In the wake of the devastating impacts of COVID-19, the pandemic wreaked havoc on retail companies in unforeseeable ways.
Lockdowns forced many brick-and-mortar stores to close as consumers embraced online options with over two billion people transacting online in 2020 spurring e-commerce sales to top 4.2 trillion U.S. dollars worldwide. Small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) soon realized they needed to bolster their eCommerce capabilities to survive.
This surge in online commerce contributed to dramatic challenges to the global supply chain. Reuters reported that manufacturing activity in the U.S. had slowed near the end of 2021 with companies slowing production as they waited for raw materials from supply chains already stretched to their limit.
This cycle has transformed the retail environment, placing significant stress on businesses of all sizes to have real-time oversight on their inventory and supply-chain while being more efficient in operating their businesses. One critical way for retailers to meet these challenges is to implement a cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, that is specifically designed to support expanding eCommerce operations.
Why implement a cloud ERP solution for eCommerce?
By now, the value proposition of a cloud ERP solution is pretty well known – including moving off of legacy systems and processes, better user experiences, and easier adoption of new functionality. But less customers are familiar with why a cloud ERP tailored to their industry is a difference-maker. Here’s why this matters to retailers:
A cloud-based retail ERP solution can help businesses pivot to meet ever-changing global commerce demands by delivering greater visibility to inform business decisions, providing easy integration of data through all aspects of a business, and creating efficiencies and reducing costs through automation.
Let’s briefly look at each of these three areas.
Modern business management solutions are commonplace for today’s retail and eCommerce companies, but most tend to be poorly synchronized. The issue is that most companies cobble together multiple solutions for each discipline (e.g., accounting, inventory management, fulfillment, etc.) that do not sync data thoroughly or accurately – meaning decision-makers waste valuable time without access to a clear and accurate, 360-degree view of their business.
For retailers, inventory levels must be accurate. ERP systems can provide businesses with comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date data to inform business decisions. Employees can view current, critical business information in a centralized system. With a cloud-based ERP solution, this real-time data is available 24/7 from anywhere globally, enabling retailers with insights that can help them build trust with their customers and partners.
Data must not only be visible and accessible, but it must also integrate with information across departments, such as sales, accounting, finance, manufacturing, and supply chain. Effective data integration delivers a complete picture of business performance and identifies opportunities for improvement.
With today's challenges, it can be difficult to manage everything at once when you have to factor in the engagements of the rest of your business, your partners and your suppliers. Many retailers today have trouble obtaining the inventory they need from their standard suppliers, so they are forced to look for new ones.
As a result, a business must manage more relationships, which increases complexity – impairing their supply chain schedules, lead times, and ability to deliver quickly. Companies can better manage these issues with an eCommerce-enabled ERP solution that provides third-party integration. ERPs can also incorporate each part of a business’s digital revenue cycle, bringing greater intelligence to different teams.
As costs rise, businesses need to automate as much as possible to remain lean, efficient, and effective. Many sectors are also experiencing labor challenges, so even if a business could afford to hire more workers, it may be difficult to find them. Automation can improve processes and reduce costs to remain competitive in areas such as data collection, sales order processing, fulfillment, inventory management, and communications with buyers.
ERP solutions can enable eCommerce automation, such as abandoned cart notifications and presenting up-sell/cross-sell opportunities. Retailers and eCommerce companies facing supply chain issues can manage orders and inventory allocations from all channels effortlessly. In addition, ERP software simplifies tracking returns, ensures items are returned in appropriate condition, and issues refunds to buyers.
Leverage retail-commerce software
By leveraging tailored software, retail and commerce companies are better positioned to tackle supply chain, staffing, and other management issues.
For instance, Clive Coffee, a home espresso machines and accessories retailer, struggled to keep up with an influx of business in 2020. The company used a disconnected patchwork of solutions: QuickBooks for accounting and bookkeeping; separate inventory software; different systems for both order processing and eCommerce. Not surprisingly, tracking inventory was difficult, and inordinate time was spent manually analyzing and organizing data across systems.
After investing in a retail-focused ERP solution, Clive Coffee centralized its data across the business. Decision makers introduced a back-in-stock notification solution, which increased revenue by $90k, and dramatically reduced daily order processing times from five hours to sixty minutes. Using automation tools, they launched 30 new products from purchase order to fulfillment. Clive Coffee is one of many retail businesses realizing the benefits of a cloud-based ERP solution.
To respond to and anticipate changes and supply chain disruptions and survive in a turbulent environment, retailers and eCommerce providers must adopt new tools and processes. In this challenging market, a cloud-based ERP system isn’t going to be enough to help retailers compete. As retailers look to modernize, I expect they will see what a difference cloud ERP tailored to their industry will make. A cloud-based ERP solution tailored for retail can enable retailers to be more resilient and agile in the face of uncertainty, better able to analyze their businesses, and to meet their customers’ needs.