:

Your company sells products to consumers both online and in brick-and-mortar locations. You also have a healthy wholesale distribution division that sells in bulk to major retailers. Over time you’ve grown to 3 branded online marketplaces, Amazon, Walmart and Ebay, 4 custom ecommerce sites and 10 physical store locations.

Adopting an end-to-end software solution that connects to marketplaces and enables you to manage your ecommerce sites combined with overall inventory management and sales tracking will streamline your operations and save thousands with the efficiencies it creates. The solution should allow you to track store inventory, transfer orders to other locations, ship orders from your stores and warehouses, and manage customer loyalty programs.

It should also let you work with the third party logistics provider (3PL) you have contracted with to manage your warehouse operations, fulfill orders, and process returns.

Because you are a fashion retailer, and fast changing trends dictate what products are popular at the moment, you require real time sales performance analysis so you are not tying up too much capital in overstocked inventory.

Unified commerce brings together all aspects of a product seller’s business. When orders are placed, either by consumers or in bulk by major retailers, transactions are automatically recorded to accounting programs like QuickBooks and corresponding adjustments are made to inventory quantities. Ongoing management of each sales outlet is maintained within the Cin7 platform.

Workflow automation is a key benefit of unified commerce. Purchase orders can be set to generate when stock levels hit a predetermined threshold. Wholesale orders can be placed directly into your system by major retailers who have established an EDI connection with you. The fulfillment process is triggered automatically, sending orders to your 3PL. Stock can be shifted from one warehouse or store location to another. A dedicated payment portal is also provided so wholesale customers can easily keep their account current.

Perhaps most importantly, the customizable analytics reporting capabilities of Cin7 give management visibility into real time, accurate financial data both in dashboard views and pivot-table ready reports.

Our research conclusively confirms that product sellers thrive, grow sales, and reduce costs when they adopt a modern tech stack with a cloud-based inventory management solution that embraces the unified commerce approach to selling.

A complete selling solution

Product sellers that capitalize on unified commerce, a holistic solution that interconnects every critical business process across sales and operations, realize several benefits:

  • Sync sales, accounting and inventory control in real time
  • Design branded B2C and B2B websites to sell to consumers and major retailers
  • Completely integrate your Shopify site and your retail location with included POS app
  • Set order thresholds to automate purchase orders when stock runs low
  • Refer to sales dashboards or customize demand forecast reports
  • Assign orders to your 3PL for accurate fulfillment and shipping
  • Maintain a modern cloud-based tech stack
  • Maximize warehouse space
  • Cut overhead and keep headcount trimmed
  • Quickly process invoices and payments from wholesale customers

About Cin7

Cin7 helps over 8,000 product sellers benefit from unified commerce to move more orders with greater accuracy to more satisfied buyers. Efficiencies created by unified commerce save on overhead and provide a great customer experience. Cin7 simplifies your ability to sell by bringing together over 700 established connections with online marketplaces, major retailers, shippers, third party logistics providers and accounting programs. At a fraction of the monthly subscription fee for a bloated ERP solution, Cin7 delivers all of the key functionality a modern product seller requires.

Gain the unified commerce advantage over your competitors. Request a Cin7 product demo and get unified.

Open a no cost online store

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.

Pure Commerce share four secrets that helped their clients achieve record growth in tough market conditions

  1. DEAR isn’t just for sorting your inventory or modernizing your business: it helps you keep your approach flexible

  2. You can afford your own, fully-customized, fully-integrated ERP (if it’s DEAR)

  3. Any product business can benefit from DEAR

  4. 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.”

About Pure Commerce

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.

Cin7 study: Inflation fears causing consumers to change purchasing habits

Global crises and ongoing macroeconomic factors like supply chain disruptions, supply shortages, and the COVID-19 pandemic continue to impact consumers around the world.

With many unknowns still up in the air, fears and tensions are growing among consumers as prices of goods rise and threats of continued inflation loom. Are consumers concerned enough to change spending habits? If so, how will the threat of rising costs impact retailers and product sellers who have been managing challenge after challenge for more than two years?

