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 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.

What every fashion retailer can learn from Zara

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.  

Traditional ERP systems vs cloud-based ecommerce software

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:

Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)

Order Management Systems (OMS)

Inventory Management Systems (IMS)

Supply Chain Management (SCM)

Product Information Management (PIM)

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Business Intelligence (BI)

Customer Experience Management (CX)

Human Resources Management (HRM)

Shopping carts like Shopify

Challenges of ERPs in ecommerce

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.

ERP vs ecommerce software

Let’s compare ERP systems with inventory management software (an ecommerce software) as an example to get a better idea.

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.

Conclusion

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.

A complete guide to robotics and warehouse management

The word automation was first coined and used by Ford Motor Company then Vice President, Delmas Harder in 1948 when he commented that, “What we need is more automation.”

He realized that there was a need to improve material handling in-between the various production stages to compete in the market with companies like Chevrolet.

Why this is significant is because it was the first time anyone thought of automating a process in a manufacturing unit. This led to the creation of robots that are now used in the manufacturing plants, warehouses, to ease and quicken the processes.

Let’s dive into the history of how the robots came into existence.

History of robotics in warehouses

However, it was not until 1954 that George Dovel filed for a robotics patent when he created the first industrial robotic arm, Unimate.

This robot was capable of moving the materials around 12 feet away within the manufacturing unit. This also earned George Dovel the title – Grandfather of Robots.

It took until 1961 for a patent to be granted due to concerns about laborers losing their jobs.  General Motors was the first company to make use of the first of these robot arms in manufacturing at their New Jersey plant in 1962.

Then came the Stanford Arm in 1969 created by Victor Scheinman. It was technically a first of its kind, electrically-powered, an automated robot arm that could move around accurately. The arm was powerful enough to assemble the Ford water pump by itself with optical and contact sensors.

This marked the beginning of a new era of using robots in the manufacturing process for achieving higher efficiency and improving lead time in the production of items.

By 1990, the use of robots started in households as well with the advent of Roomba robots developed by iRobot. Roomba was a first-generation vacuum cleaning robot that became a huge success.

Since then, there has been no looking back and the usage of robotics has come a long way in a short span of time.

In 2003, Kiva systems started creating AMR (Automated mobile robots) which were used in moving goods around warehouse and distribution centers using a conveyor system or by forklifts.

Kiva robots were so effective that Amazon bought the company itself in 2012 and now uses them across all their distribution centers.

Amazon is at the forefront of warehouse robotics development with 100,000 robots operating in their fulfillment centers across the globe.

Types of robots

As mentioned earlier, there was no looking back once the Roomba robot and Kiva robots were introduced and hugely successful in the market. Various types of robots came into existence that served various purposes.

However, for the warehouse, 5 major types of robots are used:

#1 Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV)

The Kiva robot that we are so familiar with is actually an Automated Guided Vehicle robot. This robot helps in transporting products and materials from one place to another by using magnetic stripes, sensors, or a track embedded in the warehouse floor. They are the best alternative to the manually driven forklifts and picking carts.

#2 Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR)

AGVs have developed a lot over the years and now they can function without magnetic stripes or sensors. These are known as Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) loaded with warehouse maps and the location of all the inventory stored in it.

AGVs also have safety scanners embedded in it such as 3D cameras, lidar, infrared, front and rear sensors, etc. which allow them to navigate without any mishaps following maps and the established routes within the warehouse. These are also known as self-driving forklifts.

#3 Cobots or collaborative robots

As the name suggests, these are robots that work collaboratively with human workers at the warehouse. However, these are quite efficient as they are semi-autonomous mobile robots that can move around a warehouse with their human pickers.

Usually, these cobots follow the human pickers so that they can drop picked items in the bins carried by these robots. This improves efficiency amongst warehouse workers and also reduces or eliminates the effort of physically carrying products.

Cobots have sensors so that they can identify any obstacle or boxes in their way and enable them to navigate carefully through the warehouse. Cobots are picker staff best friends as they can speed up their order fulfillment capabilities.

#4 Automated storage and retrieval systems

Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) are automated technologies used in warehouses for speedy storing and retrieving of goods. This system consists of multiple technological machines such as shuttles, cranes, carousels, vertical lift modules, unit loads, and mini loads.

Since all AS/RS are computer-controlled systems, they are integrated with the warehouse management system so that it can process order fulfillment as soon as orders are received.  AS/RS systems are used for moving a high volume of loads from in and out of storage.

