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Retail reinvented - how cloud-based technology is reshaping commerce

Josh Fischer Profile picture for user Josh Fischer October 18, 2023
Summary:
Strike a pose - retail is evolving, says Josh Fischer of Acumatica. Find out how technology is changing the meaning of commerce functionality and giving retail a new face.

Mannequins with wires, face of retail concept © Tamara Velazquez - Canva.com
(© Tamara Velazquez - Canva.com)

Over the last 20 years, the growing popularity of online shopping, coupled with technology’s advancing capabilities, has drastically disrupted the retail industry. There used to be clarity on which companies were and were not classified as retailers. Now, the lines have blurred.

Today’s consumers have 24/7 access to goods at their fingertips, leading to skyrocketing eCommerce sales. The rise of eCommerce has shaped how businesses provide their products and services to buyers. Customers demand easy access to making purchases and returns for all businesses, not just retailers.

The need for accessible, omnichannel and convenient purchasing options has expanded beyond retailers to include manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers. In some cases, businesses are focused on selling business-to-business (B2B) online, while others are going direct-to-consumer (D2C).

This development has created a growing demand for technology to address specific industry regulatory requirements and provide functionality across industries. By offering both industry specificity and diverse functionality, technology enables organizations to evolve their offerings – giving the term “retailer” a new meaning through this evolution.

Everyone’s a retailer

Let’s dive into what this transformation of commerce means for businesses across industries.

As consumers insist on real-time, customized and efficient purchasing, organizations must adopt modern processes and tools that provide buyers with an accessible way to manage purchases. For instance, consumers looking to buy custom-built homes can now completely personalize and order entire houses from construction companies online.

As companies lean into the idea of becoming a manufacturer, distributor and retailer all in one, they create a brand for themselves that isn’t limited to simply selling goods. This new brand opens business opportunities that scale beyond owning a single area of the traditional multi-step selling process.

However, this transition is a challenging feat. It requires automated processes and real-time insights into business performance anytime, anywhere. 

Streamlining the retail process

The transition to offering retail services on top of manufacturing or distribution services requires that companies invest in cloud-based business management solutions that enable them to keep pace with consumer demand by streamlining processes and improving efficiencies. 

Modern companies now have access to tools such as Shopify to produce, distribute and sell their goods using a single solution. These tools streamline and consolidate the process that previously required multiple organizations to bring a product from development to the consumer. 

By consolidating this process, organizations can sell the products they’re creating and are empowered to become their own retailer.

The role of cloud-based solutions in retail transformation 

It bears repeating that today’s consumers value omnichannel approaches to retail. They want to research, buy and return products across the channels of their choice. Whether purchasing goods for personal use or their business, consumers expect their buying journey to be self-serving, efficient and intuitive. To support this demand, organizations must maintain strong and effective back-office workflows that result in a standard of efficiency for front-office management.

To build and manage an omnichannel sales approach that enables a successful back-office, retailers need a modern, stable foundation, such as a cloud-based business management system. Retailers can reap the benefits of cloud-based business management systems, such as:

  • Streamlined operations, including comprehensive data management and accessibility, real-time inventory tracking, demand forecasting and enhanced customer relationship management.
  • Improved scalability and flexibility to adapt to ever-changing market conditions and grow the business. 

Overcoming challenges

Modern-day retailers are at a crossroads as they work to navigate the obstacles of a challenging economy while competing in a market with large-scale organizations like Amazon. Change of this nature can be difficult, just as incorporating new technologies into your operations presents its own set of challenges. 

Decision-makers must manage order placements, streamline processes and deliver goods efficiently. At the same time, retailers often rely on disparate software systems to manage omnichannel operations, and those solutions typically don’t integrate well. Investing in an API-first, modern, cloud-based ERP solution with thorough connectivity capabilities enables companies to consolidate management solutions onto one platform. AI-powered business management solutions alleviate some of the pressure of inefficient workflows and the inability to scale. 

With a single solution that holds all company data and connects various tools, business leaders can make real-time informed decisions about their business performance and keep a pulse on what changes or updates will enable growth. 

This visibility is critical to manufacturing and distribution companies transitioning to selling via one or more online sales channels. They need software that connects their previous systems with what’s required to sell goods directly to consumers. Automated systems can help solve retailers’ common struggles, such as inventory forecasting and order orchestration. The system tells retailers how and where to ship orders, alleviating some of the tedious processes that come with learning to sell your own goods.

For instance, Jeffree Star Cosmetics (JSC) and its subsidiary, Killer Merch, credit Acumatica Cloud ERP for their ability to attract and retain customers. Previously relying on QuickBooks, JSC and Killer Merch struggled to keep up with the surge in sales that followed Jeffree Star’s fame. Manual data entry into disconnected systems led to delays in order processing and shipping, which was unacceptable compared to Amazon’s two-day shipping standard.

Acumatica provided a platform that integrated with JSC’s programs. The robust system streamlined workflows across departments, offering efficient distribution, eCommerce and inventory management functionalities. With Acumatica, the companies gained a unified platform capable of handling millions of orders. Real-time and synced inventory access empowered employees to process and ship customer orders promptly, and decision-makers had the necessary data for informed strategic planning. Even during periods of high order volume, the team maintained smooth and efficient workflows.

According to Mark Bubb, owner and COO of Killer Merch and JSC, Acumatica proved invaluable during a peak week with 700,000 orders. The business management system’s critical API usability and integration with third-party platforms, including over 80 Shopify stores, empowered JSC and Killer Merch to boost efficiency and scale.

Retailers who want to modernize their platform should look for API-rich solutions. You want a platform that can integrate with other solutions customers use, which helps to ensure they can effectively evolve with changing demands and trending tools. These capabilities are available to organizations regardless of their industry and are no longer exclusive to the domain of retailers.

The new face of retail

As organizations across industries continue to work through the challenges of today’s economic environment, adopting modern technology can improve efficiencies, streamline workflows and enable businesses to keep pace with the ever-changing market. Today’s retailers, specifically, are redefining industry boundaries as we know them and leveraging technology to succeed. Cloud-based ERP solutions can be catalysts that support the transition to the evolving definition of retail. Implementing these robust and modern solutions can be an important step in helping manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers evolve their organizations into a one-stop shop for developing and selling goods so they can keep pace with the ever-changing demands and expectations of their customers.

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