You can’t trim costs, improve margins, fix issues, or grow your business without visibility and control. For that you need the right merchant software – a platform that connects every function in your business, enabling you to operate at your best, scale with ease and flex to future needs.
It must also seamlessly connect your customers, suppliers and any best of breed applications or eCommerce sites you use now or want to in the future, forming a cohesive platform that works on every level.
With strategic plans and budgets impending for 2022, attention should be given to the viability of your merchant software to meet new commercial and strategic goals.
Think of it as ensuring you’ve got the technical foundations right to thrive in a post-covid digital world. Because a strong merchant ERP base layer is paramount – a centralised solution that connects all of the other apps and software you use to run your business.
So, as we face a new fiscal year, here are some technology options available that may help you to overcome today’s merchant challenges.
Let Technology Do The Heavy Lifting
Conquering Logistical Challenges
Technology is your ally in your bid to effectively manage your supply chain with shortages, rising costs and delays a recurrent theme these days.
From category to category, supplier to supplier; lead times, costings, rebates and terms will differ. Your business software/ERP system should be readily equipped to manage all this data in real time to support predictive models and analytics designed to help your team buy better and stock more efficiently.
It should also enable you to automate numerous procurement processes freeing up your team to focus on optimising your product range and supplier relationships to help improve your bottom line and/or customer satisfaction levels.
Efficiency is the key to the growing demand for direct to consumer (D2C) shipping. Features such as advanced stock replenishment, forecasting and real time data are essential in enabling your team to quickly adapt to any supply chain challenge.
Map out your current business processes and take a good look at your existing systems. Are there any areas that take too much human intervention or system work arounds to make them work? Can these processes be automated? Can you remove the use of spreadsheets? And is your current system up to the task?
- Predictive Stock Management – Predictive stock management simplifies replenishment and procurement, aiding distribution and fulfilment while maintaining quality and accuracy across multi-site warehousing operations.
- Stock Forecasting– Powerful order point calculations and replenishment rules ensure you have the correct stock at the right time in the right place. It considers your stock strategy, rules, lead-times etc. to deliver robust stock forecasts to the purchasing team.
- Transport Scheduler – Transport scheduling functionality will enable you to provide your entire team with end-to-end visibility and control of your orders from the point of purchase to the point of delivery.
Make Your ERP Platform Your Best Employee
With the pandemic and Brexit causing an exodus of EU workers out of Britain, merchants will continue to find the labour shortfall a real challenge. And according to a recent survey carried out by the Manpower group, organisations in Ireland are facing some of the most challenging hiring conditions in years, with many skilled workers remaining in their current roles.
This is where technology could be doing a lot of the heavy lifting for you, freeing up your time and that of staff.
And don’t forget, a young labour force expects the latest technologies. Look to apps and systems that can boost productivity, maximise efficiency with personalised workspaces and integrate with 3rd party ‘best of breed’ platforms to make life easier for you and your employees.
- Business Process Automation – Business process automation helps take the noise out of your business enabling you and your team to focus only on those areas in need of action. The use of triggered workflows, exception reports and alerts will allow you to automate countless tasks, processes and business rules to efficiently manage the day to day running of your business. You reduce human error, free up your team to focus on your customer and drive the highest level of efficiency possible.
- No-code customisations – Today’s merchant ERP systems are built to support multiple layers of no-code customisations. This translates to your in-house system administrators being given more autonomy and control to ensure your ERP system best suits your current and future individual business nuances: like creating your own workflows and alerts on the fly as well as being able to maintain good housekeeping to retain the integrity of your data. It also means you don’t need to revert to you vendor to make simple changes to screens, tasks, processes, and business rules. A real gem to have in your core ERP system as your business grows and evolves.
- Best of Breed Solutions – Integrating 3rd party applications with modern ERP solutions is now easier than ever. REST API technology facilitates integration projects quicker and much more cost effectively than ever before. This allows your business to access niche solutions that advance your strategic or operational objectives in a way that complements your ERP solution. You retain user experience (UX) goals of centralised data, information transparency, collaboration and data accuracy without any of the compromises. So, when looking for an ERP system that will integrate and collaborate with your favourite programs and applications, it’s vital to select one built for purpose.Our blog ERP + Best of Breed Solutions = A Foundation for the Modern Business, takes an in-depth look at best of breed, explaining what it is, how it works, and how it can integrate with your ERP ecosystem
- Mobilise Your Workforce With Role-Based Apps– Many aspects of your business can be handled from remote locations if your smartphone or tablet is loaded with the correct enterprise mobility app. For you, it’s a case of understanding how best to embrace the opportunities enterprise mobility offers and the long term value it could add to your merchant business.Today there are many role-based mobile apps available that can be integrated into your system, increasing productivity, improving customer service, reducing admin costs and increasing revenue potential. You can have your drivers capturing PODs on their mobiles or taking pictures of delivered goods. When on the road, your sales team can view CRM notes and customers details and capture relevant business information in real-time. Or your management team can get easy real-time access to key business KPIs. It’s all available on your mobile with data feeds coming from and going to your merchant ERP system.Is it time you gave employees access to the real-time system information and controls they need anytime, anywhere?