AS/RS systems save time and effort of picking staff since in this “Good to Person” order picking, the worker does not have to physically move from one place to another to pick items. A mini-load crane, shuttle or AMR retrieve the products as per order and deliver it directly to the worker for packing and shipping.

#5 Aerial drones

We have been fascinated with the idea of drones delivering packages to our doorstep ever since Amazon began this practice. Drones have greater capabilities and we still have not fully explored their usage.

Drones are already being used in warehouses for locating and tracking inventory. They make the work much easier, quicker and can reach any nook and corner easily. In addition, a drone can be easily integrated with your warehouse management system making it an effective technology for tracking inventory and also lifting lightweight products for easy picking and packing.

Drones are autonomous and customizable, and with their cameras and RFID, drones can easily scan products, do inventory checks, conduct tracking, and map inventory.

Benefits of using robots in the warehouse

“To be or not to be” is a challenge faced for the usage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the manufacturing industry. Some are uncomfortable with the overall implications of AI taking over manual tasks, but recent statistics of intelligent automation capabilities are gaining attention, and therefore, cannot just be ignored.

“85% usage of intelligent automation will be seen in Supply Chain Management by 2021,” as per an IBM Report.

It is essential to stay globally competent in today’s dynamic market and using robots and artificial intelligence in the warehouse is the way to go! Here are a few of the benefits of using robots in the warehouse.

Reduces manual labor

Robots can take over work that is dangerous or time-consuming and thereby help warehouse workers to stay safe while working in coordination with robots.

Robots also help save time and effort by replacing manual scanning, picking and packing, and inventory counting. Also, it can be a very strenuous activity for the warehouse workers to keep on moving one rack to the other to fetch items ordered by customers. But autonomous mobile robots can perform these physical tasks and help workers to focus more on other order fulfillment tasks that require human intervention.

Improves warehouse accuracy and efficiency

Artificial intelligence helps in reducing human error and improves the customer experience which is the key to success for any business.

Since robots are customizable and can be programmed for a specific purpose, there are few instances of mistakes. Robots are not prone to human error and thus they eliminate wasted time and effort in redoing an incorrect task.

Accuracy in tasks like product scanning, picking, storing, and transporting products positively affects the overall performance of the warehouse. Warehouse robots work with precision and allow operators to automate the most mundane and laborious tasks.

Reduces warehouse costs

As per U.S. Census Bureau data, an average warehouse worker spends almost seven weeks per year in unnecessary motion within the warehouse. The costs of such futile activity costs the industry more than $4.3 billion USD in annual revenue.

Also, robots perform dangerous tasks efficiently in the warehouse, resulting in reduced costs spent on worker’s compensation for safety issues. There are fewer chances of workers getting injured since robots are performing the tasks instead.

The number of workers required in the warehouse also decreases as robots can fulfill most of the tasks with accuracy, creating less wastage.

Efficient picking capabilities

One of the foremost usages of a robotic arm was to move materials from one place to another up to 12 feet away. But with the technical advancements, the robotic arm has now been developed into an autonomous mobile robot that can travel far and wide in the warehouse and pick items automatically.

Some well-known companies like IAM Robotics, 6 RiverSystems, and GreyOrange, have introduced their powerful mobile robotic picking solutions in the market increasing warehouse efficiency requiring limited human resources.

These machines are programmed to travel established routes and they typically carry carts in which the products can be stored and transported to human workers.

Conclusion

We hope this article has helped you understand how robots are changing the supply chain within warehouses. At this point in time, robot technology is just scratching the surface. In the future, robots will prove to be much more useful and advanced as technology advances.

To learn more about Cin7 inventory and order management software and to find out how our warehouse management system can help automate your operations, request a demo here.

7 core benefits of AI-powered supply chains

The global supply chain is filled with several variables that add to its complexity: government regulations, ever-changing customer demand, rising transportation costs, and international events such as pandemics. Any innovation that helps improve the supply chain’s efficiency can help increase your bottom-line profit.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one such innovation that helps optimize the supply chain by better forecasting customer preferences and cutting costs by automating some repetitive manual tasks.

IBM defines AI as, “leveraging computers and machines to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind.” In common parlance, AI is a technology that can think like humans to solve problems.

A survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers New Zealand (PWC) suggests that AI-based applications could potentially contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the world economy by 2030.

Artificial intelligence is soaring in popularity —  in fact, Gartner predicts that by 2023, 50% of IT leaders will move their AI projects from proof of concept to maturity.

