Traditional merchant ERP/business software packages have technology architectures that date back to the late 70s or 80s and few vendors have completely overhauled the old technology that underpins their systems.
Even the end user’s experience has become disjointed and inadequate as legacy code fails to capitalise on the latest technology trends such as mobility, business process automation, personalisation, alert-driven business intelligence, workflows, seamless integration capabilities and so much more.
Today, modern merchant business software is based on open, flexible architecture that supports a wide range of industry-focused features and functionality that can seriously impact your business in 10 key areas.
Theory in Practice: We’ve supplemented each area with a ‘Theory in Practice’ section to demonstrate the specific functionality you should expect from a modern merchant software solution. As we can speak with authority about Intact iQ, our solution, we use it to provide examples. We’ve created this blog as a means to enable you to assess if your current software is offering you the functionality you should expect.
1. Friction-less Trade Counter Transactions
Whilst e-commerce in the merchant sector is growing in popularity, the life and soul of any merchant business is the trade counter. Here is where your team have the opportunity to provide a level of service that will exceed your customers’ expectations, drive repeat business and foster long term relationships.
In order to maximise sales and profitability and drive that all important repeat business it is imperative that the trade counter operation is fast, efficient and reliable. The reality is that valuable time often gets wasted at the trade counter. The system may be slow, staff may have to manually check stock, discounts need to be verified, multiple transaction types can’t be facilitated in the same record etc.
Modern business software however can be fully configured to your business requirements. It can embrace the controls, processes and rapid order entry functionality you want to enforce at your trade counter to ensure you constantly make it easy for your customers to do business with you. You can fully optimise your processes to create the fastest order entry possible, freeing up your staff to concentrate on the customer, not the frustrations of a system that perhaps isn’t giving them or your customers the answers, functionality, intuitiveness or speed required.
Theory in Practice
Intact iQ’s Trade Counter Module is fully integrated with the back office finance and stock system and can be customised to handle complex scenarios. It is designed to enable all of your trade counter employees to quickly and accurately process an order and handle a transaction in its entirety, whether it’s a quotation, immediate invoice, delivery note, credit note or return. Your staff have immediate access to all of the functionality they require in a One-Click environment. Other features include password protected overrides for more senior members of staff, the haggle feature to facilitate on the fly intelligent negotiations, highlighting alternate products (with better margin) or related products automatically at the point of sale, and so much more.
2. Maximise Profit & Offer Exceptional Value
Are you maximising your profit margins and offering customers the value they expect? Are some staff selling below margin? Are your customer & supplier rebate rules fully applied? Are you tracking competitor pricing? Are threshold or quantity break levels too low/high for certain products/ customers and are they adhered to? Are discounts applied only to regular purchases to protect margin?
In answering these questions you will no doubt acknowledge there’s always room for improvement when it comes to maximising margin. Your customers will still want ‘their price’ so you have to negotiate but the trick here is to minimise and monitor this using some flexible rules that are enforced by your business software system.
To do this you should be setting up (or reviewing) your role-based access levels and controls. You can make such controls as tight or loose as you require and they can differ per role or user. It’s about finding the balance that works for your operation. For example, your controls can be flexed to ensure staff have the ability, to say, offer bulk discounts but there will be a cut-off point, where you ultimately protect a minimum level margin.
Implementing tighter controls such as these enables you to administer accountability across your business and develop the ‘norms’ that must be adhered to. Your staff will know where they stand and spend less time and effort chasing you for answers to their queries. Your customers benefit too because your staff can offer efficient service and value at the point of sale.
Theory in Practice
Within Intact iQ there are a wide range of controls and features that have been designed to help you maximise margin. Whilst limits can be set at user, customer, product, category or quantity level there are additional workflow capabilities that can be set up to facilitate ‘exceptions to the rule’, if certain conditions are met. The aim is to ensure you stay in control in a way that does not negatively impact key customer relationships or frustrate staff.
3. Complete Control of Your Rebates
Rebates are a huge part of any merchant business and rebate management has always been a challenge. Your business software should be in a position to cope with complex rules or even bring in group results to give a more realistic rebate value. But once you have traceability of this key data then rebate management comes into play. This involves easy tracking of progress, pro-active notification of rebates due and where threshold boundaries are close. The administrative savings here are huge if effective rebate management is alive and well in your business.
Theory in Practice
Intact iQ’s flexible rule builder can cater for the most complex rebate rules. Potential rebates can also be calculated on every purchase order and delivery line. Our detailed audit trail will give you full historical traceability of every rebate due from every transaction line. In addition, rebates due are automatically accrued in our integrated General Ledger as well as giving you the option to recalculate rebates due when thresholds are crossed. This level of visibility and control ensures rebate terms are fully adhered to minimising profit leakage or rebate disputes.