According to a recent survey from Cin7, consumers are conclusively concerned about inflation, and they’re changing their preferences towards product sellers as a result. Their primary criterion for purchasing goods is now price by a wide margin, with the survey finding that the price of goods (45%) is the most impactful factor when choosing where to buy items, followed by quality of goods (18%), online ordering capabilities (12%), geographic location (9.5%), supporting a local or small business owner (9%) and lastly, speed of delivery (7%).

Consumer concerns and buying behavior

The vast majority of consumers (81%) state that they’re worried about inflation. Only 22% of consumers said they’re not reducing their spending right now, meaning that it’s doubly important for sellers whose products are not considered “essential” to make their value known and do everything in their power to keep demand up even when spending is being reduced.

Consumers consider buying on price in wide margins, at the expense of smaller and local product sellers and are instead gravitating towards big box retailers – with 49% stating they’d make purchases wherever is cheapest and 26% saying they’d purchase in-store from big box retailers. The survey results suggest that consumers don’t have major qualms about shopping at big box stores – and while they are still shopping online, a growing percentage of people would cut back if supply chain issues caused prices to rise.

Convenience and location matter, as 46% of respondents claim they’d purchase from locally-owned businesses if the price of goods were the same at different stores, followed by big box retailers (40%), and online from small businesses (14%). This signals trouble for online sellers as they’ll need to ensure their customers feel it’s just as simple and convenient to shop online from them, even if they can get the same product elsewhere. Otherwise, they risk losing out to local product sellers with brick and mortar presences, as well as big box retailers who have both online and in-store presences.

Buying behavior has already shifted as consumers look to reduce spending. The top two things they’re cutting back on – going out to eat at restaurants (67%) and purchasing non-essential items like clothes and toys (65%) – are not only detrimental to local and small businesses, but also signal challenging times ahead for two industries that have been hit hard during two years of the pandemic.

Adapting to shifting demand

As the price of goods increases globally and supply challenges continue, product sellers need to do everything they can to keep costs down. To do this, sellers must implement cloud-based technology to optimize operations to enable them to focus on better managing inventory and warehouse capabilities to keep up with fluctuating demand, accurately forecast and plan for the future, gain end-to-end visibility and more. This will be critical to fight the supply chain headwinds that are driving costs up and margins down.

Sellers also need to do everything they can to expand their sales channels with the help of integrated inventory and order management technologies – nearshoring product where it makes sense to get items into consumer hands quicker and outsourcing to third-party logistics (3PL) providers to compete with big box retailers who hold a lot of power in terms of addressing the warehouse and labor shortages impacting sellers today.

Find out how Cin7’s inventory and order management solution cuts operational overhead allowing you to price your products competitively. Let a Cin7 consultant show you how workflow automation and ready integrations with over 700 major retailers, online marketplaces, ecommerce sites, and 3PLs reduce costs. Request your free demo here.

Accelerate B2B wholesale selling with built-in EDI

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI): The electronic exchange of business information using a standardized format; a process which allows one company to send order information to another company electronically rather than by paper or email.

The top 30 retailers in the US, UK and Australia will buy over 2 trillion dollars of products from their suppliers this year. Are you getting your fair share of these purchases? Do you have the EDI technology to be a great supplier to these retailers?

Imagine if Walmart wants to order $100,000 of products from you. Which type of supplier are you? Type 1 or Type 2?

Type 1 suppliers – You’ve adopted a robust inventory and order management system that has a built-in EDI connection direct to Walmart. When Walmart needs to order from you, the purchase order is immediately received electronically by you for fulfillment because the required commercial documents have been coordinated between both parties ahead of time. And, as an added bonus, your inventory system has a seamless, bi-directional integration with your accounting software, so all of the appropriate journal entries are made and your stock count has been updated, all in real time. Supplier type 1 has a fully automated sales workflow designed to sell fast and scale over time.