Giant conglomerates such as Amazon already leverage AI to   better control   the supply chain. For example, Amazon has already transformed the ecommerce business through free shipping and 1-day delivery practices. It is now devising systems using AI and machine learning (ML) to automate its warehousing processes and drone delivery.

If you are considering AI-powered supply chains, here are seven benefits that could help transform and evolve your business:

#1 Warehouse automation

The warehouse should not be treated simply as a place to store goods. Furthermore, if the items in the warehouse are not properly stored, there could be difficulty in retrieving the items when required. This in turn can increase your fulfillment time, not to mention your customers’ frustration. Instead, the warehouse should be regarded as a strategic asset that can help with storage and faster fulfillment of goods, thanks to automation.

Automation can help with the timely retrieval of goods from the warehouse and facilitate a smoother fulfillment of orders. As you keep purchasing inventory, the algorithm continues to learn from the data, and – based on this purchase and supplier data – the AI can provide stocking recommendations.

Lack of real-time information can lead to inefficient warehousing. Using a warehouse management system can offer much-needed clarity and help in streamlining your operations. A warehouse manager can get real-time insights about the various parts, components, and finished inventory stored in the warehouse, since the technology takes virtually no time to process and analyze large swaths of data.

Drones are also helping to automate warehouse operations. In movies and wedding ceremonies, drones are often used for videography from a higher altitude. At the warehouse, drones scan and capture information from barcodes and RFID tags, as well as reconcile data with your warehousing software.

Apart from scanning, the drones can also pick up inventory and aid with quicker shipping. Using drones to fetch items from higher shelves also mitigates the risk of warehousing staff injuries caused by falling from height.

Helpful hint: Apart from speeding up the work and saving you time, AI automation can reduce the otherwise required number of warehousing staff and save money that would have been devoted to payroll.

#2 Minimize operational costs

Plant managers deal with several challenges in running business operations. There can be inventory shortages, unplanned machinery downtime, or a rise in raw material pricing. All these can increase overall operational costs. If you are operating on lean margins, any activity that helps with cost-cutting can be crucial for your success. To combat such supply-demand mismatches, businesses have started implementing AI technology, leading to cost minimization and delivering a better customer experience.

Research from McKinsey suggests that after introducing artificial intelligence in their supply chain, 44% of executives reported cost reduction, and 63% had increased their overall revenue.

Helpful hint: Unlike humans, technology can run 24/7 with maximum productivity. It is free of human error and reduces workplace accidents.

#3 Predicting trends

It can be challenging to plan for the supply chain due to globalization, competition, increasing product varieties, and varying customer preferences. Unplanned events such as pandemic-related lockdowns and logistical issues can fuel the fire.

When final production relies on the timely availability of several spare parts and critical components, their unavailability can create bottlenecks in the supply chain. With a robust AI-powered forecasting system, businesses are equipped with the necessary intelligence to prepare themselves before such events disrupt production.

Along the lines of AI, there is a buzzword called “Big Data” that is commonly used. As the name suggests, Big Data refers to data that is huge in volume and keeps compounding over time. For example, when customers purchase items from Amazon, they browse through many products that can yield insights into their consumption patterns.

Analyzing such a massive dataset may seem unfathomable by humans, but it can be done through AI-driven tools. Intelligent systems can analyze data and guide the forecasting of supply and demand. This can prevent your business from accumulating excessive stock. A study by McKinsey suggests that implementing artificial intelligence and machine learning can reduce supply chain forecasting errors by up to 50%.

Through machine learning, businesses can also leverage predictive analytics. This way, companies can spot patterns from historical data and current buying patterns for better forecasting.

#4 Better fleet management

The term, “fleet,” refers to a group of vehicles owned by businesses used for transportation. Fleet management is crucial for the smooth functioning of the supply chain as it links the manufacturer (supplier) to the customer. From rising fuel costs to labor shortages, fleet managers need to tackle many challenges. Managing a large fleet can be an arduous task if the necessary information is not available in a timely manner.

Using AI in logistics can offer real-time tracking and vital information for shipments. AIcan also assist in reducing the losses arising from fleet downtime and make the most of the fuel capacity.

AI-powered autonomous vehicles are also gaining popularity. Utilizing self-driving trucks can help reduce the cost of drivers and improve efficiency. Although it is a relatively new technology, the trend for autonomous trucks is gaining traction in the US logistics market, and it will continue to expand over the coming years.