4. Give Staff Only What They Need
Not everyone likes to work in the same fashion. Not everyone needs the same functionality. Flexible merchant ERP software gives you the freedom to easily customise user screens to ensure minimum key strokes whilst restricting access to only what they need. This way you create a more empowered and productive workforce whilst maintaining maximum control through end user security policies.
In the past this level of flexibility came at a price. Modern ERP software should however empower you to quickly and easily tweak and customise your solution on an ongoing basis, lowering your cost of ownership and providing you with a solution that always remains easy-to-use, easy to manage and upgrade-compatible.
Theory in Practice
Nearly every merchant ITT (invitation to tender) talks about ‘ease of use’ and ’simplification of processes’. The flexibility of Intact iQ allows users to tailor each screen and process to exactly what they need to see. It’s about keeping things simple and users can drill into the detail when needed.
During an Intact iQ ERP implementation our consultants map out your processes and role functions to ensure your employees will have immediate access to the information and controls relevant to their role.
5. Give Customers Only What They Need
E-commerce! Everyone wants to get on-line. We get it! However, just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for your business.
Do your customers want it? Are they buying from other e-commerce sites? And if so, in what quantities? Do you plan on placing all your SKUs online, a percentage of them or are you going to focus on a niche area?
Whatever the answer to these questions your business software provider should support your ambitions. However, you can embrace digital capabilities that will add value for your customers without offering them a complete e-commerce store that they may rarely use. Perhaps all your customers want is an online catalogue so they can view your range, specification and stock levels or perhaps what they would really appreciate and use is an easy to access online account portal. A portal where your customers can access statements, invoices, order status updates etc. minimising the need to contact you directly. This is an easy to set up and manage online solution that saves you and your customer time and again and enhances their experience of dealing with you.
That’s Digital Transformation in action!
Theory in Practice
Intact iQ operates an integrated e-commerce solution but in addition to this we offer an Online Customer Account Management solution. Your customers can securely log on and access their own account information, order status, history, general ledger, invoices, quotations, credit status, stock and product information – all synchronised from Intact iQ to the online account portal in real time.
6. Make Better Decisions. Faster.
Nobody has the time to rifle through reams and reams of data. So let your system do the work for you. It’s time you got the information you want, when you want it and in a format you like.
With the latest ERP software you can use triggered workflows, exception reports and alerts that will enable you to automate countless tasks, processes and business rules to efficiently manage the day to day running of your business. So whilst you can have regular reports set up to review your overall business on a standard recurring basis, you can also set up exception reports/alerts to focus on key factors that you need to be informed of in real-time so you can take instant action.
For example, you may want to view a daily report to see sales below a certain margin percentage. You may however want to get an alert to your phone or mail if an order of a certain value is below a certain margin level. This is extremely valuable business intelligence that enables you to stay close to the business aspects that matter most to you enabling you to make decisions when they matter.
Operating in this way will maximise efficiencies and remove the noise from your business by channelling the important, relevant information and actions to you and your team at the right time and in the right format; whether that be a pop-up alert, system prompt, email notification, real-time KPI dashboard, text message etc.
Theory in Practice
Within Intact iQ you can easily set up and assign authorise, prevent, warn, protect, highlight, confirmation, extension and notify rules at user, group or company level to stop common mistakes or staff bypassing processes. There are multiple examples of this in practice – Click here to find out more.
7. Improve Debtor Days & Increase Cash Flow
Reducing exposure for business from the risk of bad debt requires an efficient and effective credit control system. Not only can it help you to reduce your debtor’s days but it is also key to creating workflow alerts for the smooth running of your business and maintaining a full interaction history.
Having quick access to any overdue accounts listing is crucial to enabling your accounts staff to be more efficient with their time; enabling them to identify who to contact to chase payment whilst also ensuring to record each interaction. Many traditional systems offer credit control through third party applications but it is only through a fully integrated system that vital information like this can be shared across your entire business with increased accuracy and reduced duplication.
Theory in Practice
Intact iQ provides every credit controller with the tools and information, to automate and implement the most stringent and effective, credit control policy. Additionally, any company-wide credit control rules can also be refined by customer or based on a particular scenario. Automatically email invoices at the point of order entry and instruct the system to send follow up reminders at periods determined by you. You can also assign follow up actions to your staff. In addition, where customers have reached or exceeded your terms, warnings or approvals can be set up on the trade counter screen to alert staff.