Or, are you type 2?  The Walmart procurement rep has to manually complete your required form fields by navigating a PDF purchase order template, double check it for accuracy, and email it to you. Then your employee has to email the procurement rep several times to clarify the order details before manually entering the PO information into an Excel spreadsheet, accounting system or inventory tracker without making any mistakes. 4 or 5 days later, the order is ready to be fulfilled. As you may already know, Walmart will stop doing business with Type 2 sellers after their first experience. So, there are very few type 2 sellers left in the world.

Wholesalers and distributors who sell products in bulk to retailers have a vested interest in streamlining the sales process as much as possible by leveraging the latest advances in transactional sales automation.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the electronic exchange of business information using a standardized format; a process which allows one company to send information to another company electronically rather than by paper or email.

EDI software provides built-in templates that are used to establish unified field formats before transferring data between vendor and retailer systems, making repeat orders a snap.

EDI is an asynchronous data transfer technology that uses a file-based, batch transfer model. The standardization levels for EDIs have matured and been accepted almost universally. Experienced EDI providers maintain these standards and customize them to meet industry-specific requirements.

Adopting an inventory and order management software solution that integrates seamlessly with accounting software like QuickBooks or Xero and that offers a full service, built-in EDI capability with hundreds of major retailers is the key to quickly growing a flourishing wholesale distribution operation.

The benefits of EDI to wholesalers and their retail customers are numerous.

  1. Retailers who can predictably work with distributors that reliably fulfill electronic sales transactions will order more products, more often, engendering loyalty for years to come.
  2. Wholesale sellers that offer electronic order processing and retailers who take advantage of it can both cut staffing costs.
  3. EDI shortens the initial sales transaction, shaving days of admin work off of fulfillment time that may already be delayed due to supply chain disruptions.
  4. Electronic order processing reduces incidents of human error resulting from manual data entry and paper-based record keeping.

Wholesale sellers that choose inventory software with hundreds of pre-built EDI connections see their operating expenses shrink and sales grow exponentially. With the right inventory and order software, wholesale distributors enjoy the following:

  1. Secure, industry-compliant electronic connections that speed sales transactions compared to paper or email-based order processes. The faster a retailer can transact business, the more business they’ll bring you.
  2. Retailers that prefer to do business with you over your competitors who still rely on manual transactions and can’t provide the same simplicity and immediacy that you can with built-in EDI.
  3. Customized and automated workflows that minimize error risk, increase sales volume and lower staffing costs. When ordering is easy, retailers order more often.
  4. Dropping that expensive third party EDI provider. It’s a much better idea to go with a comprehensive inventory management solution that has all the EDI connections you need ready and waiting.
  5. Being directly connected to your third party logistics provider (3PL) warehouse the way you need to be. EDI connections to 3PLs streamline and automate fulfillment workflows and make the ordering process transparent from download to dispatch.
  6. Quick and efficient electronic exchange of other types of required business documentation with retail trading partners. These include invoices, order receipt confirmations, transaction updates, order status notifications and detailed shipping status updates.

Request a demo of Cin7 today to learn even more about the advantages of an inventory and order management system with full service, built-in EDI.

For a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of EDI, check out our extensive EDI resource here.

The next time Walmart, Target, Tesco, Costco, or any large retailer opens the door for you to sell to them, will you be ready?

Posted in EDI

Top Five Key Lessons for Automating Your Inventory and Financials

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: 

  1. Done right, automation actually makes good people even better
  2. To get financial fundamentals right, give them to someone else
  3. You need an expert who knows tech as well as accounting
  4. Look for an expert with a proven track record
  5. 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.

About Catching Clouds: an Acuity Company

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.

Hop Revolution

New Zealand is known for its stunning landscapes and boutique products, but it’s not yet on the international map for its hop crop. However, if Hop Revolution has anything to say about it, that is about to change. 

Hops, for the uninitiated, are a key ingredient in many beers. A relative of the much more famous cannabis sativa, hops contribute flavour, smell and the tasty bitterness that beer fans crave. Just like grapes and wine, hops have their own special characteristics depending on where they’re grown. With their unusually-high acidity and unique cool-climate flavours, the New Zealand crops that Hop Revolution takes to market are rapidly achieving cult status among craft brewers and their distributors.