#5 Improve inventory management

Inventory management lays the foundation of proper supply chain management. Effective inventory management can ensure a logical flow of goods in and out of the warehouse. With so many variables to consider – like order picking, packing and fulfillment – manual inventory management is time-consuming and prone to errors.

Inventory bottlenecks lead to delays and reductions in revenue. With the help of AI, businesses can gain complete visibility of supply chain variables and identify the processes that act as bottlenecks. Upon identifying bottlenecks, you can quickly eliminate them by strategically finding opportunities for improvement.

Apart from bottlenecks, understocking and overstocking are also issues that adversely affect your business. Understocking leads to losses arising from missed sales opportunities and risks reducing customer loyalty. Conversely, overstocking poses the risk of loss due to not being able to sell the inventory. Businesses can use demand forecasting (through AI) to avoid overstocking and accurately predict trends. Based on the data, the production and stock levels can be calibrated to maintain optimum inventory.

Cloud-based inventory management software can provide a centralized view of all inventory across multiple locations. With accurate information about their inventory, purchase managers can determine when to place new orders.

Thanks to technological advancements, even the purchase order process can be automated. By customizing quantity thresholds, a purchase order can be automatically generated and sent to  suppliers to avoid stockouts.

Helpful hint: Machine learning algorithms can also mitigate fraud by automating auditing and inspections. Audits help to spot any deviations from common product patterns. Privileged credential abuse is another challenge that causes a breach in the supply chain, but with the help of AI technology, such misfortunes can be prevented.

#6 Speedy shipping

What good is producing excellent products and services if you cannot deliver them to your customers in a timely fashion? Even after using state-of-the-art technology to improve your warehousing and operational processes, if you cannot ship products on time, your profitability will suffer.

Using AI in the supply chain can not only assist you with forecasting the products’ demand but can also lead to better shipping control. It factors in customer’ locations to deliver the products, along with the time it takes to ship them.

Your operations managers can get real-time information about the delivery schedules, and the team can be warned upon detection of a discrepancy. You should not overlook last-mile delivery as it constitutes around 28% of delivery costs.

#7 Enhance customer experience

Offering a stellar buying experience is essential to fostering a better relationship with your customers. Happy customers not only lead to repeated sales but also act as ambassadors to promote your brand through positive word-of-mouth.

It is plausible that your customers have questions about your product and will contact the company. If your support team makes them wait too long, the chances of them switching to your competitor are all but guaranteed to increase.

Implementing AI-based chatbots on your website can help you tackle such issues. Chatbots are available around the clock, and studies suggest they can answer up to 80% of routine questions. As the answers are already installed in the system, the bots can quickly solve the queries, allowing your support team to prioritize other projects.

Apart from answering questions, chatbots can also act as sales agents allowing potential customers to interact with and submit purchase orders.

Amazon has a fine example of machine learning to offer a better customer experience. Their algorithm helps them to provide better product recommendations based on previous orders and searches made by the customer. They also use chatbots to offer assistance regarding purchases, returns, and refunds.

In summary

Based on the benefits examined in this article, it is evident that AI can make a breakthrough impact on the supply chain. From reducing costs to optimizing operations, it can help your business outpace the competition.

As challenges in the supply chain increase, businesses will welcome the opportunity to upgrade their technology and better serve their customers. While external variables might accelerate the adoption of AI, it is already transforming from a nice-to-have to a must-have item that will help your business stay relevant and represent the standard in supply chain management.

Cin7 inventory and order management software should be your go-to solution as you pivot towards AI for your sales operations. Gain the same advantages as the top product sellers who have already discovered Cin7’s connected multichannel solution. Book a demo with one of our consultants and take a step closer to adopting the efficiencies that await.

5 secrets to negotiating price with suppliers

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.

In summary

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.

AMF Magnetics

To most people, magnets are just what you use to pin your child’s latest artistic effort to the fridge. But there’s a lot more to these mysterious objects. Magnets, it turns out, make the world go round. They are integral everywhere, in pretty much every electronic device that exists, from headphones to computers to MRI machines. 

AMF Magnetics is an Australian company that specializes in selling permanent — or “rare earth” — magnets. They’re now the largest supplier in Australia, with a range of something like 1500 products” 

“It’s a very niche product, but it’s needed by all segments of society in one facet or another,” says Mark Kapo, owner of AMF. “ We’re very fortunate that we’re in this space.” 