8. Effective Stock Management
Your warehouse team are managing the tricky job of keeping track of thousands of products in your warehouse(s) and/or yard(s), optimising warehouse space and meeting tight delivery turnaround times with desired 100% accuracy. All of these tasks involve numerous variables that should be effectively managed in your business software solution. This will help minimise human error, theft, reduce delivery lead times and increase customer satisfaction levels.
Your business software solution should be providing your team with access to real-time stock information, analytics and smart stock controls to ensure they can retain optimum control of your stock from the point of order to the point of dispatch.
In addition making your warehouse mobile will dramatically improve your productivity, resource utilisation and inventory management. A MWS solution will automate and simplify previously labour intensive warehouse tasks. It will also allow you to track items from goods in to goods out, automatically update stock records in real time, minimise picking times and picking errors, assign barcodes on the spot for loose or un-barcoded items and carry out rolling stock takes. Whatever your warehouse requirements your business software system should be configured to automate and enforce your stock control policy.
Theory in Practice
In addition to offering exceptional supply chain and mobile warehouse management capabilities Intact iQ also enables your buying team to deliver better pricing, terms, range, quality and/or lead times. Intact iQ will manage supplier lead times, costing, rebates, terms, products etc. in real time to support predictive models and analytics to help your team buy better and stock more efficiently. Intact iQ will 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.
9. Mobilise Your Workforce
Mobile technologies are changing the way organisations work, manage their operations and engage with their employees. For all businesses it is now a case of understanding how best to embrace the opportunities enterprise mobility offers to add long term value to your merchant business.
It’s about giving your employees access to the real-time system information and controls they need anytime, anywhere. These apps work an all mobile platforms and can also be tailored by user turning them into personalised mobile work tools for your employees. For example,
- Your delivery team may want to use the POD signature capture feature and post signed delivery dockets back to your system instantly
- Your sales reps may wish to access customer, product or business information at a glance and send CRM updates back your system
- Your management team may wish to see real-time or commercial information
It’s all about mobilising your data, your way.
Theory in Practice
Bradfords Building Supplies speak about the introduction of the Intact Access Enterprise Mobility App to their business.
‘Intact Access gave us the ability to publish and capture data using the smartphones already deployed throughout the business. The information is presented in easy to digest views where we can control the content. It also allows us to capture information even when offline which is a huge benefit.’
10. Digital Fleet
Clipboards with delivery orders are a common place sight in most merchant yards. Modern merchant software is making this paper based way of working a thing of the past. Your deliveries can now be scheduled in your system, sent automatically to your drivers’ mobile devices along with any supporting documentation and all vehicles and related deliveries tracked in real-time with corresponding tracking links sent to your customers.
Theory in Practice
Modern merchant software like Intact iQ will enable you to retain complete control of how your transport is scheduled. You can plan journeys quickly and efficiently
- using drag and drop functionality to manually create journeys based on orders (right down to line level), related capacity, location etc. or
- auto allocate routes based on customer preference, standard routes, postcodes etc.
- or finally you have the option to create a journey at the point of sale where your trade counter staff have access to a booking calendar to book in the delivery with the customer at the point of purchase.
One more…11. Integrate With Ease
Integration is essential for a modern merchant as there are so many best of breed systems out there. You want to ensure that any best of breed solutions you employ to augment your business operations are not sitting outside your main ERP/business software system creating information silos, inefficiencies and errors. Your business software should always serve as the central hub used to run your business with any additional systems or applications integrated with it. This ensures you retain the efficiencies, transparency and accountability that this solution was designed to provide.
Theory in Practice
Modern ERP merchant solutions have been designed to facilitate integration with ease. Technology like Intact’s RESTful API allows read or update access to any object in Intact iQ without any development effort. You can control the whole thing via a visual designer. This is a dream come true for web or other 3rd party developers who have traditionally struggled with integrating with ‘hard coded’ web service APIs. It also makes the process quicker and more cost effective.
Last but not least…Know the Whole Story
Every element in your business is dynamic and changing, with thousands of moving parts daily. Modern merchant software solutions like Intact iQ tracks and record all of these interactions giving you real-time visibility and control of your business.
It is this system wide integration that is the catalyst that will enable you to enforce business rules, improve and automate business processes. It will eliminate duplication, increase data accuracy and create a continuous flow of information across your business.
In summary, your business software is critical to your business success. For those who embrace the capabilities of modern merchant ERP software it will radically transform their business.
Looking for merchant ERP software? Unsure what to look out for? Read ‘The Definitive Guide to Merchant Software’. It has all you need to know.
Meet Intact iQ
Intact iQ is a next-generation ERP solution, designed for merchants. It can replicate the things you love about your current system, achieve the things you’d like in a new system and support the things you haven’ t even thought of yet.