“Hop Revolution is a relatively young hop-growing sales and marketing business,” says Hop Revolution Supply Chain and Sales Analyst, Nick Evans. “We have the view that we are going to scale up growing New Zealand hop varieties, and take that to brewers in export markets. At the moment, our hops go predominantly into the US, UK and European markets.” 

Hops are a delicate product. The commercially valuable part is the unfertilized flowers, and for it to retain its qualities for successful export, hops must be carefully prepared within moments of being picked. This means each hop garden must have its own picking and drying equipment., where hops are processed into bales. Once this is done, the hops can be safely transported for further processing to export markets around the world. 

That’s where the Hop Revolution starts. They manage two hop farms, and export the hops to brewers all over the world. 

But the exacting nature of the product, as well as the vagaries of the commodities export market —  where goods tend to be bought in large quantities and are often sold on consignment — means that good inventory management is critical. Hop Revolution have only been running for a couple of years, but they put Cin7 in place after the business had only been selling for only a few months. 

“Getting something in place and helping us manage that inventory was pretty high up the list once we got started,” Nick says.

Early Cin7 implementation means early success 

This isn’t the usual inventory management story. A lot of businesses wait until they’re well established before investing in cloud inventory management software, relying on spreadsheets or manual processes to bridge the gap. But, while spreadsheets are fine right at the start, once things get complicated, relying on them can throw business systems into chaos. Forward-thinking product sellers know that the best time in the business cycle to get started with inventory management is as soon as possible. 

“It was that scaling factor, really,” Nick says. “It was pretty simple to begin with, but as soon as you start ending up in different markets, with three different distribution locations, and with consignment inventories in different countries, it’s a bit too complicated to manage it with a spreadsheet. Having a way to tie all that together is key.” 

Nick’s background in farm technology and supply chain management meant that he was the perfect hire to look after Hop Revolution’s complex inventory and supply chain requirements. Luckily, Cin7 came recommended by a hop grower that already used the software. 

“We did the full review across all the potential options out there, including Unleashed, and landed on Cin7 with the view that if we could tie it in with our other supply chain partners, then that’d make life a lot easier all round. It showed promise early on,” Nick says. 

Cin7 is the cornerstone of a powerful business software stack

While it’s perfectly fine to implement Cin7 in your business without outside help, to get the most out of Cin7, the top product sellers either hire someone with expertise, or use a Cin7 implementation partner. Hop Revolution chose to use Powerhouse Solutions. 

“We used an implementation partner to get us up and running, and that was really good,” Nick says. Despite not having as many products as some Cin7 users – Hop Revolution only had four to start with – the complexities of their market and selling methods meant that having outside help to get up and running was invaluable. What’s more, their implementation partner offered training to the staff members who needed to use Cin7, drastically reducing the time required to use the product to its full potential. 

“The training aspect of it’s really important, I think,” Nick says. “You know, there’s a lot of buttons to click and there’s a lot of ways to do things. It’s good to have a bit of a steer out the gate, to have someone with knowledge and experience show us the way.” 

Cin7 is now the cornerstone of a powerful software stack that powers the entire business, customised to their niche and needs. It functions better than an ERP  —  and without the enormous upfront and ongoing costs associated with legacy ERP systems. 

“Our whole ethos at the moment is to run SaaS for anything and everything,” Nick says. “We’re hooked into Xero. We have a ShipStation integration. We’ve also got GoSweetSpot — because we’re shipping in three different countries at the moment, we’ve just got to have that flexibility to have multiple accounts for different shipping destinations. It’s really useful. Having it all integrate together with Cin7 is giving us that flexibility, ticking all the boxes, and kicking the goals.” 

“Cin7 means I can sleep at night”

Cin7 has proved vital in efficiently managing Hop Revolution’s sales process. After they’ve produced a batch of hops, much of their stock gets allocated to a purchase contract, which may or may not be drawn down for up to 12 months or more. 

“It sits in inventory for quite a long time, but it still can’t be sold because it’s allocated to a customer,” Nick says. 