Mark wasn’t always in the magnet market. Before AMF, he owned restaurants. But after ten years in the hospitality industry, he wanted to try working on something less intensive. “We wanted a business that didn’t operate on the weekend, and was closed over the Christmas break.” Mark says. This, he reckons, made the rare-earth magnet business particularly attractive. 

AMF was an established business that had been running since the early 1980s, when Mark bought it in 2006. Back then, it was very much an “analog outfit,” as Mark puts it. 

“I’m from the analog era. I’m old school. But I decided that we had to push the online side of things — we were running blind. It wasn’t easy to decide what to do.” Mark’s desire for a digital transformation was complicated by the fact that the magnet business was inherently complex. AMF supplies all kinds of customers — from enormous B2B orders of hundreds of thousands of items, to specialist medical equipment with extremely high quality requirements and tight deadlines, to casual D2C customers who just want some magnets to play with. On the supply side, there are multiple suppliers in several different locations. And the complexity grows even greater with AMF’s uncompromising approach to customer service. 

“We deal with everyone equally, and we take it pretty seriously. Being from a family that’s very hospitable, service is important to me. That’s not just a word, it’s not made up. We actually do care. If the customer’s not happy, we’re not happy, and that attitude just runs through the whole business.” 

Over seven years, Mark managed to grow the business, but he found that inefficient operational processes were holding things back. They had managed to digitize to some extent, and were working with MYOB desktop software to manage inventory and accounting — but they found it wasn’t up to the task. 

“We had MYOB, and we deal in multi-currencies, and frankly, MYOB’s management was too slow to go into the cloud and work with multi-currencies. That really held us back,” Mark says. 

“But all that said, I was very comfortable with it, and it’s pretty scary transitioning from a system that you know, to one that you don’t know how to navigate.” 

Even though he didn’t know for sure what the business needed in terms of its digital transformation, Mark knew how to find out. He made two particularly smart choices: hiring an exceptionally talented in-house marketing and IT team with modern software skills, including a new Marketing Manager (later CEO) — and working with external experts, including SMB Consultants. 

The right hire can fire up your business

As the CEO of AMF Magnetics, Catalina Rodríguez is responsible for every aspect of business’ day-to-day operations. With an impressive resume including Deloitte Colombia, Catalina says she didn’t know much about the magnet business to start with. 

“Before joining AMF I didn’t know that almost everything in this world had magnets — airpods, doors, medical devices, cars, speakers and even the superhero costumes in Marvel movies!” Catalina says.

But after sticking around a bit, Catalina learned quickly. She led a crack squad of developers, IT professionals, customer service team members, and external consultants to get AMF running as well as it possibly could, and one of the main steps she took was building a team to transition the business from MYOB to Xero. 

With Xero as the accounting system of record, things were already running more smoothly across much of the business, with one exception: inventory management. Xero, by design, is not inventory management software, and Catalina and Mark both knew that to really power up the business they’d need to couple Xero’s powerful accounting capabilities with a best-of-breed inventory management solution.

To find the right one, they turned to SMB Consultants, who recommended Cin7 after an in-depth scoping session where they took time to understand AMF’s particular business requirements. 

“AMF were using a server-based system called FileMaker before they came to us,” says Deepak Stevens, an integration expert at SMB Consultants. “Our job was to understand their needs, and recommend a platform that would set them up for the next ten years at least. It was quite clear that Cin7 would be a good fit for AMF Magnetics, because we were confident the system would be able to adapt to any specific needs they have.”

After the initial scoping session, SMB Consultants put together a proof-of-concept — Cin7 running to AMF’s specific requirements. 

“SMB advised us that Cin7 was a perfect fit for where we wanted to take the business in the future,” Mark says. “We wanted to optimize email marketing, social media, and paid advertising, and we needed our websites to work at their very best in order to do that. And we needed the inventory system live and helping us with the accounting side of things. Cin7 covered a multitude of these areas, which other systems we looked at didn’t do.” 

Working with the SMB team, Catalina and the AMF team hit on a hybrid solution. Together with another consultant out of Sydney, they integrated Cin7 with Xero, and built a custom integration between Cin7 and Shopify that suits AMFs diverse customer base and specific operational requirements. Thanks to SMB’s expert guidance, and the understanding gained through the interactive proof-of-concept, all the moving parts fit together seamlessly. 

“When we did Cin7, I was a bit scared. It was going to be a big change. But to be honest, the transition was very easy,” Catalina says. “The proof-of-concept was really good, because it helped us mitigate the risks, and showed us the impact the new platform would have for the business. It was done on a weekend, and in one or two days, we were operating.”