- Rebate Management – Accurate rebate management can be difficult for any business, but it doesn’t have to be. Effective management of your rebates, through the right technology, can make the difference between a profit or a loss. Advanced rebate management features can help you deal with complex rules or even bring in group results to give a realistic rebate value. The administrative savings here are huge when you have easy tracking of progress and pro-active notification of rebates due and where threshold boundaries are close. And with automatic rebate accrual to your General Ledger, the visibility and control you can have over your rebates ensures terms are fully adhered to, minimising profit leakage or disputes.
Discover A Better Way To Manage Product Data
Given the vast quantity of product lines you have access to, the complexity and effort required to manage a clean, robust product database has traditionally been significant. But here’s where technology can do much of the heavy lifting for you.
Some modern ERP systems now offer easy access to trusted product data sources like NMBS OnePlace or other Product Information Management (PIM) solutions from within your ERP system.
By leveraging this technology, you have ready access to vast quantities of supplier product data which you can search and add to your product file as required. It includes product specifications, images, links to the manufacturer’s website etc and offers a huge opportunity to better serve your customers.
You can learn more about the modern merchant catalogue here.
- Industry-specific merchant software – it goes without saying that to maintain accurate, real-time product, customer and supplier information, you need a core ERP system that records, measures and controls large volumes of data, daily. With industry specific software you get the merchant functionality you need today with the ability to scale with additional functionality when ready. Plus, you get the knowledge and experience of a vendor who knows your sector inside out.
- Multi-edit – a very useful tech feature that allows you to change the data in one field for multiple records. This is great if you need to update product codes, selling prices or even if a sales rep leaves, you can very quickly change the rep fields to the new rep. You can also update customers, regions, re-categorise products etc.
Stand out from the crowd
While consolidation in the merchant sector is still an ongoing challenge, technology can enable merchants of all sizes to compete digitally with larger merchants. Combined with the ability to be more agile, deeper customer relationships and staff with innate sector knowledge, merchants can use technology to fortify their competitive advantage.
- eCommerce – The coronavirus pandemic highlighted the importance of being able to sell online and has resulted in the speedier adoption of fully integrated eCommerce websites. When it comes to choosing eCommerce software, there are lots of options available. From fully integrated B2B and B2C eCommerce solutions that automatically update your back-office system to simple plug-and-play solutions. Know what you want and ensure your ERP system provider can meet your objectives.
- Online Customer Account Portal – If you don’t require a full e-commerce site, you can still be online with your B2B customers offering a self-service online customer account portal that is fully integrated with your ERP system. This is a must if you want to encourage repeat ordering, exceed customer expectations whilst also providing a quicker and easier route to selling online.
Get up to speed on the Cloud
A word much overused and understood. But when you start to think of the Cloud as a way to facilitate modern IT, then you’re in the right place to optimise how you consume your technology.
Cloud embraces a different way of doing things – sharing resources, applying automation, access anytime, anywhere, improved scalability & flexibility etc. The Cloud is a set of capabilities you need to investigate to see how it could help you and your team achieve your business goals.
- Broadband Connection – For many, limited access to a strong broadband connection means a Cloud-based ERP solution is simply not an option for them. However, it may be possible to use less mission critical cloud technology for some elements of your business.
- ERP Deployment Options – If you are considering an ERP or any software implementation, you need to understand the different type of deployment/infrastructure options available, and which one is right for you. If, as mentioned above, your bandwith isn’t strong enough to support a full cloud-based ERP system, a hybrid version can be implemented.For certain businesses, this will mean that some or all of the software you use to run your business operates from an on-premise server. For others, with strong broadband connections, accessing the software fully via a cloud solution may be more efficient and cost effective.The key point here is that your chosen software vendor should have the in-house expertise and supporting solutions to guide you on the best infrastructure and software development for your business and support you on your journey to get there.