Because of this, Cin7’s Open to Sell functionality is a god-send. It means Hop Revolution always knows how much of their stock they can sell to new customers, while still completing open orders. “We love the order tracking and Open to Sell, as it’s pretty powerful for knowing what’s available to sell.” Nick says.

Cin7’s market-leading reporting capability is also hugely beneficial, giving Hop Revolution — which often has stock in multiple stages of production and sales all over the world — the transparency it needs to to make decisions. 

“We pull a lot of reports,” Nick says. “It’s useful to be able to have multiple locations and manage inventory in all the different ones. Of course, that’s what all inventory solutions do, but the beauty of Cin7 is it’s flexible and customizable, and the guys are great at tweaking stuff if you ask for it.” 

Nick says the most mission-critical feature of Cin7 is the way it allows them to maintain order integrity right across the supply and sales chain. As sellers need to be able to order up to 48 months in advance of receiving goods. Cin7 allows Hop Revolution to load in a sales order “then and there” and track it in advance, into the future. 

“That’s got a lot of value to us. Pricing fluctuates year to year, but if we know that that customer’s pricing on that day is locked in, then that gives us good traceability back through the process,” Nick says. 

“The orders we process are relatively high value. And it’s reassuring to sit securely in the knowledge that Cin7 is storing those orders that have been placed years before.”

Once Cin7 had been implemented for a while, it became a treasure trove of historical data on how Hop Revolution’s business operated, giving them the ability to tweak their existing operations for maximum efficiency and make predictions about the future. 

“It’s not hard to go back and track and trace stuff with a few clicks. That to me is really powerful when you’re just trying to work backwards and see what’s gone on,” Nick says. “Now, we can start to forecast three years into the future, where our demand is, and do it via location, and do it by customer. It’s one thing that is really crucial, and means I can sleep at night.” 

Heading off supply chain dysfunction with accurate inventory tracking

Since the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted supply chains worldwide, product sellers are scrambling for more visibility into their operations, so both they and their customers can stay across shocks. For this, Cin7 has been absolutely critical. It can’t make the ships sail faster, or clear backlogs at ports, but it can tell you exactly where your inventory is at any point in time, and allow you to set customer expectations. 

“I think it’s everything, right? You’ve got customers who are relying on you getting orders right, and getting them to them at the right time. We only act as an agent for our farm owners, so we need to be able to show them that we’re managing their inventory in a good way, and accurately, and keeping track of all of it all,” Nick says. “For me, a really good aspect of Cin7 is being able to pull a report out of the program, and show our customers what’s happened and where it’s happened.” 

The upshot, Nick says, is that Hop Revolution’s customers know when they’ve placed the order, that the order is being tracked well, and that they’re going to deliver when they say they’re going to deliver. And when things go wrong that are outside of Hop Revolution’s control, then it’s easy to keep customers across events. 

“The great thing with Cin7 is, you can update customers in bulk, you can keep people in the loop. It’s useful to be able to send out a bulk email and just say, “Hey. Look, this stuff’s been delayed. Here’s an ETA.” 

Get the visibility your product business needs with Cin7

Hop Revolution is happy to recommend Cin7 to other commodity businesses looking for an inventory management solution. Before choosing a solution, Nick suggests “looking at the software pretty hard,” and making sure that you have your workflows and product journeys mapped out so you can test them against the software’s functionality in a demo environment. 

“Get an implementation partner, or get a solid work plan in place to demo through all the scenarios you can,” Nick says. “Don’t worry so much about the customization and stuff to get you started because that can come down the track. Just get that real core workflow nailed down first.”

Hop Revolution says that the time invested in understanding how your business processes tie together in Cin7, as well as training in and learning the software, will reap huge dividends for the business down the track. Reporting is a critical aspect, and can be customised to an individual business’ needs. 

“Cin7 is a handy tool for giving you that visibility. That’s one of the key parts of running a good supply chain, right? It gives you the ability to track and trace, and shows what you need to know at any given time. And I think that’s really powerful. It’s awesome,” Nick says. 

“It’s a solid product and it just keeps getting better. It comes with my recommendation.”